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11 September 2007, 11:35 am
Italians Lead At Star Europeans
Image of Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE racing
Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE competing at the ISAF Worlds in Cascais

Star European Championship 2007
Malcesine, Italy

Defending champions Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE (ITA) got off to a winning start on day one of the ISAF Grade C1 Star Europeans in Malcesine, Italy.
Ninety-three boats from 27 countries are competing on Lake Garda including five-time Olympic medallist and winner in the Star in Athens, Torben GRAEL. Other gold Star winners include Ian PERCY (GBR), Fredrik LOOF (SWE), Alex HAGEN (GER) and the Italians Roberto BENAMATI and Enrico CHIEFFI.

For the Italian competitors the regatta is particularly important as it a selection event for the team that will represent the country at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

On the opening day of racing, the Ora wind appeared a little tired and only one race was completed. The regatta was planned for 13:00 but a pair of false starts caused general recall flags to be raised. Finally, at 15:40 the fleet started with a wind at 10 knots and the windward mark at 200°.

NEGRI and VIALE started at the leeward end and were first to go the Veronese coast. Making a less extreme choice, Francesco BRUNI and Gilberto NOBILI (ITA) had their bow higher on the left in the same area where the World Champion and local sailor (from Malcesine) BENAMATI went in better days.

When, going along the Veronese coast, NEGRI arrived at Point Campagnola it was already clear that he had no adversaries on his side and an optimal angle on the buoy, but with the other boats far on the other side of the lake it was hard to know who was ahead. NEGRI to the left, BRUNI to the right with almost the whole lake to cross. It seemed impossible with a mile of water separating them and all the varying conditions but the boats arrived at the mark separated by less than a length. A little behind was BENAMATI and crew Dodo NATUCCI, passed just at the buoy.

The order around the first mark: NEGRI, BRUNI, BENAMATI, followed by Flavio MARAZZI and Enrico DE MARIA (SUI) then Peter BROMBY and Lee WHITE (BER). GRAEL and Marcelo FERREIRA rounded in tenth.

BRUNI kept to his right downwind on the Bresciano side. Bromby, at the bottom of the leg took the left gate which made NEGRI undecided on his rounding. Finally he also opted for the left side (Veronese) and went well. In the last meters of the leg, BRUNI decided on the right buoy, but it is the left one that won the race. BROMBY went down the second leg well and got ahead. But NEGRI is formidable and rounded the buoy at the same time as BROMBY and exited in a safe leeward position in perfect control. BROMBY was actually leading the race for less than 10 seconds. NEGRI's rounding, absolutely perfect, would be worth a slam dunk in basketball. In fact it can't be underlined too strongly that this rounding decided the race.

NEGRI now sailed freely but there was another champion who still had something to say about the race. And it is necessary to remember that the European Championship of Malcesine is a test to select the next Italian Star competitor for the 2008 Olympic Games. NEGRI and VIALE are far in front of these selections to date. In second is Luca MODENA and Michele MARCHESINI, but third are BRUNI and NOBILI, who was the last Italians to represent their nation at the Olympic Games (seventh in Athens). Clearly BRUNI does not consider the selection settled (and demonstrated this by being first to the mark on the first leg). When at the beginning of the second downwind leg BRUNI found himself in third with NEGRI launched towards victory and had endured a pair of tacks on the nose which made him slip to third place (behind BROMBY, the only one today in a position to bother the Italians), he could have settled for third place. But BRUNI refused to give up and he patiently worked hard to not lose much distance and returned to second place at the finish.

NEGRI flew, BRUNI was right there. The Star European Championship could not have had a better beginning for the Italians.

Luca Bontempelli (As Amended By ISAF)
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