But the Transpac is just as famous for the quality and exuberance of its welcome committee as it is for the caliber of its racers. Every boat, as it docks in Waikiki, is greeted by a group of whooping, hula dancing volunteers. They cheer, hug crew members, drape them in leis, and thrust mai tais into their weary hands. They do this no matter what the hour. If a boat arrives at 2 a.m., its greeters are there, refreshments at the ready. "It's phenomenal," says Bill Lee, who won the event back in 1977 and currently serves as the Transpac entry chairman. For about 48 hours in July, Waikiki harbor is awash in mai tais, mimosas, Gatorade, and joy.
Racing the Transpac is not without risks. As a poet or two have pointed out, the ocean is democratic. It treats all upon it alike, whether male or female, heiress or steerage rat. And it can be fierce. Transpac crews generally have calm seas for the first few days. Then they turn south, putting the northwest trade winds at their back, and quickly pick up speed―and sway.
"There are some big rollers out there," says Garfield, who has not raced the Transpac before. "It'll be like an E-ticket roller-coaster ride."
Others affect nonchalance. "You don't usually get monster storms on the route," says Miyares, who raced in 2003. "But once you get into the trade winds, you can get really heavy seas." Winds have been known to roar at up to 30 knots. Two-storyhigh waves crash and build again.
Bad weather along the way did hinder the Challenged America crew somewhat in 2003, admits Miyares, who is blind, hearing impaired, and diabetic. "Everybody was getting seasick," he remembers. "We all started taking our medicines in half-doses, to see whether the pill would stay down." Despite this, um, stomach-churning rite of passage, the Challenged America crew for 2005 has had many more applicants than slots and hopes to better its 13-day crossing time. "We have advantages," Miyares points out. "With paraplegics, there's lots of upper-body strength. And I have no problem sailing at night. I never need a flashlight."