Ken is like a character from a Hemingway novel who one day just jumped off the page and went sailing. He served two tours in Viet Nam, flying "anything with wings or rotors", retired as a brigadier general in 1977, and has since lived a life of nonstop adventure. Much of it has been aboard Harrier, which he's owned since 1983. Between that boat and a previous one, Ken figures he's sailed 100,000 ocean miles in the last 20 years.
This will be Roper's fifth Singlehanded TransPac (the others were in '84, '86, '92 and '94) - and his "13th or 14th" Hawaii trip. He says his routine hasn't changed much for the last few crossings. "I used to go too far south, looking for wind," he says. "In '92 I tried going rhumbline. It worked well then, and again in the '94 race, so that's probably what I'll do this time, too." No matter where he finds the breeze, however, Ken holds out little hope of beating his personal best time of 14 days, 1« hours, set in '94. "That was a windy one," he notes.
'The General', as Roper is known by singlehanders up and down the coast, doesn't mess with any exotic sleep programs. "I pretty much sleep at night and am up during the day. If I'm in the shipping lanes, I have an alarm that wakes me every 15 minutes, and of course I wake up immediately if the motion of the boat changes." A new radar with a proximity alarm will help keep a lookout this time. He's also had a new jib made, and will once again break out the 'TransPac' main - He had Sobstad make the sail for the '86 race, and he's used it on every race since. Between times, it's stowed carefully away and Harrier uses its well-worn cruising main.
"The race, the trip, the people, I'm coming back because of all of that," says Roper. "This is a great event, and most of the friends I've made in the race I've kept up with over the years."
Navigation: "You name it, I got it"; Steering: Various autopilots (6 on board); Food: Fresh fruits and veggies, boxed stuff (rice, cereal) and canned food.
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