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11 May 2007, 11:18 am
Ageless Ullman Leapfrogs Into First
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Full Power Melges 24 World Championship 2007
Santa Cruz, California, USA

At 61, Dave ULLMAN has discovered the secret of sailing longevity: one win a day keeps the younger dudes away. At least he is making it look that easy in the 2007 Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship, hosted by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club. With a first and fifth Thursday and tossing his 18 from the first race Tuesday, ULLMAN, of Santa Ana, Calif., leapfrogged three rivals to assume first place by four points over Brian Porter, Winnetka, Ill.
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Next are defending champion Nicola CELON of Italy and France's Francois BRENAC, who discarded his 59-point disqualification for an early start that cost him a win Wednesday.

They all say they love the breeze, and it was close to its Monterey Bay best at a peak of 22 knots, with gusts to 24, that roiled the sea and separated the elite from the bottom half of the 58-boat fleet.

ULLMAN's real secret, he said, was that 'we had trained here for two weeks, almost every day, in more wind than this . . . 30 knots, which is almost too much for sailing. But that's what you do when you sail for Philippe Kahn and Team Pegasus.'

Otherwise, ULLMAN said, 'I go to the gym a lot. At my age just to be able to get around the course is something.'

ULLMAN guessed that he has won 'eight or nine' world championships, although not yet a Melges 24 Worlds in five tries. His last three were 470 dinghy titles in 1977, '78 and '80-'a long, long time ago,' ULLMAN said.

He is sailing with a crew of tactician Bill HARDESTY, Brent RUHNE, Andy ESTCOURT and Shana PHELAN, 'and we still have a long way to go,' ULLMAN said.

CELON will be chasing him. 'The wind is good,' he said. 'We like the [strong] wind, although last year [at Hyeres, France] we came from 15 points behind in light wind to win on the last day.'

The Secret's in the Start

His secret: good starts. 'When you see bad results, it means [you had] bad starts,' he said.

Others had bad luck. Jeff LINDHEIM's Tamarack from Mandeville, La., lost its mast in the first race. Stuart SIMPSON's Team Barbarians from the UK had to drop out while leading the second race when its jib wire broke below the deck, following a second place behind ULLMAN in the previous race.

'We were neck and neck with [CELON] at the time,' crew member Nigel YOUNG said. 'We'll be back [Friday].'

LINDHEIM wasn't sure. 'We had just come off a wave and nosedived into the next one,' he said, 'and we heard a loud pop.'

The strong winds are expected to continue. ULLMAN said so, and he's been right on so far. 'And it'll be windier [Friday],' he said.

Racing continues through Saturday. The only throwout kicked in after the sixth race Thursday.

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Gabrio Zandona on Joe Fly, Francois Brenac, Dave Ullman and Samuel Kahn run side-by-side:© Rich Roberts
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