The Irish contingent of 31 sailors were scored at 41 points, putting them 19 ahead of their closest rivals in the British 'red' team, while the French 'blue' tram trails in third position on 77.
And as the provisional race results show, it was Antix - Anthony O'Leary's Easter Challenge-winning Ker 39 - that stole the show today, crossing the line first in the opening duo of inshore races on the Solent.
But there's still a full week of racing to go, including the lengthy overnight offshore race that kicks off tomorrow (Monday 21 July).
Ireland has not competed in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup since winning the event in 2010, but today on the Solent the defending champions once removed got off to a strong start in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for national teams with amateur crews.
The Emerald Isle has one of the strongest teams competing in Cowes this week, led, as in 2010, by Anthony O'Leary and the Ker 39, Antix, recent winner of the RORC's IRC National Championship. Today's two inshore races were held in light conditions in the southeastern Solent and Antix won both. With additional consistent performances by her Irish team mates, American Marc Glimcher's turboed Ker 40, Catapult, and Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling's Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, Ireland now leads the 2014 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup with a 19 point advantage over GBR Red.
"On Christmas morning you'd say 'yes please',"said Anthony O'Leary of Antix's performance. "We got away cleanly in the two starts. We had a nice position on the line and were able to rumble on without interference, which meant we could make our own decisions. The second race was a bit all over the place. But at the moment it is just shadow boxing - the offshore is what is really important." The event's 24-36 hour long offshore race sets sail tomorrow.
Today's first race was a windward-leeward, held in a light 6-8 knot westerly with the start line set off Osborne Bay. The second was around the cans but took place as the southwesterly sea breeze was attempting to fill in over the light gradient. This caused the wind to shut down mid-way through as the fleet were attempting to round a mark in Osborne Bay. The leaders slipped through but the fleet ended up split in two with half a mile of separation.
"The fleet concertinaed down in Osborne Bay, but we managed to pick the right lane to the next buoy which dug us out of that," continued O'Leary.
Equally consistent, coming home second and exactly 30 seconds behind Antix in both races, was the Scottish team's Swan 45, Eala of Rhu. "It was a very good day for the team," said owner James McGarry, for whom this is his first Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.
Eala of Rhu is the longest boat competing and her waterline length paid particularly on the beats in today's flat water races. "We need to get off the line and into clear air to get trucking," said McGarry. "Tactically the tide did a lot for us as well, keeping on the right side of the course and keeping out of the deep water."
As to the tricky Osborne Bay mark rounding, McGarry described it: "The wind went inside out, it died off but we were lucky enough to plug our way around the mark, get across what should have been the reach and then fight our way uptide to the finish. It could have been completely the opposite."
After two inshore races, Scotland is fourth of the nine teams. Roderick Stuart and Bill Ram's Corby 37, Aurora, struggled today, but as McGarry observed: "They get pinned into a much larger group of boats and have a seriously hard job of trying to fight their way out of it. They are sailing the boat well."
Lying second in the overall team results is GBR Red, where Seb and Mike Blair's King 40, Cobra, was star performer today, posting a third in both races.
Helmsman Chris Walmsley said of their races: "In the first, we wanted to be left off the line which we were and then take the first opportunity to tack back up the middle. We felt the middle was where the best breeze was all day. In the second, the sea breeze was fighting to come in the whole time and it never quite reached us until literally the end of the last leg. We were on an A-sail reach heading into Osborne Bay and it turned into a beat as we got back into the older, left-over breeze.
"Generally we are very pleased. We are about where we expected to be in the fleet with other boats."
Leading overall after today's first race was France Green, the team comprising the eclectic mix of Gilles Caminade's A35R, Chenapan 3, Eric Basset's Farr 30, Motivé, - the shortest boat competing - and Eric De Turkheim's radical new Archambault A13, Teasing Machine.
Teasing Machine is 43ft long, weighs more and rates lower than a Ker 40, but has a powerful beamy hull shape complete with a VO70/IMOCA 60 style chamfer running as her deck edge. Unfortunately an error in the second race, that caused her to get caught in a wind hole off the island shore in the second part of the opening beat, caused her to finish last.
Tactician on board is Laurent Pagès, part of Franck Cammas' Volvo Ocean Race winning Groupama team, who admitted: "We were thinking of continuing southwest into the left shift and as it was pretty light at that stage we hoped to get out of the tide. But actually it was the wrong move because we got into a very soft spot and in the meantime the breeze shifted pretty hard into the right. In a very short time it was a very heavy penalty."
Owner Eric De Turkheim was more philosophical: "There is a long way to go. We are pretty happy with the boat, as it was only launched three weeks ago. Today was tough, but I hope we will get better tomorrow."
The course for tomorrow's offshore race will be announced this evening.
2014 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - Sunday 20th July
2014 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup
Day 1, Sunday 20 July
Team Name Team Points Place
Ireland 41 1
GBR Red 60 2
France Blue 77 3
Scotland 81.5 4
GBR White 83 5
France Green 87 6
France Red 100 7
GBR Blue 105 8
France White 121.5 9
Additional reporting from Barry Rose of ICRA:
Light winds on The Solent presented tricky conditions for the 27-boat fleet in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup today that saw Irish boats to the fore.
Team captain Anthony O'Leary on Antix won both short inshore courses, cementing his record this year that included the overall British title here.
Marc Glimcher's Catapult delivered a highly consistent day with a seventh and fourth place while Michael Boyd and Niall Dowlings' Quokka 8 overcame a 23rd place in race one after a difficult start and were fifth in the afternoon.
Race one started in a light nor'westerly breeze but a big shift caught the boats that has headed inshore towards Osborne Bay then favouring the boats on the right. In the second race, Osborne again became a fraught zone when half the fleet were becalmed there.
The defending champions from 2012 are Britain Red who are currently in second overall while the France Green team are also very strong in third overall. The sole Scottish team hold a close fourth place, boosted by Eala Of Rhu that placed second behind Antix in both races.
"Team Ireland has made a strong start to what is a very long series so we must be cautious at this early stage," commented Barry Rose of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association support team. "Tomorrow's offshore race counts for bonus points that our boats in particular will relish. However, the forecast is for the winds to become light so it will be an especially testing race for every team."
The fleet will start the offshore race at 9.25am on Monday morning and won't return for at least 24 hours. Race management teams from the Royal Ocean Racing Club will set the course so that it could be shortened if the wind becomes too light to race though the forecast is for wind today at least.
Ireland won the Commodores' Cup for the first time in 2010 and has returned to Cowes with a fresh challenge for 2014 and is supported by the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA).