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30 October 2009, 10:31 am
Larson Regains Lead In Drifting Conditions At Melges 24 Worlds
The Melges 24 fleet in action in Annapolis
The Melges 24 fleet in action in Annapolis

Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis Melges 24 World Championship 2009
Annapolis, Maryland, USA

The US team of Chris Larson is back at the top of the leaderboard and six points clear of second place after light winds struck on day four of the Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis 2009 Melges 24 World Championship.
When the fleet left for the racecourse on day four in Annapolis collective hopes of any racing were pretty low. The promising early morning breeze out on the Chesapeake frustratingly evaporated almost immediately the fleet reached the race area. Consequentially a long wait ensued while the Race Committee tried to track down some more. The delay lasted until just before midday, when Principal Race Officer Jeff Borland decided to try to get the fleet racing around a four-leg racetrack, in breezes which averaged no more than five knots.

The lack of breeze at the start resulted in a somewhat chaotic scene as the barely moving boats struggled to build enough speed to get away from the line, as well as almost 20 boats being called over at the gun. Down at the favoured pin end, a battle of wills between Chris Larson on 'West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes', Terry Hutchinson on 'Quantum Racing' and Argyle Campbell on 'Rock n Roll resulted in all three boats losing out. After appearing to get away to near perfect starts Hutchinson and Campbell were called OCS and had to make an agonising return to restart. Larson meanwhile had stayed safe but had been forced to tack on to port to avoid the pin boat, resulting in a huge slow bear away behind a pack of starboard tackers. A few boat lengths up the line Norway's Eivind Melleby had made a clean start with good speed and as the OCS boats peeled off in front of him he suddenly had a clean lane in which to lead the fleet out to the left hand side of the beat.

As the fleet made their way slowly up the first leg, the left phase breeze initially helped those on the left to secure their position as the leading pack. However a twenty-degree right shift at the top of the leg caught out those who had gone furthest left; including early leader Melleby, who had to settle for rounding the windward mark just inside the top ten. It was Lorenzo Bressani helming 'Uka Uka Racing' who made the most sense of the variable conditions to round the top mark already well ahead of the pack. Second around was local Corinthian helmsman Henry Filter on 'Wild Child', just ahead of Alan Field on 'WTF' and Neily Williamson on 'Millewa Milluna'. Second placed overall Larson had made a good recovery from his difficult start to round in tenth place whilst at this stage Championship leader Gabrio Zandona on 'Joe Fly' was still struggling up the beat in a high twenties position.

As the race progressed, the breeze if anything got a touch lighter. Bressani turned his lead at the front of the fleet into a virtual horizon job, while Filter made the most of his local experience to make his second place secure at the finish. Field also refused to relinquish his third place and ghosted home ahead of Tony Beale on 'Scotch Bonnet' in fourth and Nico Celon on 'Fantastica' in fifth. Melleby meanwhile had managed to pick off a few boats and chalked up a satisfying sixth place which moved him up to second place overall tonight. With Zandona only managing to claw his way back to 17th, Larson's eventual 12th was good enough for him to regain the overall lead. With two more days of scheduled racing to go Zandona now sits in third place, just four points behind Melleby, who in turn is further six points off Larson. Bressani's win takes him up to fifth overall.

Henry Filter's win in the Corinthian Division saw him close the gap on the top three helms and he lies in fourth tonight. Despite only managing a Corinthian seventh today Bruce Ayres on 'Monsoon'continues to hold the overall lead, but only on count back from Othmar von Blumencron on 'Gannet' in second. With this pair tied on 19 points, third placed Christof Wieland on 'Unsponsored' is poised just two points behind to capitalize on any slip-ups from the top two.

Friday's forecast is rumoured to call for similar weather to today, however there is some hope on the horizon for the racers, in the form of a local prediction of big breeze on Saturday's final day of racing. Certainly, given the frustrating conditions they have experienced so far, the fifty-one international teams competing at this Championship would surely welcome an opportunity for some real Melges 24 high-speed adrenaline action.

Results - click here

Justin Chisholm
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