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13 March 2006, 09:30 am
Patches Wins Inaugural Championship
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Rolex TP52 Global Championship 2006
Miami, Florida, USA

Eamon CONNEELY's (IRL) Patches won the inaugural Rolex TP 52 Global Championship in Miami, USA yesterday, with a 1,2 finish securing victory just a fraction ahead of Philippe KAHN's (USA) Pegasus 52. In an incredibly tight series, Patches fought back from a DNF in race seven to get the better of a final race showdown to decide the title.
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Patches entered the final day of the Championship, sailed in conjunction with Acura Miami Race Week, just 0.75 points behind Pegasus 52 and with two windward-leeward races remaining. At the end of the first race Patches had regained first place, though leading Pegasus 52 by just 0.25 points. The outcome would come down to the final race.

Final Match Race

Patches and Pegasus 52 tackled the pre-start of this last line up like an America's Cup match race, the two boats aggressively circling one another beyond the committee boat. Their progress up the first beat was relatively even until the approach to the weather mark where Patches was approaching on starboard with rights while Pegasus was on port attempting to barge its way in between the starboard tack boats.

'It was going to be close to cross with them as they had Glory right above them, but we had them, had them, had them - no problem - and kept going fast, but they did a nice job,' said Pegasus' Ken READ (USA) on what transpired just prior to the mark rounding. 'All of a sudden I think they got a flat spot and were hunting a bit. In about 15 seconds it went from a cross to a no cross. But by that time we were committed in there and there was no bailing out.' Patches was forced into a crash tack to avoid colliding with Pegasus' transom, its crew protesting loudly. Pegasus immediately carried out a 360 degree penalty turn relegating it to last position. Finally, after rounding the mark the team had to perform another turn for having fouled within two boat lengths of the mark. 'If you live by the sword you die by the sword,' said READ.

This weather mark incident was clearly the deciding moment of the race, but while most teams might have taken it as a final knockout blow, Pegasus did not. KAHN's team admittedly brought up the rear for the next legs, but by the time the race finished they had done an admirable job climbing back to third place, immediately behind Patches. The finish was not enough to beat them overall. CONNEELY's team, led by British double Olympic medallist Ian WALKER, won the regatta by just 32.25 points to Pegasus' total of 33.5.

Nervy Final Day

'I was very nervous last night and yesterday after winning,' admitted CONNEELY. 'We had to beat Pegasus in both races today. It was incredibly close, so close you couldn't have engineered it. And it all came down to the last race...' Patches won this regatta in a particularly dramatic 'come-back' style after it had been forced to retire from the high scoring distance race on Thursday night with severe breakage to the deck, scoring maximum points in the process.

'I am thrilled for Eamon,' said WALKER. 'He has put a lot of time and money into the boat. We only just made this regatta with the guys working for a month to fix the keel after Key West and then to break the boat here and fix it over night... It is quite a big team - not just all the guys on the boat who sailed well, but all the guys who have been fixing it and designing it and making it happen.'

Despite finishing second, READ was pleased with how their all star team on KAHN's Pegasus 52 had performed. 'We don't feel bad at all about how we did,' he said. 'We got beat by a boat that had a little more time under their belt and were more prepared. We didn't even make Key West and we've worked really hard to get to here. Quite frankly Philippe and whole team were all pretty proud to come second. And it was fun. Hats off to Patches - quite frankly the best boat won.'

Other Final Day Stars

While all eyes were on the Patches and Pegasus showdown, there were two other noteworthy performances yesterday. The first race, ultimately won by Patches, saw the oldest boat racing lead for the first four legs. John BUCHAN's (USA) Glory (originally named Yassou) was one of the first TP52s ever built. 'We caught the shift and started on port tack. Then, we led for four legs, so that was great for us - a bunch of amateurs from Seattle,' commented navigator Andrew KOCH (USA), who runs the boat, praising designer Bruce NELSON (USA), who has been sailing on board as tactician this week. This is the team's first regatta in the boat which just three weeks ago was upside down in a boatyard having major surgery performed to convert it from being a 2001 generation TP52 into a 2006 one. 'It is snowing in Seattle right now - 85F and wind, Miami's a pretty good place to be,' concluded KOCH.

The final race was won by Bambakou. 'We always peak on the last day, by that time we are warmed up we know what we are doing and it is time to come home,' joked owner John COUMANTAROS (USA), who attributed the success in this last race to his team picking the shifts well.

Bambakou also earned the Offshore Trophy for best performance in the two offshore races this week, Thursday's 200 mile overnight race and Saturday's 35 mile coastal race.

'What can you say? With 15-20 knots all week, it couldn't have been better conditions. Two days of windward-leeward races, a distance, a coastal race and back to the windward leewards - it is a fantastic mix of racing,' concluded COUMANTAROS, summing up the feelings of all those have enjoyed this week of superb weather and top level yacht racing at the inaugural Rolex TP52 Global Championship, taking place at the Acura Miami Race Week.

At an onshore ceremony following racing, CONNEELY, with the crew of Patches, received a Rolex Yacht-master timepiece in Rolesium. He also received the TP52 Global Championship perpetual trophy.

Dana PAXTON (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The Patches crew celebrate:© Daniel FORSTER/Rolex
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