Shark Makes It Unsafe for Mumm 30s on the Water

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Sept. 22, 2004

Bell Mumm 30 World Championship

Royal Canadian Yacht Club / Sept. 21-24, 2004

*** Photo information below ***

Wednesday’s weather: Wind 10-12-7 knots, SW-S.
Thursday’s forecast: Wind 5-10 knots.

Shark Makes It Unsafe for Mumm 30s on the Water

TORONTO, Canada—One doesn’t hear about many shark attacks on Lake Ontario, but there aren’t many 15-year-olds devouring major international one-design classes the way Samuel Kahn is sailing the Bell Mumm 30 World Championship.

Kahn, a.k.a. “Shark,” and his world-class crew of Mumm 30 neophytes finished third, first and second in Wednesday’s second day of racing—Lewmar Day around the historic Royal Canadian Yacht Club—to seize a six-point lead after six of 11 races.

“Awesome stuff,” said a rival, Richard Perini of Sydney, Australia, who had a fair day himself by wrapping a second and first around a 17th to climb into fifth place in the feisty 21-boat fleet.

The younger Kahn took over the lead from his father Philippe, the California software developer who opened the day with a win, followed by a fifth and a wind-dying 19th, settling into third place 11 points off his son’s pace and five points behind second-place Fred Sheratt, the local hope from the host club.

The Shark’s stunning performance is an even larger surprise than the weather. On the first day of autumn, when the resident Canada geese should be flying south and citizens donning winter woolies, the region remained in the grip of a high-pressure system with a peak temperature Wednesday of 29 (C.), which converts to 85 (F.)—probably warmer than it was in the Kahns’ second home in Hawaii.

The conditions meant light to moderate winds fading to very light and swinging 45 degrees left through the afternoon.

“It was hot,” Kahn said—his only complaint.

When he and several of the same crew won the Melges 24 worlds last year a fair share of credit was given to the other guys in the boat, particularly professionals Richard Clarke and Mark (Crusty) Christensen. But when a quiet lad of 14 and now 15 steps into an authentic international one-design class like the Melges 24s and Mumm 30s and outperforms veterans as Kahn is doing, some extraordinary forces must be at work.

At least he raced the Melges 24 a couple of years before reaching the top. Here, he and each of his six crew members are racing a Mumm 30 for the first time in their lives.

Clarke, the tactician, said, “His improvement over a year is just amazing. He’s giving us a little feedback now. He used to be a mute back there, but now when we’re sailing a target speed of 6.2 knots he says, ‘I could be going 6.3; the windward telltales aren’t flowing.’ “

Clarke also notes Christensen’s contribution for “setting the boat up so well” by tuning the rig and trimming the sails.

Christensen said, “None of us has ever raced a Mumm 30 before this week, so we’re all still learning. Shark has always listened and done everything we said, but now he’s saying how it feels. The nice thing is he’s really unfazed by it all.”

The unassuming skipper said, “Mainly, if I give any feedback it’s to see if I’m doing the right thing. Pretty much all I do is look at the telltales and the speedo.”

But he’s also having fun. “Light air is all about concentration,” he said, showing a subtle sense of humor. “I had an extra cup of coffee this morning that may have helped.”

Nelson Stephenson, the Mumm 30 World Council president from Connecticut, said Kahn’s performance midway of the regatta is “a big surprise” that defies conventional wisdom. “Everyone that knows these boats knows it takes a lot of time to learn them.”

Perini said, “Sure, he has a great crew, but you still have to steer the boat, and, sure, he’s had the opportunity to sail at this level with family support, but he still has to get on the boat and do the job.”

And he’s doing it better than anyone so far. Three races are scheduled for Thursday and the last two for Friday.

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Joining Bell in support of the event are contributing sponsors Champagne Mumm, CHUM Limited, Lewmar, McMillan Binch LLP, Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, Stella Artois and Sorgentone.

Standings (after 6 of 11 races):

1. Pegasus 20, Samuel Kahn, Honolulu, 3-1-17-3-1-2, 27 points.
2. Steadfast, Fred Sheratt, Toronto, 8-2-4-6-2-11, 33.
3. Pegasus 591, Philippe Kahn, Honolulu, 5-3-5-1-5-9, 38.
4. Tramp, Tom Ritter, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., 1-7-7-15-4-5, 29.
5. Foreign Affair, Richard Perini, Sydney, Australia, 2-12-13-2-17-1, 47.
6. Team Intermac, Dan Cheresh, Holland, Mich., 6-10-9-10-7-6, 48.
7. Cygnet, Richard Swann, Fairfield, Conn., 13-8-1-12-10-8, 52.
8. TeamBOLD, Nelson Stephenson, Southport, Conn., 15-11-14-9-3-4, 56.
9. Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Calif., 4-18-2-14-6-14, 58.
10. Calvi, Carlo Alberini, Pesaro, Italy, 16-5-11-7-13-7, 59.
11. Team Traffic, Philip Werheim, USA, 14-13-21-4-9-3, 64.
12. USA 65, David Pyles, Easton, Md., 7-16-6-18-8-10, 65.
13. Three Niner, David Gonzalez, Lambertville, Mich., 12-15-10-5-11-13, 66.
14. Notorious, Kevin Brown, Toronto, 9-9-12-8-16-16, 70.
15. it, Jim Sminchak, Euclid, Ohio, 11-4-16-16-18-15, 80.
16. Dark’n Stormy, Kevin Young, Novelty, Ohio, 10-14-19-11-12-17, 83.
17. Champosa, Jonathan McDonagh, Minneapolis, Minn., 20-6-3-19-19-20, 87.
18. Surprise, David Irish, Harbour Springs, Mich., 18-17-15-13-15-12, 90.
19. War Pony, Art Guerrera, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 19-10-8-20-20-9, 96.
20. Hammer, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., 17-19-18-17-14-18, 103.
21. Wildthing, Jeff Fogarty, Fonthill, Ontario, 21-21-20-21-21-21, 125.