homepage logo

Ho competing aboard the legendary Merlin in the Transpac Sailing Race

By Staff | Jul 18, 2019

Lahaina Firefighter Keahi Ho is a junior sailing coach with Lahaina Yacht Club and has been teaching students 8-18 years old for nearly a decade.

LAHAINA – Maui firefighter, competitive sailor and owner of GungHo Sailing, a private sailing charter business out of Lahaina, Keahi Ho is competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race (Transpac) this month as part of the Merlin Yacht Racing team.

The 50th Transpac began on July 10, with 92 of the world’s fastest ocean racing yachts racing 2,225 miles across the Pacific Ocean, from Long Beach, California to Diamond Head in Honolulu.

Yachts will start on different days according to their division, and Merlin started on July 13.

One of yachting’s premier offshore races, Transpac is organized by the Transpacific Yacht Club and attracts entrants from all over the world.

This will be Ho’s third Transpac race and his second aboard Merlin, a world-renowned sailboat designed in the 1970s by designer and builder Bill Lee.

Pictured during the 2017 race, Merlin is a Bill Lee-designed, 68-foot ultra light displacement boat and one of the Pacific’s most iconic sailboats. PHOTO BY SHARON GREEN.

In 1977, Merlin and its crew set a race record, completing the Transpac in eight days, 11 hours and one-minute, and held that record for 20 years.

Since its debut, Merlin has exchanged hands with multiple owners. In 2017, Lee bought back Merlin and brought it out to race in the 2017 Transpac, where it placed third in its division, eighth overall, with Ho part of that historic team.

Merlin has received massive renovations within the last year under current owner Chip Merlin to prepare for the 50th running biennial race this summer.

Chip is a long admirer of Merlin and its racing legacy, coincidentally sharing the last name of the boat.

There are high hopes for Team Merlin to place in Transpac again this year. Ho is one of three crew members returning from 2017, joining a total crew of ten, under the leadership of a new captain.

The team practiced together in Long Beach during the last week of June to prepare for the race.

“It is both exciting and sentimental for me to be racing on Merlin these last few years,” remarked Ho.

“I have vivid memories of being a kid eagerly watching from shore as Merlin sailed into Diamond Head in the ’80s and dreaming about what it would be like to race on that boat. I dared to dream one day of sailing on that boat, and that dream came true.”

A lifelong sailor, Ho grew up as a child sailing the islands in Hawaii and in Southern California.

As an adolescent, he spent most days sailing with his father on multiple charter boats out of Lahaina Harbor.

Ho began sailing competitively during his time at the University of Hawaii, when its sailing team was ranked top five in the country.

Although he considered a career on the professional sailing circuit, he chose to settle on Maui and continue sail locally.

Of sailing on Maui, Ho shared, “Maui is a beautiful place for all levels of sailing, with both gentle sea breezes and steady trade winds, breathtaking views and a rich history. It has it all.”

Ho has served as a firefighter out of Lahaina on Engine 3 since 2008 and is known for his calm, strong demeanor and team spirit on the crew.

He sailed from Maui to Tahiti with his family in 2015, and shortly after that, began running a private sailing charter business out of Lahaina Harbor, GungHo Sailing.

Ho and the Merlin Yacht Race team encourage their friends and family to follow along on the race as it happens. Download the YB Races App to track Merlin’s real-time progress, follow @gunghosailing on Instagram or like the GungHo Sailing Facebook page to view photos, videos and updates.