Great Pacific Race has not-so-great start

Great Pacific Race
Great Pacific Race got off to a shaky start. Graphic shows the direction of each boat with the straight red line pointing to Hawaii. Boat locations shown are as of Wednesday afternoon.

The inaugural Great Pacific Race, a 2,400-mile rowing race from California to Hawaii, got underway on Monday, and by the looks of the GPS race tracker, you'd think the participants were drunken sailors rather than competitive rowers.

Rowing teams appear all over the map as colored lines mark the route taken by each boat, or at least those boats that actually got underway.

After the first 24 hours, six of the 13 boats had yet to leave Monterey harbor for various reasons, according to the Monterey Herald News.

"The reason there haven’t been many people to row across the Pacific is that it’s hard," race consultant Roz Savage told the Herald News on Tuesday morning. "Getting away from the California coast was always going to be the toughest part."

Savage knows the drill. She was the first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean, taking 99 days to get from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Great Pacific Race
Great Pacific Race participants await the start of the race; photo by Great Pacific Race © Ellen Hoke Photography

By Wednesday afternoon, three of the four solo racers were rowing, one of the three pairs was rowing, and four of the six four-person teams were rowing.

The four-man teams of Uniting Nations and Battleborn, separated by only eight miles, were the frontrunners while the solo rowers were facing strong headwinds making it difficult to get around Point Pinos.

Solo racer Daryl Farmer of Rowing 4 Reefs appeared to be beyond the point but was pushed back into Monterey Bay overnight as he slept.

"Fellow solo racers Elsa Hammond and Jim Bauer … have been circling inside the bay since the start on Monday," Wednesday's race update reported.

Great Pacific Race
Great Pacific Race soloist Elsa Hammond was among the classic solos having difficulty getting around Point Pinos. Photo by Great Pacific Race © Ellen Hoke Photography

Other highlights, or lowlights as it were:

* The Pacific Warriors, a team of four, appeared to be heading toward Santa Cruz, California, instead of Hawaii. It was reported that its compass would only point in the direction of the boat. Turns out, NASA water sampling equipment, which features magnets, was too close to the compass. Now the team is heading in the right direction.

* Canadian pairs Rebecca Berger and Leanne Zrum turned around on the first day because Zrum was suffering severe seasickness. "Rebecca has said to me a few times since we turned that 'ocean rowing is not for everyone' and be proud of yourself for getting off the couch to at least try," Zrum said. They're expected to try to relaunch.

Great Pacific Race
Great Pacific Race saw the team of Clearly Contacts return to Monterey because one of the rowers got seasick. Photo by Great Pacific Race © Ellen Hoke Photography

* Teams making it beyond Point Pinos faced 15 to 20 knots of breeze and 10- to 13-foot swells.

* Some teams must wait for the next weather window to launch, and that could be next Monday or Tuesday.

If you want to keep tabs on the race, go to the Great Pacific Race website.

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