By Roz Rogoff
Sledding to HawaiiUploaded: Jul 12, 2012
Alex Mehran single-handed his "Sled" category boat, Truth, from the Corinthian Yacht Club in San Francisco to Hanelei Bay in Hawaii in a little over 8.5 days, literally blowing records out of the water. His boat, an Open 50 designed by Owen Clark, has set records in the past under previous names and skippers, but Mehran's feat is one for the record books now.
So what is a Sled, what is a TransPac, and is this the same Alex Mehran who owns Sunset Development? The TransPac race is a single-handed, non-stop (no anchoring for sleeping or eating), race across the open ocean. This years' TransPac from San Francisco covers 2,120 nautical miles, which is almost 2500 land miles, from San Francisco to Kauai. Most of the boats in the race are typical cruising sail boats in categories called, "Fast and Fun," "30 Something" referring to the boat's length, and "Big and Comfy."
The boat most likely to finish in first place is Green Buffalo, a "Big and Comfy" Cal 40, which, if it is typical of other Cal 40's, has a nicely appointed cabin with all the amenities of home. The Skipper of Green Buffalo, Jim Quanci, is moving at a nice 7.3 knots as I'm typing this. He has 222 NM to go to reach Hanelei Bay. At that rate it could take him at least one more day to reach the finish, and Alex Mehran, Jr. will be waiting for him.
Yes, the Alex Mehran in Truth is Junior, but there's nothing secondary about him. Earlier this year, Mehran, Jr. and Zan Drejes set another record in the Double Handed race around the Fallarones. This was only two weeks before the Slow Speed Chase ran aground resulting in the deaths of five of the eight crew members.
If you look at the video of the Double Handed race linked above, you will see that Truth is no comfy buffalo to sail. Mehran learned to sail in Maine when he was six years old. He later raced Lasers when he was 11.
I learned to sail in Maine when I was about 11. I sailed on a Sunfish, which is sometimes compared to a Laser, both being about 13' with a foot well, that skims on top of the water. Mehran's Truth, Open 50 skims on the water like a sled, or like a 50' Laser (a literary if not literal comparison).
My later boats all had deep, heavy keels. In High School I sailed a Cape Cod Mercury on Long Island Sound, out of McMichael's in Mamaroneck, New York. A few years later I bought a used Cape Cod Bullseye, which I sailed from New Rochelle.
The Bullseye is an updated version of Nat Herreshoff's original 12-and-a-half, named for the length of the waterline. The Bullseye is about 16' with a cuddy cabbin and 750 lb. lead keel.
This was a great single-hander, but I wouldn't want to try sailing it to Hawaii. The furthest I went in it was from New Rochelle to Glen Cove, Long Island, where my Cousin Elsie lived. Sailing for days, non-stop, by myself, isn't my idea of a good time, but there appear to be plenty of singlehanded sailors who love to do it every year.
I've never heard the term "Sled" referred to a boat. Mehran's Truth is the only boat in the Sled category in the singled handed TransPac race to Hawaii. Below is a description of the original design when the boat was first built under the name Artforms.
"The cockpit is noticeable for its trench rather than enclosed style and twin tillers. Artforms isn't designed just to sail single-handed however and the additional space afforded by the trench cockpit will make her easier and more pleasant to sail in the fully crewed environment."
When all of the TransPac racers have reached Kauai, they will turn around and sail back. This won't be as arduous as going since they are not racing each other anymore.
Mehran's boat, Truth, is listed for Charter in Australasia from August 2012 to March 2013 on the Owen Clark Design website for anyone here daring enough to try it. Count me out!