Dancing Bear Transpac Report No. 8: Old School

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The 2005 running of the classic Transpac race is in it's final stretch, and as the racers arrive in Hawaii during the next couple of days, the stories will begin to unfold. Years from now, looking back, the sailing writers will no doubt recall the epic battle between the so-called turbosleds--Pyewacket, Morning Glory, and Genuine Risk--as one of the highlights of the Transpac centennial edition. And, of course, the outstanding debut of Philippe Kahn's Transpac 52 Pegasus. And, last but hardly least, the final Transpac event for competitor Roy Disney and the last of his many Pyewackets; Disney, now in his mid-70s, is hanging up his Topsiders after a remarkable racing career. When you talk about Old School racing sailors, you certainly talk about Roy Disney.

But back in the fleet, there are many other stories to be told--these may not have the headline appeal that the grand-prix racers command, but they're as rich and compelling as what's happening with the front-runners.

One of those stories, certainly, involves the solid Cal 40 fleet. The old boats with many of the older crews were busy gathering their own lasting Transpac memories.

Take the crew of Bubala, the Cal 40 sailed by 72-year-old Lloyd Sellinger and his five-man crew, the youngest of whom is a seasoned 67. Bubala is bringing up the rear of the Cal 40 fleet, but try telling Sellinger, who's owned the boat since 1983, that his experiences are less vivid or meaningful than Khan's or Disney's or anyone else's in the race. Bubala is Old School, mate. Old School.

Like many of the Cal 40s in the race, Mark Schrader's Dancing Bear has undergone a complete refit in preparation for this Transpac and for future adventures. Dancing Bear, originally built in 1964, is fitted out with some of the best equipment today: Samson ropes, Raymarine electronics, Blue Sea Systems electrical panels, Petzl climbing gear and personal safety items, Pettit Paint, and on and on. The reports filed throughout the race have been transmitted with satellite equipment and services from Telenor USA. The sailors on Dancing Bear sincerely thank all these suppliers as well as Marine Servicenter in Anacortes, Washington, for all their efforts in helping the boat and crew make the starting line.

Dancing Bear, currently lying in ninth place in class, had under 200 miles to go to the finish line late Sunday afternoon and was anticipating finishing sometime Monday evening. For the complete standings and updates, visit the event's website [www.transpacificyc.org].

Dancing Bear is an Old School entry. The crew thanks its lucky stars that its junior member, 30-year-old Quinn Olson, has done wonders for the team's average age.

For the last couple of days, Skipper Schrader's expression, as he ponders Dancing Bear's final placing, has matched the dour puss of the scowling teddy bear mascot that graces DB's decks. Dancing Bear seems to be a quick boat. Whether her crew maximized her potential will be the subject of much post-race analysis. At the bar, naturally.

With time, Schrader and his mates will no doubt come to see that the joys of racing and competing and the pleasures of interacting with the elements on the amazing Pacific Ocean will have been the voyage's lasting reward, no matter what the final result.

Morning Glory, Pyewacket, and Genuine Risk are the present and the future of ocean racing, and they deserve the attention and the accolades that await in the islands. Dancing Bear and the rest of the Cal 40 fleet? They're Old School, baby. And proud of it.

Dancing Bear clear . . .

To read previous Dancing Bear Transpac Reports, click here.