Divisions and Handicaps

Racer Biographies

Credit: Photos courtesy of Latitude 38, www.norcalsailing.com, and the racers.

Crazy Rhythm – Santa Cruz 27

John Simpson, Alameda, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

John Simpson has wanted to do the Singlehanded TransPac for a long time, and this year it looks like things are falling in place to make it happen. “It’s hard to say from exactly where the desire to do this race arises, but there is a special challenge to sailing solo. In a world about to be filled with autonomous vehicles and delivery drones, going to an environment where you intend to rely on your own devices to succeed (or fail) has a certain allure. Or maybe it’s like Louis Armstrong said about the rhythm of swing: ‘If you have to ask, you’ll never know.’ I would hate to look back years from now and think ‘I really should have done…’

John did his first ocean race in the late 1980s on Hurricane, “the only keel-stepped Express 27 I have ever seen.”The first boat he ever sailed was one he built himself. “I forgot to lower the centerboard and made massive leeway, with a puzzled look on my face, until I fetched up on the muddy shore. The SC27 has a fixed keel, so I should be OK.”Boat prep and full employment have precluded physical training, but he says that “The prep work has involved a huge amount of boat-yoga.” Modifications include a 6-ft x 2-ft sleeping cushion that exactly fits the cabin sole “the only convenient place to sleep on the boat” and an emergency rudder. “Mounting the solar panels was a bit of a challenge.”

Crinan II – Wyliecat 30

Don Martin, Alameda, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

“I have a literary interest in singlehanded sailing,” says Don Martin, “and I have devoured everything I could read starting with Slocum and Chichester.” Don started sailing as a teen on a Minnesota lake. “No other sailboats, but I could beat most fishermen at anchor and a few that were trolling.” Since those days, Don has gotten plenty of ocean races under his sailing glove, including two Pacific Cups and eight Coastal Cups. Provisions will include canned, freeze-dried and dehydrated food. “I’ve also been practicing making empanadas for the first couple days out.” Two years ago, Al Germain of the Wyliecat 30 Bandicoot gave Don his emergency rudder. “When I commented on the LongPac in the SSS Forum that I wouldn’t do the race again without a dodger, Pat Broderick (Wyliecat 30 Nancy) gave me an unused dodger that came with the boat.” Don started racing on Crinan II when Bill West owned her. “He was open to letting me sail singlehanded in SSS races. Eventually, I took ownership and prepared it for ocean racing and the possibility of an SSSTP.” Since he retired, Don has been able to put considerable time into preparation and planning.

Dark Horse – Olson 30

Shad Lemke, Wilsall, MT

SSS, South Flathead YC
Previous SHTPs: None

Like many open ocean races, the SHTP has a requirement for a qualifier. Most Bay Area sailors use the odd-year LongPac race as their qualifier. But Shad Lemke is from Montana, so instead he sailed his 400-mile qualifier during the gales of spring. He reported winds of up to 40 knots and breaking waves that over-topped the mast of his ultralight Olson 30. SSS member and volunteer Jackie Philpott interviewed him for the SSS forum and website at www.sfbaysss.org. ” The breeze at night is a little chilly, but it’s still warmer than Montana,” he told her. “Dinner is going to be Mountain House spaghetti. I’m never getting the breakfast skillet again; it was pretty bad.” Despite the seas, he had no nausea. “Meclazine is working.” He says that sailing and bronco riding are similar. “You have to deal with what you are dealt and don’t get bucked off!”

Dolfin – Pacific Seacraft 37

Bill Meanley, San Diego, CA

San Diego YC
Previous SHTPs: 2016

Bill Meanley finally lived his dream of doing the SHTP in 2016. “Now I need something to compare it with – or maybe it’s just that damn bug light.” Bill, now 72, bought his first boat 47 years ago and has owned Dolfin since 1984. “In 1987 I sailed with my wife and 7-year-old daughter on a 2.5-year, 20,000-mile cruise from San Diego throughout the South Pacific as far as New Zealand, up through Hawaii to British Columbia, and then back down to San Diego.” He and Dolfin have 35,000 miles together. “We know each other really well.” He’s planning to bring food that’s easy to prepare. “I’m not into cooking. (Where’s my wife?).” Lots of Power Bars, Clif Bars and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate will supplement cereal, PB&Js, Mountain House and Dinty Moore’s. Bill says he’s not really a racer, but he commented on his strategy for this race: “That’s pretty secret, but what I can tell you is get out of the Bay and past the Farallon Islands quickly and safely, then choose the best course and sail as fast as you can without breaking too much.”

Double Espresso – Olson 30

Philippe Jamotte, Richmond, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

“It’s a process,” said Philippe Jamotte, who’s originally from Belgium. “I’d like to acquire offshore singlehanded sailing experience, in a quasi-safe environment. The SHTP provides the closest event I found on the West Coast for that purpose. There are options in Europe, where training is provided for wannabe singlehanded sailors, but no such thing that I could find here. The SSS provides a progressive series of races and seminars to help along the way.” Philippe’s previous solo racing experience consists of four races in 2018 with the SSS. “I read about weather routing and how it is essential but really hard to nail. My experience with weather is so limited that my routing will likely be simple. As far as my ability to carry sails under windy conditions, the same can be said: I only started flying spinnakers last year and have not used one offshore in rolling seas yet.” Philippe completed the South Atlantic leg of the Clipper Race in 2017, but he found that to be “emotionally a most displeasing experience.” Philippe bought the Olson, his first boat, in January 2017 from an owner who had prepared it for the 2016 Pacific Cup. “I chose to buy a boat that had been prepared for offshore sailing, as I did not have the time, money nor experience to prepare one. I hope I made a good choice.

“Many folks have been instrumental in getting me to the starting line: Jason L, Skip A, Rob T, Brian B, Rich F, Bruce L, Joe B, Sam M, to name a few; also my family (Joelle, Luna and Kaky) who proved very supportive (if not scared) for my choice.” He philosophizes that “Sailing alone is like walking alone in the woods. When going for a hike with friends the walk becomes a social experience and the immersion in nature is often lost. Such is the case for sailing too. Although it is hard and risky, I find that the rewards are worth it.”

Elizabeth Ann – Westsail 32

Gary Burton, Brookings, OR

Previous SHTPs: 2014, 2016

“The first 35 years of Elizabeth Ann’s life were spent in a Tucson Arizona backyard, under a tree,” says Gary Burton. She’s a 1973 vintage. Gary has 10 years of ocean sailing in his wake, including the two previous SHTPs. His strategy this year is to sail the shortest distance allowed by the conditions. To prepare Elizabeth Ann for this summer’s passages, he gave her new running rigging and a fresh bottom. An Aries windvane will back up his electric and hydraulic autopilots.

Fugu – Wilderness 30

Chris Case, Richmond, CA

Richmond YC
Previous SHTPs: none

Chris Case is in it for the challenge. “Just the preparation for the trip has been challenging!” He’s been sailing in SSS races for about 10 years now, and has always had his eye on the SHTP. He grew up sailing on the East Coast, then crewed in the Express 27 fleet in the Bay Area for about four years, then kids happened. Regarding training, he says, “I’ve always been in good shape, but I got some battle-ropes for my wife for Christmas; I find they are great for upper-body strengthening.” His strategy is to keep the boat moving well at all times. “The margins of victory in past races are very small, less than a few hundredths of a knot average over the course.” For communications, Chris has a Delorme Explorer, an SSB receiver and software to receive weather faxes. He completely replaced Fugu’s standing and running rigging and refastened the hull-to-deck joint.

Iris – Hylas 42

John Colby, Portland, OR

Portland YC
Previous SHTPs: none

“I’ve been intrigued with singlehanded distance races since reading about Chichester winning the first modern-day Transatlantic race in 1960,” says John Colby. “Then several years ago my crew and I mutually parted ways on Cocos Keeling Island in the Indian Ocean – no place to recruit new crew. So I sailed the next 2,000-mile leg alone and enjoyed the challenge after spending a week getting my head around the idea. And this is a great excuse to sail offshore again.”

John has tons of offshore experience. “We sailed our 27-ft Vega to Hawaii in 1982; my youngest daughter Carol had her fourth birthday in Hanalei Bay. We made coastal trips since then until 2006\[Dash]2013 when we circumnavigated.” The circumnavigation was in the Hylas, not the Vega.

In the past two years, he did two Oregon Offshore races, which start at mouth of Columbia River and finish at Victoria, and one Swiftsure.

To get fit for the race, he’s trying to lose weight. “I mow the lawn and walk the dog and pull myself up the mast from time to time.”

His strategy is to get offshore the first night before the coastal wind dies, leave the Pacific High to starboard and keep moving. He’s trying not to over-provision. “We always seemed to have a ton of extra food while cruising. Then it didn’t matter. I’ll take Starbucks coffee for my French press and Costco prunes. I’d like to make a couple of meals of spaghetti before we start and refrigerate them for the first couple of dinners.

“I lightened boat by taking off my wife’s books, collectible rocks and shells, some of her clothing, 238-ft of 12 mm chain and a couple of doors – I left the head doors intact.

“It is said, ‘You dance with the one who brought you.’ And Iris has safely taken me 45,000 miles. This race is noted for participants using the boats they own and not going out and spending tons on the latest race boat. Iris is fast to weather, average speed off the wind, is pretty and paid for. Unfortunately, this race is off the wind.” John bets Iris is the only boat in the race with keel coolers protruding for refrigeration.

Jacqueline – Freedom 30

Mike Cunningham, Discovery Bay, CA

Discovery Bay YC
Previous SHTPs: 2016

Mike Cunningham wants to try to improve his performance from the last SHTP. “My goal is to knock at least 36 hours off my 2016 time. I had a lot of time-wasting failures last race, many of which I should have caught during prep. My second goal: Don’t be last.” Elaborating on his strategy, he says, “This time pay attention to Skip Allan’s weather write-up to try to avoid tropical depressions. Celia fouled me up last race.” About provisioning, he says, “The home vacuum sealer is your friend. I found simplicity is king when it comes to the food.” For sleeping, he’ll try the 20-minute cycle again. “It didn’t work last time, but I am willing to try it again.” He points out that, “This is probably the first time in history that two Freedoms have raced to Hawaii in the same race. Carliane Johnson’s Freedom 38 Kyntanna is joining the fun this time.”

JouJou – Capo 30

Tom Boussie, San Francisco, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

“I have been doing the SSS races for several years, including the Farallones, and more recently the LongPac. Hawaii is the next mark,” says Tom Boussie. “It would be much more logical to race to Hawaii for the first time on a fully crewed boat or at least doublehanded. Perhaps it is an eccentric mid-life crisis. For me, a large part of doing the race singlehanded is being part of the SSS community, which is extremely supportive and collegial and creates a strong sense of shared accomplishment.” Tom has a total of 30 years sailing experience, all in the Bay Area. “I started in dinghies at Cal Sailing Club and have owned a series of boats through to my present Capo 30.” Tom likes JouJou for her standing headroom – and the projects she’s gifted him with. “The boat was previously named Toy Box. The current name, JouJou, roughly means ‘a child’s play toy’ in French. I like the continuity.”

Kyntanna – Freedom 38

Carliane Johnson, Oakland, CA

Island YC
Previous SHTPs: none

Carliane Johnson started sailing by answering crew ads for casual daysails on Chesapeake Bay in 2007. “I began racing and learning about skippering the Cal 20s at Half Moon Bay YC when I moved to California in 2011, then racing on San Francisco Bay on a friend’s Hunter 41 in 2012. I bought Kynntana in San Diego in 2013 and motorsailed her to HMBYC that summer. My first crewed race was Oakland YC’s Oktoberfest in 2013; my first solo race was the Vallejo 1-2 the following month.” Carliane’s future plan is to go world cruising. “Because I’m a single woman, I knew that I may not always be able to find crew, which I never wanted to be a limiting factor, whether it be for a quick trip to the fuel dock or an ocean crossing. Being part of the SSS and doing the SHTP race were the best and quickest ways that I could think of to become better prepared for the type of sailing I want to do in the future. I love challenging myself and pushing boundaries, but those experiences don’t have the same intensity when there’s another person with me. I also tend to be more focused when alone and doing something big.”

She has a small fridge, so she plans to bring pre-made casseroles, eggs, lots of fruits and nuts, salads, canned tuna, sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals. “One idea from the SHTP provisioning seminar was to pack a cooler with dry ice and frozen food that would be opened about halfway. I am planning to do that and including ice cream as a special halfway treat.” The Freedom is a sloop with a free-standing carbon-fiber mast and a self-tending jib, “to try to keep things as simple and uncomplicated as possible while I learn to become a sailor.” The boat’s name, Kynntana, has a unique provenance. “It was my mother’s stage name as a circus performer. She was a trapeze artist and had an act called the Iron Jaw in which she hung by her teeth. It’s my understanding that the name means ‘star’ in the Malagasy language, which was where my grandfather had been stationed as a French military officer.”

Libra – Pogo2 Mini

Grégory Saramite, Sausalito, CA

SSS, Les Glenans
Previous SHTPs: 2016

“The 2016 TransPac was my first ocean passage, my longest sail and my first major solo sailing trip,” says Grégory Saramite. “This year, I’m taking my race to a new level and doing it for a bigger cause.”For the last five years I have helped two close relatives find the best resources possible to treat complex chronic diseases that were resistant to conventional medical approaches. Thanks to the field of functional medicine, which includes nutrition and other lifestyle choices, my loved ones’ health improved when traditional methods failed them.”I have dedicated this race to raising awareness for alternative treatments. From diabetes to MS, Alzheimer’s and asthma, nearly everyone knows someone dealing with chronic disease.”When I sail the Pacific this year, I will be raising funds for Dr. Terry Wahls’ research at the University of Iowa, which has changed my life and has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat chronic disease (www.transpac4health.com/donate).In preparation for this race, Greg has been sailing solo in ocean races and plans to head offshore for three days a few weeks before the start. “I’ll sail on a Paleo diet; no junk food.”

Morning Star – Valiant 32

Lee Johnson, San Diego, CA

Silver Gate YC
Previous SHTPs: none

Lee Johnson has been thinking about sailing to Hawaii, for a very long time. “I now have the boat for it and the time for it, and it’s an even-numbered year. The vast majority of my sailing has been singlehanded, and I enjoy it. I’m not interested in the complications crew would entail. Plus, I have followed the SSS and this race for years, and like the ethos.” Lee began cruising and racing on other people’s boats in the mid-1980s, and began chartering boats for daysails and multi-day cruises in the 1990s. He bought a 28-ft keelboat 2005, which he regularly cruised and occasionally raced, until 2015 when he bought Morning Star. To get in top shape for the SHTP, he’s been distance running, bicycling and hiking. He plans to bring some freeze-dried meals, canned soups and canned/pouch tuna and salmon. “But I will also bring as much fresh, regular food as the fridge will hold.”

Fitting out the boat for the race was minimal. He mainly just added gear mandated by the Safety Equipment Requirements that weren’t already on the boat. “I wasn’t necessarily planning on doing the SHTP when I bought the boat. I was looking for a well-equipped and maintained bluewater boat that I could singlehand across some oceans, and this one checked all the boxes on my requirements list. “The prior owner was a woman who bought the boat in San Francisco, where she renamed her Morning Star and sailed her on San Francisco Bay for some number of years. In 2002 she sailed down the coast and did the Baja Ha-Ha. Then, over the next few years, she sailed in various legs through the Panama Canal, across the Caribbean, and up the East Coast to Belfast, ME. She never changed the hailing port on her USCG paperwork, so the boat carried San Francisco as her hailing port the entire time. I bought Morning Star in April 2015. Since I liked the name I decided to keep San Francisco as the hailing port on the papers and on the boat. When I sail Morning Star under the Golden Gate Bridge sometime in May, it will mark her return to her hailing port for the first time in 16 years.”

Mouton Noir – Garcia Passoa 47

Michael Jefferson, San Francisco, CA

Previous SHTPs: 1992, 1996, 2000, 2012, 2016

“I enjoy being at sea with other people who  love adventure and intensity,” says the eloquent Mike Jefferson. “The SSS TransPac appeals on many levels, ranging from historical to cultural to practical. It is hard to prepare for, always teaches you something new and useful, takes one deep into oneself, and connects us to those who came before, sailing the oceans in what we would regard as primitive and/or inadequate boats, teaching those who follow what seamanship and courage really mean.  “The SSS TransPac is the last great Corinthian ocean race left. It is close in spirit to the first singlehanded round-the-world race. You sail the boat you have. There are few high-end boats, or famous sailors. No big money shore crews, no battle flags, no bullshit. ”  Afterward, at the Tree drinking beer, who was first and who came in last means very little.” As for provisioning, Mike says, “No more damn Pop-Tarts!” He hopes to eat more protein, do some actual cooking, and cut back on junk food. He plans to catnap when needed, with the radar and AIS alarms set to loud, and try to sleep from 2 to 6 a.m. “Which is when bad things always happen…” Mouton Noir (French for ‘black sheep’) is a heavy aluminum cruiser, designed and outfitted for polar sailing. “Not a race boat! Between the original owners and myself the boat has over 100,000 miles of ocean sailing.”

Nightmare – Wilderness 30SX

Greg Ashby, Richmond, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

Nightmare lives in Richmond’s Marina Bay, but her skipper lives in Arnold (we had to look it up; it’s in the Sierra south of Lake Tahoe). “I live three hours from the Bay, so I just didn’t look into getting involved with crewed boats,” says Greg Ashby, explaining how he became a singlehander. “Our family had an El Toro when I was a kid. In 2008, we traded a motorboat for an O’Day 22 and started sailing on a local lake.” He and his wife took some ASA classes and had a blast, but, “My wife decided it wasn’t her thing.in 2014 I started bringing the O’Day to the Bay. Pretty soon I realized I wanted to go farther and would need a bigger boat.” To train for the race, Greg has been taking longer hikes, riding his bike more and eating healthier. His strategy for the race? “Sail, eat, sleep, repeat.” He plans to bring “a broad selection of fresh and canned fruits and veggies, freeze-dried meals, beans, soup, bars, cookies, chocolate, nuts, protein drinks, oatmeal and PB&Js.” Regarding sleep, “It has been suggested to let your body find a rhythm. During the qualifier, I took short naps during the day and naturally woke up every 30 minutes or so at night.” Preparing Nightmare for the race, he has done the bottom, replaced the rudder bushings, updated some rigging, added 200 watts of solar charging, and built a cassette-type emergency rudder.” A Chuck Burns design, Wilderness 30s were built in Santa Cruz in the ’70s and ’80s. “Nightmare was modified for the ’96 Pac Cup with a new keel and bow reinforcement. “Nightmare is the original name of the boat, as near as I can tell. She didn’t have any graphics when I bought her. I thought about changing the name, but when people asked what she was called and I said, ‘Nightmare,’ I saw all kinds of reactions from fear to amusement to confusion. So I decided to keep it. It’s always an interesting conversation.”

Owl – Pacific Seacraft 37

John Woodworth, San Francisco, CA

SSS, RYC, Pt. Richmond Koffee Kibitzers
Previous SHTPs: 2016

“Stop reading all this crap and just go do it,” says John Woodworth. His training regimen consists of a “brisk brew of Pike Place in the morning, a winter’s daysail, lift some East Brother’s Amber in the evening, and cross-train with a fine Cabernet.” Of strategy, he says: “With over-spec’d rigging, I’m just trying not to pull the deck off.” Provisions will include rice, beans and Twinkies. For self-steering, John has a B&G below-deck hydraulic ram and a Monitor windvane “with artificial wind by Pelagic.” He’s carrying a drogue this time – “Don’t they know it’s hurricane season?”To prepare the boat for this passage, he installed new fishing equipment. He says Owl is beautiful. “My competition always waves when they pass.”

Passages – Olson 30

David Clark, San Diego, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

A sense of adventure compels David Clark to check the SHTP off his bucket list. Although he lives in San Diego now, he moved down there from the Bay Area where he used to sail locally, including out on the ocean in OYRA races. “That’s where I heard about this race,” he said when we spoke to him in late May on the eve of his departure on his qualifying sail. He bought the Olson 30 in 2015 and has done a lot of work on her over the last two years. He doesn’t have a galley, so the food he is bringing will be easy to prepare, one-pot and freeze-dried fare.

Rainbow – Crowther 10M cat

Cliff Shaw, Emeryville, CA

Previous SHTPs: 2012Cliff Shaw has 40+ years of ocean sailing experience, including both the Pacific Cup and the SHTP. “Both are

very good, but singlehanded is less complicated, more challenging, requires more resourcefulness, and is more satisfying.” He’s been sailing since he was 14, including on the Bay and Delta, along the Coast, in the Baja Ha-Ha, and a San Francisco to French Polynesia to New Zealand voyage. Rainbow was designed and built in Australia, then taken by the first owners on an 18- month honeymoon cruise from Australia to S.F. Her second owner cruised her to Alaska and back. She’s gone 30,000 ocean miles in the last 12 years, mostly singlehanded, with her current owner. To prepare Rainbow for this journey, Craig gave her a full refit. To prepare himself, he’s been doing some hiking “and lots of climbing around on the boat refitting it.” His strategy for the race is to “Follow the leaders and don’t break anything.”

Riff Rider – Cal 40

Charlie Casey, Berkeley, CA

Previous SHTPs: none

Although he has yet to do a SHTP, Charlie Casey’s previous experience includes many OYRA races outside the Golden Gate, the Newport to Ensenada Race and the Cape Panwa Sail Race Week in Thailand; singlehanded cruising in the Dalmatians, the Hebrides, Phuket and the Sea of Cortez; other cruising in Mallorca and the BVI; and two Hawaii to California deliveries. He’ll take an Alpha Spectra Autopilot System, an AIS receiver and transponder, an SSB and a SatPhone to Hawaii with him.