The 2011 Melges 24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas reached its midpoint yesterday, with races five and six being completed in overcast but breezy conditions.
Despite the fresh conditions, the racing was characteristically tight throughout the fleet with each start and every mark rounding fiercely fought. Overnight leader Lorenzo Bressani
(ITA) at the helm of Uka Uka Racing
, won both of yesterday's races to establish a 15 point lead and an effective stranglehold on the championship.
A fourth and a seventh for Kristen Lane
(USA) on Brick House 812
, sees her retain her second place overall, tied on points now with Flavio Favini
(SUi) helming Blu Moon
in third. Also tied just one point adrift of Favini, in fourth and fifth respectively are Brian Porter
(USA) on Full Throttle
and Nathan Wilmot (IRL) on Embarr
The fleet got away to a clean start at the first time of asking in Race 5, with the boats quickly splitting into two distinct groups on either side of the first beat. Bressani soon established an advantage in the group on the left, whilst Lane led the pack on the right. When the fleet converged on the approach to the first windward mark it was Bressani who led around the buoy, with Lane close behind in second and Eivind Melleby
(NOR) on Full Medal Jacket
and Porter overlapped in third and fourth. Alec Cutler (USA) on hedgehog
was hot on their heels in fifth.
Down the first run Bressani showed some remarkable off-wind pace to extend his lead considerably by the leeward gate. With the breeze ratcheting up to around 17 knots, behind Bressani there was a real scrap on for second place. Alan Field, who had rounded the previous mark in seventh place, sailed a remarkable leg to move up to second at the gate, just ahead of a large gaggle of boats who arrived at the buoys en masse. Cutler led the group into the left hand buoy but broached in the process of dropping his chute, causing Wilmot, who was right on his transom, to do the same. The ensuing chaos allowed Andrea Racchelli
(ITA) on Altea
, Porter and Favini, to sneak through inside them at the buoy. Meanwhile, almost simultaneously at the other gate mark, Melleby, Lane and Bora Gulari
(USA) on New England Ropes/West Marine
were rounding three abreast.
With Bressani leading comfortably at the second top mark, and Field also looking relaxed in second, attention turned to the street fight for third place between Lane and Melleby. These two converged right at the mark with Melleby coming in on port and tacking in closely in front of Lane on starboard, forcing her to throw her bow up to avoid a collision and subsequently fly a protest flag. Despite Lane pushing Melleby hard down the final run there were no changes to the top four positions at the finish, with Bressani taking the gun, Field second, Melleby third and Lane fourth. Cutler came home fifth with Favini in sixth. Later in the day Lane's protest against Melleby for the incident at the top mark was upheld by the protest committee, resulting in the Norwegian receiving his second disqualification of the championship.
The second race of the series also got away cleanly with the fleet once again splitting left and right in the early stages of the beat. Bressani made another good start and initially led the group on the left before choosing to work his way to the middle soon after the half way point. A significant left shift in the second half of the beat rewarded Wilmot and Favini, who had been working that side of the beat and they rounded in first and second at the first windward mark. Bressani rounded a couple of lengths behind in third, with Porter, Guy Mossman
(USA) on Battle Rhythm
, and Melleby rounding in quick succession behind. With the breeze now up at 18 knots plus, the first run was a high speed affair which saw Wilmot holding off Favini right up until the final approach to the leeward gate. As the two boats gybed together, Favini's slicker execution enabled him to roll over the top of Wilmot and lead around the left buoy. Wilmot peeled off to the right buoy and rounded just ahead off Bressani.
On the second beat, despite Bressani and Wilmot appearing to be engaged in a private match race on the right, they arrived at the top mark ahead of Favini who had been sailing his own race on the left. In the final few boat lengths, Wilmot led Bressani in on the port layline, with the Italian close enough behind to prevent the Irish boat from tacking. Rounding the top mark locked together, they continued their match race down the run, with Bressani eventually prevailing to take another race win and Wilmot closing out the rapidly advancing Favini just before the finish line to take second.
In the amateur only Corinthian Division, Eiichiro Hamazaki
(JPN) on Esprit
continues to dominate with two more wins yesterday to maintain his perfect score so far. By way of two third places, Christof Wieland
(GER) on Unsponsored
moves up to second overall ahead of Scott Holmgren
(USA) on Rosebud
, whose pair of second places sees him ease into the Corinthian top three.
Racing at the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas continues today, Thursday 19 May, and runs through until Saturday 21 May, with six more races scheduled.
You can keep up with all the latest news and developments from the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship via the International Melges 24 Blog, www.melges24.com and the event website.