For some, it’s their first time setting sail for the iconic Transpacific Yacht Race, a check off the bucket list for serious sailors who don’t mind spending many days at sea.

Others have been returning to the biennial race, with about a 2,225-nautical-mile trek to the finish line, for decades, carrying on the long-held tradition that dates back to 1906, when it included just three yachts.

The first set of sailors left from San Pedro on Wednesday afternoon for the Transpac, celebrating its 50th start.

The starts for various categories are staggered through the week, with the next class of boats, the monohulls, setting sail on Friday afternoon, and boats in the multihull division leaving on Saturday for the long trek to Hawaii.

It’s one of the longest running, long-distance sailing races in the world, this year drawing about 90 boats for the journey across the Pacific. Many hail from local harbors from Los Angeles to San Diego, helming boats ranging in length from 30 to 100 feet.

Among the racers is Newport sailor Brian Bissell, representing Whittier Trust, a financial management company based in Newport Beach that has been involved in the race since 1923, when the race resumed after World War I.

Bissell, senior vice president at the trust, leaves land and heads out into the vast ocean with his 11-person crew starting on Saturday aboard the 70-foot Grand Illusion.

“I am excited. I wouldn’t say nervous – just anticipating an adventure and a really good experience,” said Bissell, a 39-year-old who has been sailing since he was 7.

Most of his experience is with shorter courses from Southern California to Mexico, but with the longer route the crew will have to adapt to changes based on weather, winds and swell.

“That’s a challenge,” he said. “Sailing at night is also a challenge. There’s obstacles you can see during the day, whales or debris you can avoid or see easily at daytime but at night, it’s near impossible.”

Then, there’s sleep deprivation, with the crew sleeping and working the boat for four hours on, four hours off.

“It’s a team effort, we have a really solid group of guys on the boat,” he said. “Sailing that many miles together is an accomplishment in itself.”

Being a part of a race with such rich history is humbling, he said.

“There have just been many great sailors before me to have completed the race,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to help continue that tradition and hope to one day to take the next generation along and help perpetuate that legacy.”

Marie Rogers, commodore of the Los Angeles Yacht Club in San Pedro, will be one of the few women sailing the race when she and her crew depart on the 46-foot Cazan on Friday.

“I’ve been wanting to do this race for so long, I’m finally having the opportunity,” said the 62-year-old sailor who has competed in more than 33 marathons.

“I like endurance sports,” she said. “I’m happy to be doing something endurance based with a team. I love the water, I’m a licensed captain, I’m a sailing instructor. I’m one of the few females that really gets to get out offshore.”

She tells other female sailors: if you want to be a pioneer in 2019, there is a sea of opportunity in offshore, long-distance racing.

“Traditionally, females on the boat have been in the galley cooking, they aren’t really out there racing,” she said.

Transpac Yacht  Club Commodore Tom Hogan said in the sailing world, the Transpac is considered among the top four in terms of prestige.

Bigger boats can do up to 20 knots and faster, though this year winds are expected to be only moderate in strength.

“It’s a real thrill to be able to go that fast in a sailboat,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

In in 2017, the 100-foot Comanche broke a record, arriving in 5 days, 1 hour, 55 minutes and 26 seconds. Most boats average about 10 days to the make the finish line off ‎Honolulu.

Much of the race’s allure comes with crossing warm waters, along with the “aloha” reception sailors enjoy in Hawaii.

“A lot of people look at it like a bucket-list item, something they dream of doing,” Hogan said. “It is basically one of the premiere events in yachting.”

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