Hamlin's Daring Pegasus White leads after two wins

At the 18ft Skiff International Regatta in San Francisco some exciting sailing has been taking place with Howard Hamlin and crew Mike Martin and Trevor Barnabas, despite dodging freighters and high-wire walking, taking the lead.

First-day leader Pegasus Gold proved vulnerable when it flipped while leading again at the first windward mark of the day near the Golden Gate Bridge, and when skipper Jack Young fell off the boat moments later it was evident events weren’t going their way.

“I had my head in the clouds and didn’t see the puff at the mark,” Young said. The team righted the boat, “and then I fell off,” Young said. “It wasn’t our day.”

Those misfortunes set up Hamlin’s Pegasus White team to win races 3 and 4 and assume a three-point lead over their teammates, followed by defending champion John Winning’s Yandoo from Australia and 16-year-old Samuel (Shark) Kahn, sailing Pegasus Black.

Earlier, temperatures in the mid-70s and a balmy light westerly wind of 10 knots were more typical of Southern California or Mexico.

“Welcome to Baja San Francisco,” Hamlin said as the fleet waited ashore until St Francis Yacht Club race officer John Craig was confident the breeze was finally building enough to start the first race in 12 knots at 1450. For the second race it blew 15.

Young, with crew Euan McNicol and Casey Smith, worked their way back to sixth place but couldn’t hold onto Hamlin in the second race as the Long Beach, Calif. veteran made the most of Pegasus Gold’s opening.

“They were ripping again before they stuffed it,” Hamlin said.

Then, as every other boat passed Peg Gold, rather than covering the fleet Pegasus White did a gybe spinnaker set at the windward mark in order to chase the stronger breeze on the north side of the course.

“Doing a gybe set on one of these boats can get you into trouble,” Hamlin said. “It’s a risky manoeuvre, but with the wind way out we thought it was worth doing.”

They not only repeated the move on subsequent laps, but on one upwind leg to the same side of the course they found themselves face-on with an incoming Matson container ship.

“The largest section of the Sailing Instructions is not to interfere with commercial shipping,” Hamlin said. “You could get disqualified, or killed. I don’t know which is worse. But we looked at where he was and thought we could go the other way outside of him.”

With that daring end run, Peg White stretched its lead over Yandoo and Kahn’s Peg Black, both of whom had to tack away relatively close to the ship’s starboard side as Peg White emerged from behind its stern, running away.

With all of that drama, Young noted, “The thing that came out today was the way Shark sailed.”

Kahn’s two third places left him nine points off the lead with six races remaining through Friday, but he wasn’t overconfident, even with the more experienced Cameron MacDonald and Paul Allen on board.

“We just sailed conservatively without doing anything too radical,” Kahn said. “It’s tricky with the current. I’d be happy being fourth through the whole regatta.”

Results (after 4 of 10 races)

1. Pegasus White, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Trent Barnabas, Long Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor YC, 3-2-1-1, 7 points

2. Pegasus Gold, Jack Young/Euan McNicol/Casey Smith, Santa Cruz, Calif., Santa Cruz YC, 1-1-6-2, 10

3. Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/’Geoff Beaushop, Sydney, Aust., Australian 18 Footers League, 2-3-2-4, 11

4. Pegasus Black, Samuel (Shark) Kahn/Cameron MacDonald/Paul Allen, Honolulu, Waikiki YC, 5-5-3-3, 16

5. Rag & Famish, Grant Rollerson/David Cunningham/Chris Cleary, Sydney, Australian 18 Footers League, 6-4-4-5, 19

6. Tie between Fisher & Paykel, Andrew Cuddihy/Brent Dennis/Gerard Smith, Newton, NSW Australia, Australian 18 Footers League, 4-6-7-DNF, and Fernside/Skiff Sailing Blue, Patrick Whitmarsh/Kevin Richards/Ben Glass, Alameda, Calif., Monterey Peninsula YC, 7-8-5-6, 26

8. Skiff Sailing Foundation White, Chad Freitas/Dana Jones/Matt Noble, San Francisco, St. Francis YC, 8-7-8-7, 30