Sailing / Rich Roberts : Rudy Choy Loses a Jinx and Finally Gets Hawaiian Record

Frustrated time and again in his dream to set a sailing record from Los Angeles to his native Hawaii, Rudy Choy figured he was jinxed--until he finally identified the jinx.

He concluded that it must have been his old friend Bud Tretter, who not only helped him to prepare the Aikane X-5 catamaran for several attempts but sailed along as navigator. Tretter, who runs the Marina Shipyard in Long Beach, is an excellent sailor, but something always seemed to be going wrong.

Choy failed in three other bids for the record since 1987, and this summer started three more attempts, with Tretter aboard, only to turn back with breakdowns.

On July 2, they were still five miles from Catalina when the headboard pulled out of the main sail.

The next day, they were ready to go again by late afternoon, but charging at 22 knots in a strong breeze out of the Los Angeles Harbor entrance to the starting line off Point Fermin, the sail track peeled off the boom.

The next shot was on July 12.

"Everything was going great," Tretter said. "We were seven hours out and 125 miles down track, averaging about 17 knots, when the starboard chain plate on the outboard side of the hull started lifting the deck and broke the shear clamp. So, we bail out again."

It wasn't until Aug. 17 that they were able to try again. But Tretter couldn't go because of a scheduled court appearance, so he set the starting line off Point Fermin and through the week served as shore support for weather information. The court appearance was later postponed, but Tretter had already been left on the beach, gnashing his teeth.

Without him, Aikane X-5, the rising sun at its back, passed the Diamond Head finish line at 8:41 the morning of Aug. 24, completing the run in 6 days 22 hours 41 minutes 12 seconds, beating the record of 7 days 7 hours 30 minutes set by the 64-foot catamaran, Double Bullet, in 1983.

Tretter, having flown over, greeted Choy at the finish and the next day was back on board for the weekly Friday night races out of the Hawaii Yacht Club. But the Hawaiian sailing gods were watching.

Aikane X-5's mainsail blew out.

Rudy Choy is the pioneer of catamaran sailing. His co-skipper was son Barry, and the rest of the crew included Mike Elias, who replaced Tretter as navigator; mast man Gary Kraft, sail maker-helmsman John Conser, primary helmsman Roy Seaman and VHS operator Neal Forn.

Nevertheless, Tretter deserves partial credit for the record--and not just for staying off the boat. He helped Elias pick the best courses for Aikane X-5 to sail.

"We were in radio communication twice daily," Tretter said. "I would call our weather people at Ocean Routes in Sunnyvale, and Mike would call me after that. We'd hack over the weather and strategy for about an hour every morning and every night and, boy, it worked.

"They sailed as close to a rhumb (direct) line course as I've ever seen. They had a few wind shifts, and the wind started lightening the second day from the finish. Otherwise, they would have beaten the record by 24 hours."

Tretter said: "It was a pretty uneventful trip."

Tretter said the winds blew a steady 15 knots, with gusts up to 22.

Aikane X-5 averaged about 14 knots for the 2,250 miles.

Sailing Notes

Tom Blackaller leads Randy Smyth, 152-151, going into the final round of the Salem ProSail series for 40-foot catamarans at San Francisco Sept. 15-17. Blackaller, with $51,500, won the first and third events at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and Newport, R.I., Smyth, with winnings of $49,000, the second at Annapolis.

The World Championship of Match Racing runs at Royal Lymington Yacht Club in England, which began Wednesday (Sept. 6) and runs through Sunday, features the top five ranked skippers in the world and the next-best five that accepted invitations. The lead group includes Rod Davis, Chris Dickson and Russell Coutts of New Zealand; Peter Gilmour of Australia, and Eddie Owen of Wales. They are competing for $102,000, including $25,500 to the winner.

The Chula Vista Yacht Club will announce the filing of its challenge to Australia for the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy, the little America's Cup, Friday.

The Long Beach Yacht Club's 13th biennial Long Beach-to-Cabo San Lucas race will start Nov. 10 for IOR, IMS and PHRF handicap classes C and D, and Nov. 11 for the bigger boats. The 700-mile race will take about a week.

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