King David and the Transpac Yacht Race

LOS ANGELES — The Transpacific Yacht Race, affectionately referred to as Transpac, will kick off its 50th running in July 2019, with sailors lining up at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro for the biennial trek across the Pacific Ocean, en route to Honolulu.

An earthquake, interestingly enough, is what allowed the 2,225-nautical-mile race to start from Los Angeles in the first place. Transpac’s first year in existence was in 1906 – the same year a massive earthquake struck San Francisco. A yachtsman and businessman intended to establish a race from San Francisco-to-Honolulu, but plans changed when a 7.9-magniture earthquake struck the Northern California city on April 18, 1906.

The seed for a San Francisco-to-Honolulu yacht race, interestingly enough, was planted in the late 1800s, when Hawaii’s King David Kalakaua invited members of the San Francisco Pacific Yacht Club to race to his kingdom in honor of his 50th birthday. Hawai’i, at the time, was still its own kingdom. (Hawai’i would become a U.S. territory in 1898, eight years before the first-ever Transpac.)

Information about King David’s hopes for a San Francisco-to-Honolulu yacht race is sparse and/or limited. The Transpac website itself stated King David hoped the race would occur in time for his 50th birthday in 1897. King David, however, passed away in 1891 and celebrated his 50th birthday in 1886. The last Hawaiian king would never see the Transpac race come to life, as it eventually did about 15 years after his death.

Transpac racers, nonetheless, could have been racing out of San Francisco instead of Los Angeles had King David’s intentions became reality.

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