Philippe Kahn and Thomas Stark at the top of leaderboard after three races 8/3/06

At the conclusion of the first day and three opening windward/leeward bouts at the Rolex TP52 Global Championship on the picture-postcard waters off Miami Beach, Philippe Kahn’s all-star team on Pegasus 52 is tied on eight points with Thomas Stark’s Rush.

With an offshore westerly breeze, conditions in the otherwise immaculate setting were shifty in the extreme, fluctuating in speed throughout the day between 12 and 20 knots.

On board Rush, Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird said the shifts had been in the order of 30-40 degrees. “The key today wasn’t to try and win the race, it was to make sure you didn’t lose it. The problem when it gets shifty like this is that if you get forced away at the wrong time, you can’t come back because you have missed that shift. We just tried to stay in the top group and not get flushed out.”

Rush’s 2-4-2 scoreline was the most consistent on a day when consistency was hard to achieve. Pegasus 52 scored a disappointing sixth place in the first race, but was able to tie with Rush at the end of the day by posting first places in the final two races.

“We have a great team and we got lucky,” was how Kahn assessed their performance today. “It’s better being lucky than good. We’ve done some training. We have got a good team so it helped.” While Kahn has raced his TP52 offshore extensively and in this respect has more miles under his keel than his competition, this is the first time he has campaigned the boat in an official TP52 event. “The fleet is so close and the conditions are so challenging that any single boat could win. Basically if you don’t look somewhere, you get passed. It is amazing how much you can lose or gain just like that very, very easily.”

For Pegasus day one of the Rolex TP52 Global Championship started slowly. Despite being third at the weather mark, tactician Ken Read said it had become really flukey and they dropped in a blink to sixth, a position from which they were unable to recover.

Race two looked like it might go the same way as they were one of four boats, including Patches, Stay Calm and Bambakou who were called over early and were forced to restart. Once they had re-crossed the line, they didn’t panic, took on one boat at a time, played it safe and came out on top, perhaps benefiting with marginally better boat speed than their competitors. “In flukey conditions like that I don’t think anyone knows who’s fastest or not.”said Read. “It is the same old adage – tactically if you are comfortable with your speed you are normally a bit smarter! I can say we are comfortable with our speed.” Pegasus 52 beat, by 12 seconds, Michael Brennan’s Sjambok and Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste, virtually neck and neck for the runners-up spot.

Pegasus 52 also took line honors in the final race of the day. They got off to a good start and while they never broke away from the pack they were always just ahead. They comfortably claimed victory over Rush by 32 seconds.

The resounding win of the day came in the first race when Irishman Eamon Conneely’s Patches showed its transom to the rest of the fleet early up the first beat and never looked back. “We were in the trend with the wind,” commented helmsman Stuart Childerley. “We were quite confident with sailing on the shifts.” They made the right calls and turned a two boat-length lead at the weather mark into a 1 minute and 54 second advantage at the finish.

The boat’s new keel, fitted last week, has been making a marked improvement said Childerley, who added that they are quietly confident to be “on the button” speed-wise, but it is still early days. “All the time we are learning how to sail the boat and how to tweak it, just trying to understand the boat more and more.”

Final words of the day went to Kahn: “It is a great class, great boat, great sailing conditions – it couldn’t be better. I love it.”

Wednesday’s schedule calls for more windward/leeward racing prior to the 18-24 hour long distance race on Thursday-Friday, where it is expected that the boats will be sent across to the Bahamas and back. Racing continues through Sunday.

Results (Day 1, three races)

1. Pegasus 52, Philippe Kahn, Honolulu, HI, USA, 6-1-1, 8 points

2. Rush, Thomas Stark, Newport, RI, USA, 2-4-2, 8

3. Patches, Eamon Conneely, Galway, IRL, 1-6-3, 10

4. Beau Geste, Kark Kwok, Hong Kong, CHN, 4-3-6, 13

5. Stay Calm, Stuart Robinson, Royal Thames YC, UK, 3-7-5, 15

6. Sjambok, Michael Brennan, Annapolis, MD, USA, 7-2-8, 17

7. Bambakou, John G. Coumantaros Newport, RI, USA, 5-8-4, 17

8. Glory, John Buchan, Hunts Point, WA, USA, 9-6-7, 21

9. Braveheart, Charles Burnett, Seattle, WA, USA, 8-9-9, 26