Mike Martin and crew Jeff Nelson have won two of the three races in the 2009 SAP 505 World Championship, hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club, but were to spend a restless Monday night in 27th place before rejoining the fray Tuesday.
Restless for some of their rivals, that is.
The Newport Beach, California sailors beat the regatta leaders, Mike Holt
and crew Carl Smit of Santa Cruz, by 48 seconds in Monday's only scheduled race. Now, after the first of two races scheduled Tuesday - the fourth race of nine through until Saturday - they'll discard the 99-point score they've carried like a thousand-pound bag of salt since failing to finish Sunday's second race after flipping their boat and busting their mast.
At the time they were running second to Holt and Smit, who went on to win the race despite their mast getting bent by the same puff that took out their adversaries. Both replaced their masts overnight, and conditions were lighter than Sunday's blowout at about 17 knots.
But Martin said, "We were both a little nervous about how our new rigs were gonna go, but they both went about the same as before"---that is, when he enjoyed a slight but significant edge in speed coming into the event after running away with the North American championship.
"We're in the hunt," Martin said.
So before Martin and Nelson cash in their throwout, Holt and Smit (2, 1, 2) lead Australia's three-time world champion Chris Nicholson
and crew Casey Smith 5 points to 10. In third place is Howard Hamlin
- once a champion and always a contender in 505 Worlds - and new crew Paul Cayard
at 5, 6, 6 for 17 points
But first Hamlin and Cayard had to win a case with the race jury after being disqualified for interfering with the Pathfinder (i.e., "rabbit") boat during the Gate Start sequence - Paragraph 11.9 of the Sailing Instructions. Otherwise, they would have been dragging their own ball and chain into Tuesday's racing.
Five American darkhorse teams fill out the top 10, led by Dalton Bergan
and crew Fritz Lanzinger in fourth place with 20 points.
For Martin and Nelson, it only hurts for a little while longer. In fact, a second throwout will kick in after the eighth race Friday, which seems a bit much for Nicholson.
"One thing I am perplexed about is having two drops for a nine-race series," Nicholson said. "To drop [almost] 20 per cent of your races is a big call."
Hamlin and Cayard also had a brush with a race committee inflatable boat while sailing downwind to the race course under spinnaker well before the start.
"He must not have been looking where he was going," Cayard, a longtime St. Francis YC member, said in the Crissy Field boat yard as he studied the aluminium spar from behind the boat. "The spinnaker got all tangled up in that big post on the front of the [RC] boat and bent the mast."
Nevertheless, they finished sixth before being dealt the DSQ on the other matter and planned to straighten the mast before racing Tuesday.
Cayard flew home from Europe Sunday after calling tactics for Artemis' climb into first place with one race to go in the latest Audi MedCup TP52 regatta. In his absence, Artemis finished 10th and last as Emirates Team New Zealand won by 1.5 points.
No comment. Hamlin was happy to have the local star on board, although he hadn't sailed on a 505 in 30 years and Great Britain's Ian Mitchell had performed flawlessly warming up the hiking trapeze for him.
"Ian did a terrific job for a boat he'd just been thrown into," Hamlin said. "We only sailed together four days and my boat is set up totally different than ones he sailed."
In that situation, Hamlin thought "I may have sailed a bit conservatively" - like when he, along with others, kept his spinnaker stowed after watching many others get overpowered and flip on Sunday.
"But I don't think Paul will be conservative," Hamlin said.
Meantime, Australia's Malcolm Higgins and crew Nick Johnston set an early pace before flipping out on the reach leg near the end of the second of three laps. Then Martin, Holt and Nicholson had a hooter of a three-boat contest, running away from the other 72 starters.
A strong first leg riding a strong wind shift to the left put Martin and Nelson on pace, and near the end they concentrated on covering Holt and Smit, tacking on them from directly upwind as the latter rounded the leeward gate and became resigned to protecting their own position.
Holt said with a sigh, "We figured we weren't gonna catch Mike, so we made sure Nicholson wasn't gonna catch us."
Nicholson said, "It's just nice to be sailing with this quality of guys. They're all very well prepared."
And the battle, apparently, is just getting started.
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