Adrian Johnson won the singlehanded Transpac on his Olson 30 idefix. We found out a bit about how he did it.
SA: How much single handing experience did you have before the T Pac?
AJ: My 500-mile qualifying sail, and two or three sails around the Seattle area.
SA: Did you have fun on the race? Would you do it again?
AJ: The race was a ton of fun, and a true adventure. This was my first ocean crossing, first ocean race, and first trip to Hawaii, so it was really an extraordinary experience for me. And of course, it was an incredible thrill to win the race. More importantly, the spirit of camaraderie that surrounds the racers, families, and organizers before, during, and after the race is amazing. I met lots of very experienced and talented sailors, but no big egos, and I know that I’ve made some lifelong friends. As the two competitive twenty-somethings racing 30-foot ultralights, Ronnie and I hit it off well from the start, and the friendly rivalry between us made the race a lot of fun. It’ll be hard to top this first experience, but if I can find the time and money, I will do it again.
SA: What would you consider to be the ideal boat to do this type of race on?
AJ: The Olson 30 worked out really well for me, so it’s hard to think of anything else! The boat is easy to singlehand, and very easy to get moving fast, especially with following seas. It’s also a relatively cheap boat, which was a big factor for me since I couldn’t get insurance. I’d been looking for one of the old Beneteau Figaros, but I don’t think it would’ve been any faster. I’m surprised and a little disappointed no one’s done the race in a mini yet. If I had the money, I’d go out and buy a mini or a Class 950 for this race.
SA: Tell us a bit about boat prep – what did you do to get the boat ready.
AJ: Boat prep was a 12-month ordeal. Turning a 30-year old buoy-racing ultralight into a singlehanded ocean racer is not trivial… I had help, notably from my friend Peter who, as delivery crew, had a vested interest in seeing the boat in good shape. We went over absolutely everything, from the keel bolts to the masthead, replaced a good deal of the rigging and hardware, put in a lot of safety gear, and installed a pretty complex (for an Olson 30) electrical system, with SSB radio, solar panels, instruments, all sorts of lighting and 2 autopilots. We also wasted a lot of time building a fancy emergency rudder. But the hull, mast, and foils are all classic Olson. I suffered several emotional breakdowns, where I just didn’t think I could be ready in time. I couldn’t have done it without help. In hindsight, though, it was a terrific learning experience.
SA: How about getting yourself ready – what did you do to get in shape, physically and mentally?
AJ: The qualifier was excellent mental preparation. I did it off of Cape Flattery in November. When I came back from that, I knew I had a solid boat, and that I could live for four days without sleep. I spent a lot of time reading descriptions of the race by previous racers, and the handbooks Skip Allan and Stan Honey did for this race and the Pacific Cup. Unfortunately, the boat prep took a toll on my physical shape. I did a minimum of bike riding and weight training, but in the weeks before the race, several people told me that I looked like shit and needed some sleep!
SA: What was the hardest aspect of the race?
AJ: I managed to get drenched during a sail change under the Golden Gate bridge. I was wet and mildly hypothermic for the next three days. I also got seasick for the first time in my life. Those first three days seemed to last forever. A couple days later I watched Ronnie pull away from me while I sat in a hole, which was probably more difficult for me. I can imagine it was tough for him when the roles reversed several days later.
SA: Did you have any near disastrous moments?
AJ: Not really. I’ve been scared plenty of times sailing, but this race went really smooth. The worst moment was on day 11. I was 300 miles out of Hanalei, and had broken my mainsheet traveler that morning. The wind had picked up and I did a headsail change when the sheave pin for the spinnaker halyards came out. I couldn’t fly a spinnaker for the rest of the race. I figured I was out of the race, but after I chilled out, I realized the boat could still make impressive speed with the jib poled out. That same day Dave reported that he’d broken his boom and I knew I had it in the bag. I didn’t tell anyone about my gear failures, because I figured someone might try to catch up!
SA: Let’s talk about budgets. how much did it cost to do the race, including getting the boat back. did you ship it?
AJ: I was on a pretty tight budget, so everything was pretty much DIY. Most of my gear was bought used or borrowed. I sailed the boat back to Seattle. The total budget was still $20k, not including my elbow grease and lost pay. That’s twice what my boat is worth! I figure the next race would cost me $5k.
SA: What things would you do differently?
AJ: Not much, actually. I’d find another way to get the boat home, because it’s too much time to take off from work. I’d get a satphone so I can send and receive email. I’d also spend a bit of time trying to line up some sponsorship. I think Ronnie, Adam and AJ have shown that it’s possible, even for a relatively low-profile event like this one.
SA: What’s next for you?
AJ: I’m back at my day job. Idefix will be back on the local race courses this season with the rest of the crew. We weren’t really competitive last season, so we have our work cut out for us. In the spring I’ll start seriously thinking about whether there’s a 2012 transpac in the cards.
SA: Thanks dude and well done!
AJ: Thanks! Let Anarchy rule!