LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Two years after a record attempt was ended by debris from the Japanese tsunami, skipper John Sangmeister would settle for a podium finish in the Transpac race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Sangmeister's OEX, a turbo-charged Santa Cruz 70 monohull, will be part of Saturday's start for the third group of boats heading across the Pacific.
In the 2013 edition of the biennial race, Sangmeister's trimaran hit six telephone poles in a debris field from the 2011 tsunami. He says the crew had to slow down for 14 hours to make repairs, and missed setting the speed record by 2 1/2 hours.
The collisions with the poles were at speeds of 22 to 28 knots.
''The last impact, we thought we fractured the boat,'' Sangmeister said.
The collisions occurred between 800 and 1,000 miles off California, at the point of no return. The crew had to slow to about 10 knots to make repairs.
''It feels like you're in pit lane,'' he said.
When his Santa Cruz 70 returns to Southern California, the crew will collect trash and help record the debris field.
''I would never describe myself as a radical environmentalist, but what we witnessed in 2013 was really discouraging,'' Sangmeister said. ''I've crossed the Pacific six times and saw more debris in 2013 than in the five previous runs. It was shocking what we saw.''
His Santa Cruz 70 is considered turbo-charged because its rig is approximately 12 feet taller than a standard rig.
Sangmeister owns Gladstone's restaurant in Long Beach. He was part of Dennis Conner's winning campaign in the 1987 America's Cup.