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9 May 2007, 02:56 pm
AYRES, ULLMAN Win But French And Italians Lead
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Full Power Melges 24 World Championship 2007
Santa Cruz, California, USA

Two veterans and long-time rivals who learned to sail in the gentle zephyrs at Newport Beach turned the tables on their roots on Tuesday when they won the opening races of the Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship, hosted by Santa Cruz Yacht Club, on a bright and breezy Monterey Bay.
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But consistency paid larger dividends. As Bruce AYRES (USA) scored 1,7 finishes and Dave ULLMAN (USA) went 21,1, France's Francois BRENAC was 2,4 at the helm of Benjamin COHEN's (FRA) entry, which left him atop the leaderboard in a tie with the defending champion, Nicola CELON (ITA), 4,2, driving for Amadori EZIO (ITA).

BRENAC said, 'We tried to be very careful at the starts. There were a lot of OCS starts, and it's very difficult to make a good race because the right side [of the course] is good and there's nothing to gain going left. On the right side, at the end the wind shifts [in a lift] to the left, and the sea is more flat.'

AYRES shares third place with Brian PORTER (USA), while ULLMAN shares seventh with Team Pegasus colleague Mark (Crusty) CHRISTENSEN (USA).

ULLMAN's Faith Repaid

A day earlier ULLMAN had assured doubters that the challenging venue would return to its reputation in time for the competition, and he proved not only a prophet but a winner in cool west winds blowing 10 to 15 knots.

'Of course, it's Santa Cruz,' ULLMAN said. 'It can't go many days without wind.' After AYRES won the first race, ULLMAN won the second, both leading at every mark.

What is more, AYRES and his totally Corinthian (ie amateur) crew of Jon PINCKNEY, David SHELTON and Don SMITH momentarily stole the thunder of the high-profile performers in the fleet of 58 boats. A Corinthian team has never won a Melges 24 Worlds, and there are 24 competing here, but, of course, there are still four days and eight races remaining for the stallions to find their strides.

AYERS said, 'We got off the line fast and had great boat speed. It's easy when you get off the line fast. The important thing is that we stayed focused. This is a long regatta and the wind is going to keep blowing harder. It is a matter of staying focussed.'

Overanxious And OCS

The racing started right on time at 12:30 with only one hiccup: a typical cavalry charge by overanxious competitors who for the past week had been fine-tuning their racing machines for the magic moment. Principal race officer Hank STUART was forced to signal a general recall, followed by a second successful start under the warning of the 'I' flag - any boat over early must go around one end of the very long end to re-start properly.

Still, a few paid that penalty - two of them painfully. Samuel (Shark) KAHN (USA), who won the Worlds in 2003 at age 13, and Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA), driving Giovanni MASPERO's (ITA) competitive Joe Fly, jumped the start in both races. Although all they had to do to restart was to circle the committee boat in the middle of the long line, the delay left them far back in the pack. KAHN wound up with a 22 and 47 for the day, ZANDONA with a 25 and 48. They can toss their worst scores after six races but will have to swallow the others.

The first race - two laps around a 2.0-nautical mile windward-leeward course set almost due west at a steady 260 degrees - started in 11 knots of wind and built to 15 at the windward mark, from where AYRES led the fleet down the offshore side to the gate, then back up the shore side where the breeze past the northern point of the bay offered a free lift.

The second race - three laps around - started in 10 knots and followed similar a similar tactical pattern.

Overall, the seas were choppy but without the deep, queasy swells that marked the Pre-Worlds last weekend. As for Wednesday, ULLMAN said, 'We just hope it blows harder. Which it's going to, which is good. A couple of days from now it's going to blow really hard. Tomorrow about five knots more. Thursday it will be cranking.'

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Dave ULLMAN leads Nicola CELON, the defending champion, at the windward mark:© Rich Roberts
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