Naugural Rolex TP52 Global Championship

International yacht racing at its highest, most competitive level comes to Miami for the 2006 Rolex TP52 Global Championship. Set for March 7-12 during Acura Miami Race Week, the inaugural championship welcomes a fleet representing England, Ireland, Hong Kong and the U.S, abounding with the world’s top sailors from the America’s Cup and Olympics. The racing series consists of short windward/leeward and longer, offshore races that will take the fleet to the Bahamas and back.

‘Victory in this regatta will be achieved by the team that performs flawlessly and finishes well in every one of the 10 scheduled races as there is no discard race,’ said TP52 class executive director Tom Pollack. ‘This regatta will be a true test of each team’s skill, daring and preparation as they compete to be named the inaugural Rolex TP52 Global champion.’

The biggest attraction for competitors has to be the boat itself: a state-of-the-art, high-tech sailing machine, built from the latest materials that provides crews with a high-performance, exhilarating ride they perhaps lacked in previous boats of this type.

‘The appeal of the TP52 is sailing on an incredibly high performance and fun boat against the best sailors in the world on an extremely level playing field,’ said John Coumantaros, owner of Bambakou. ‘We were exceeding 25 knots of boat speed in Key West, in January, and it was, mostly, all under control.’

Introducing an element of offshore racing to the mix is in fact one of the class assets. The race schedule for the 2006 Rolex TP52 Global Championship will feature two days (March 7-8) of windward-leeward buoy racing, followed by an 18- to 24-hour long-distance race (March 9-10). According to Pollack, if the weather and the Gulf Stream oblige, the distance race will be a literal blast across to the Bahamas and back. The next day is a 5- to 7-hour coastal race (March 11), and the event concludes with a final day of windward-leeward racing (March 12). The scoring for this no-discard, boat-for-boat series is also weighted with the distance and coastal races scoring 1.5 times and the 1.25 times the points earned, respectively.

This combination of challenges is what attracts not only many of the world’s top sailing crew to the TP52 class, but also the boat owners, who get to steer their own craft. Under TP52 class rules, only the owner or a sailor who is Category 1 (an amateur under the International Sailing Federation definition) can helm. For the Rolex TP52 Global Championship, there is an additional trophy for the top-scoring owner who decides to be on the helm for the start of every buoy race plus the start and first 30 minutes of the distance and coastal races.

Nine teams will take the start line with the largest contingent from the USA, including race veteran John Coumantaros (Newport, R.I.) and his Bambakou, Charles Burnett (Seattle, Wash.) on Braveheart, John Buchan’s Glory (Hunts Point, Wash.) and Michael Brennan (Annapolis, Md.) on Sjambok. From Honolulu and California comes one of the US’ most prolific sailor/owners, Philippe Kahn and his latest Pegasus, while the newest of the American boats is Tom Stark’s (Newport, R.I.) new Farr-designed Rush, second in January at Acura Key West Race Week.

‘There is a lot of talent in this fleet and any of the participants can win,’ says Kahn of the line-up. ‘It will be real tight racing and our goal is to sail to our best potential.’

Europe is represented by Irishman Eamon Conneely’s Patches (Galway, IRL) and Stuart Robinson’s brand new Farr-designed Stay Calm (London, U.K.).
From the opposite side of the world comes Beau Geste, owned by Hong Kong-based owner Karl Kwok.

While any of the nine entries is capable of winning, Stay Calm can perhaps be considered a favorite for Miami, as the boat beat Rush when the class last locked horns in Key West.

‘We hope to minimize mistakes and stay in close contention to have our shot at the title on the last day,’ says Bambakou owner John Coumantaros of their prospects. ‘There are the coastal or distance races which we feel are our particular forte. This mixes it up a bit from around the buoys. The new boats are fast, no doubt, and have to a degree a competitive edge, but by far the overriding factor is sailing well as a team. If we sail well, we will be very much in the hunt. It is going to be a great event.’

Punctuating the racing is a series of social events; some combined with Acura Miami Race Week, the event in which the 2006 Rolex TP52 Global Championship takes part. The social schedule culminates after the distance race on March 10 with a party hosted by Rolex at the magnificent Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive. Here the class’ brand new two-meter tall TP52 Global Championship Perpetual Trophy will be presented.

With fleets in the U.S. and the Mediterranean, the TP52 class is seeing exponential growth in numbers at present. So what is its appeal? ‘These are great boats, with very tight racing and lots of talent,’ explains Philippe Kahn, owner of Pegasus 52. ‘We’ve found the Pegasus 52 to be a tremendous performer offshore and inshore. It’s essentially a perfect racing yacht.’

TP52 class rules restrict parameters such as weight, sail area, length, beam, etc., and yet are tight enough to keep competition close. Each boat is unique in allowing the world’s top yacht design houses to try their hand at creating the fastest boat.

by Media Pro