Transpac sailors hit tsunami debris during Hawaii race - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Transpac sailors hit tsunami debris during Hawaii race

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The final vessel competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race is expected to cross the finish line on Thursday. Several boats struck tsunami debris as they sailed from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

John Sangmeister had hoped to break a record, but instead wound up with a broken boat. His 73-foot trimaran, "Lending Club," struck debris seven times during the 2,560 mile journey.

"We hit telephone poles at speed doing 25 miles an hour and we hit several of them, and the effect was catastrophic to the boat," said Sangmeister. "We hit our rudder, we hit the float, and we hit our central rudder as well."

The debris also destroyed the vessel's daggerboard. The Tritium Racing crew lost about 12 hours working on repairs. Transpac organizers said up to 9 other boats collided with debris. The "West Coast Warrior" was one of them.

"We've got a bit right on the rudder and we've got a big chip out of our keel on the side, so my guess is it's something that hit the keel on the side and then it bounced into the rudder," said Greg Constable, the boat's captain.

The race from California to Hawaii runs every two years. Competitors were warned to be on the lookout for floating debris from Japan's 2011 tsunami.

"Lumber-type debris, telephone poles, railroad ties. There's been reports of sheets of plywood scattered throughout the race course," said James Callahan, founder of TransPacific Marine Debris Survey.

"This is completely different because it's a fairly large amount of debris. It may be in concentrated areas, but it's out there and it's a danger," said Carl Geringer, Honolulu chair of the race.

The collisions are consistent with a computer model of tsunami debris developed by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. They rely on the reports since satellites can no longer detect the floating trash.

"It can help us to understand the nature of the ocean currents and also we can apply the knowledge to potentially solve the problem with marine debris," explained Jan Hafner of the International Pacific Research Center.

The threat won't stop determined competitors from racing across the Pacific again.

"It's part of the game. If it were easy then it wouldn't be a challenge," said Sangmeister.

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