Line honours showdown

Rich Roberts talks to Pegagus 77's Philippe Kahn about his prospects for the forthcoming Transpac race

Friday June 20th 2003, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: Transoceanic
Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket owns most of the major offshore racing records for east and west of North America and points in between, but her next win against Philippe Kahn's Pegasus will be its first.

The rivalry stands at 2-0 after last weekend's 13th annual Coastal Cup race when Pegasus 77, a Reichel/Pugh 77, ran away from Pyewacket, an R/P 75, in the record time of 26 hours 24 minutes 55 seconds for the Encinal Yacht Club's 360-nautical mile race from San Francisco to Santa Catalina Island. With early strong winds fading to a drifter, Pyewacket dropped out 25 miles from the finish 2.5 hours after Pegasus 77 had finished.

"We got lucky on this race," Kahn said. "It won't be the same at [Transpac]."

Both boats blew out spinnakers in the early blustery stages of the race with winds around 30 knots and gusts to 40. But the result set the stage for an epic 2,225-mile match race starting July 6 from the Palos Verdes Peninsula south of Los Angeles.

Pegasus beat Pyewacket by 63 minutes in the 2001 Transpac, although it was about 15 hours shy of Pyewacket's race record of 7.5 days set in '99. Kahn sailed a different Pegasus - the former '95 Barn Door winner, Cheval - to fifth place in Division 1 in '99.

For the Coastal Cup, both boats were in the full, faster 'turbo' configurations they'll enjoy this year. Transpacific Yacht Club directors boosted the boundary of performance from the rating limit that had been in force since 1995. Now the big boats can discard internal ballast in favour of slightly heavier ballast bulbs for greater stability, which is especially important during the first two or three days on the wind. When they reach the trade winds they'll fly much larger spinnakers with poles longer than half the boats in the race.

Calculations are that they'll reach Honolulu 14 hours faster than they would in their '01 configurations, but the rivalry will end there. Pyewacket has already been sold as Disney awaits the delivery of his maxZ86 this fall, and Kahn has Pegasus 77 up for sale. Asking price: $1.45 million.

"I love Pegasus 77, " he said. "She's the best of the three turbo sleds: Pyewacket, Chance and Pegasus 77. We're looking at other options right now." What other options? "It's a secret," Kahn said.

Kahn's company, LightSurf, developed the technology for the popular camera cell phones now flooding the market. He also has found time to campaign a multi-faceted sailing team, Pegasus Racing.

As for this final showdown, he said, "I think that it's a long race [against] a very good boat, Pyewacket, that is generally favoured to win because they have so much history and sail the boat so much. We are so busy with Finns, Melges, Mumm 30s, Farr 40s and other racing classes that we really sail once a year."

Two years ago Pegasus' Zan Drejes won the Don Vaughn Memorial Trophy as the race's outstanding crew member - the same award he had won with Pyewacket in
the previous race. Later, he joked that Pegasus won with "the best crew money can buy."

Besides Drejes, the crew is a world-class roster of navigator Mark Rudiger, Marco Constant, Mark Christensen, Morgan Larson, Michael Mottl, Richard Clarke, Jeff Madrigali, Sean (Doogie) Couvreux, Mikey Joubert, Justin Clougher and Adam Beashel. For the Coastal Cup, Rudiger was off sailing in the North Atlantic Challenge race, so Kahn handled the navigation himself.

Kahn said, "They happen to be the best at what they do, [but] all the great sailors on Pegasus 77 are personal friends. I would never hire mercenaries. Many of us snowboard, bike, work out, windsurf and surf together when we have a chance. Yes, it's a great team, but that is because there is quite a bit in common among us."

The team also has rules. "There is no profanity, drinking or smoking," Kahn said. "I believe that sailing is a sport for young people all the way to seniors. When we're racing we're not cursing or yelling because a quiet and composed boat is a fast boat. I think that it's all common sense and, frankly, common courtesy."

Besides, Kahn's 13-year-old son, Samuel (a.k.a. "Shark") will be on board again. "Shark is 13, and he is quite a helmsman, as you may have noticed from the Melges 24 results on the West Coast in the last several months," Kahn said. "He's going to drive the boat and do what all on the boat do: grind, trim, tail, clean, et cetera."

Other info:

Besides Pegasus 77 and Pyewacket, five other Transpac entries sailed in the Coastal Cup. Several used it as a feeder race to Southern California for next month's starts. Three Transpac 52s finished second through fourth behind Pegasus - Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok's new Beau Geste in 32:41:32, Bill Turpin's Alta Vita, 35:36:12, and Jim Demetriades' Yassou, 36 hours even - while another TP52, Flash, dropped out with a rudder bearing problem. Yassou and Flash are not entered in Transpac.

Stan and Sally Honey's Cal 40, Illusion, was second in Div. E to the Express 37 Dianne, and Roger Groh's Santa Cruz 50, Dasher, dropped out with a broken rudder. Reinrag2 failed to finish. Two of the 43 boats were dismasted and a total of
10 dropped out. No serious human casualties were reported. . . .

The Aloha sendoff dinner is scheduled Saturday, June 28, 6 p.m., at the new Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort, 21500 Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. Tickets are available to race non-participants by contacting Al Garnier at (310) 816-6515. The price is $52. . . .

Mark your calendar: A half-hour highlight show of Transpac 2003 produced by Channel Sea TV is scheduled Sept. 8 at 10 p.m. Pacific on ESPN2. A re-air is scheduled Sept. 9 at 9 a.m., Pacific. . . .

The last Safety at Sea seminar before Transpac - required of 30 per cent of the crew and both members of a doublehanded crew within the last five years - is scheduled 28 June at the Orange Coast College of Sailing and Seamanship in Newport Beach. Those interested are urged to sign up by phone at (949) 645-9412, ext. 2.

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