Uncooperative weather again proved to be the biggest challenge for organizers and racers on the penultimate day of the 2009 J/24 World Championship, hosted by Annapolis Yacht Club and sailed on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
With an unsettled weather system tracking into the area, the breeze settled down enough for a single race before thunder squalls made continuing competition impossible.
Pulling into the lead of the 79-boat fleet with a fifth-place finish in Thursday's only race was 2008 World Champion Andrea CASALE (ITA) and his Fiamma Gialla team, including Vittorio ROSSO, Ernesto ANGELETTI, Enzo DI CAPUA, and Fabio MONTEFUSCO.
"It was a very close finish,"
CASALE said, describing being in the middle of three overlapped boats, Argentinian Alejandro ROSSI's Cerro Castor in fourth, Fiamma Gialla, and Chris LARSON's (USA) of Annapolis and his National Sailing Hall of Fame team in sixth.
"It was a tricky race,"
he said. "The breeze was pretty steady, 180 to 190, but we are not used to the tide. In the Mediterranean where we come from, there are no tides or current."
Despite the challenges, CASALE was pleased. "It was one of the best of the four,"
he said with a smile. "In one, there was too little wind, and in the first two, I didn't like racing in the rain. But we've come a long way to be here, and we're happy to be in the fight."
CASALE's preparations for this event began before he started to prepare for the 2008 event in Sardinia. He put together a crew who could make a long-term commitment to stay together and travel as a team, and, after having been disappointed by a chartered boat he sailed in the 2004 Worlds in Connecticut, he decided that being able to bring his own boat along would be critical to further competition.
A friend of CASALE's owns the international transportation concern Mediterranean Shipping Company, and stepped up to sponsor the team by providing free transportation for the boat. So he is Annapolis with his own familiar boat, a strong familiar team, and optimism for the final outcome of the regatta after tomorrow's competition. "I'll want to talk about this tomorrow, at the presentation,"
he said. "We are happy just to be in the fight."
Today's race was particularly challenging for those in the back half of the fleet. Just under half of the fleet had finished as the squall line approached, sucking up the breeze and spitting it back out with a 150-degree shift, accompanied by crackles of lightning.
"The chutes were coming down and the jibs were going up,"
said Principal Race Officer Sandy GROSVENOR, who had set a four-legged course for the contest.
Wind shifts before the start required re-setting the line several times before getting off a black-flag start which caught six boats in disqualifications. "I felt an urgency to start the race,"
GROSVENOR also posted an amendment to the sailing instructions calling for an early start for tomorrow's final day of racing, with the first signal scheduled for 09:30. She plans to try for up to three races, but no starting sequence can begin after 14:30.
With four races in the bag, however, the series counts as an official championship. After one more race on Friday, the worst-race throwout will kick in, and quite a few places will change as teams lose expensive penalties or disappointing finishes in Wednesday's light air.
For more information and complete results, see www.j24worldchampionship2009.com