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25 February 2005, 09:43 am
Aussies surf into the lead while Italians suffer
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Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2005 (Pre-Worlds)
Sydney, Australia

The local Australian teams have taken up the running in the Rolex Farr 40 Pre-Worlds, after a torrid time on the water for the Italians.

Nerone came ashore as runaway leader on the scoreboard, with consistent finishes of 2-7 giving the Italians 19 points after five races, compared with the 35 points of second-placed Team Shockwave.

However Shockwave skipper Neville CRICHTON (AUS) put in a protest against the 2003 World Champions for a downwind incident during the first race of the day. Nerone's owners Massimo MEZZAROMA (ITA) and Antonio SODO MIGLIORI (ITA) decided to retire from the race and with their two points converted to 29 points for the retirement, the top-rated Italian team have been relegated to fifth overall.

Team Shockwave now leads on 34 points, despite an ordinary day, as strategist Mark HEELEY (GBR) admitted: 'We didn't have a famous day, but we were always quick. It was that little windier today and on that next rig setting we were going very well. Also, the waves were very difficult but Neville was doing a great job of steering round them. Our tactician Michael COXON is also doing a fantastic job of putting us in the right place, just about all the time. He is sensational.'

It was another Australian boat that had other sailors gasping in awe as Ichi Ban scorched her way up the rankings into second overall, following a superb score of 3-4 in the lumpy conditions. Skipper Matt ALLEN (AUS) was over early in the last race but returned to restart and by the end of the first leg they was inside the top ten, and by the finish Ichi Ban was fourth. Fiamma's tactician Ian WALKER, who also enjoyed some good scores of 5-3 today, said Ichi Ban was the fastest boat by some margin.

TWT had been leading overall going into today after scores of 2-1-5 in the light winds and flat water of day one. The conditions were dramatically different today, with a 12 knot south-easterly blowing across a large and lumpy swell. If yesterday was Mediterranean in style, today provided the challenge that many sailors have been predicting for Sydney. Perhaps this explained the local teams' rise up the rankings.

TWT's tactician Tiziano NAVA said: 'We were struggling to hit our numbers today, we found it hard to maintain good pace through the waves.' Sometimes, a lack of speed can force your hand, and make you do things in desperation. Already back in mid-fleet, NAVA saw a gap at the leeward gate to get inside two boats, but the gap closed and TWT fouled another competitor. 'I said we should go in there, and there was no room, so it was my mistake,' admitted NAVA, who could still smile despite his disappointment.

The Italians took their obligatory 720 penalty, and stalled the rudder in the process. By the time they had extricated themselves from the penalty turn, they were dead last. They recovered to 22nd and it is a measure of their outstanding first-day performance that they still find themselves in 4th overall.

While Aussie teams top the scoreboard overall, the two individual race wins went to two American teams. Philippe KAHN's (USA) Pegasus made amends for a poor first day, when they had to return twice out of three starts for crossing the start line early. Today KAHN hit the middle of the line to perfection and launched up the first beat to round ahead and maintain that lead to the finish. With double Olympic champion Mark REYNOLDS (USA) calling tactics in the same waters where he won the Star gold medal in Sydney four years ago, Pegasus rounded off a good day with a tenth place.

Reigning World Champion Barking Mad bounced back from an indifferent 13 in the first race of the day to take the winner's gun later in the afternoon. Jim RICHARDSON's (USA) team are putting in a consistent but not outstanding performance to be lying third overall, and are still well in contention.

Some teams, notably the Italians, think it is bad luck for the World Championships to win the Pre-Worlds, so perhaps Nerone did not feel too sore about their retirement today. But Barking Mad's tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) said they would be doing everything in their power to win tomorrow. 'There's too much invested by our owner in this not to do our very best to win every regatta,' he said.

The top American team have shown a remarkable ability to pull back through the fleet from very bad beginnings, and as Hutchinson said, it could be that particular skill that determines who will win the Worlds next week. 'It's the races where you're 20th at the top mark and which you can convert to a sixth or a seventh are the ones that will win you the regatta.'

Provisional Top Ten after Day 2

Pos Name Nation Skipper Race 1 Race 2 Race 3 Race 4 Race 5 Points
1 Team Shockwave AUS Neville CRICHTON 8 4 2 6 14 34
2 Ichi Ban AUS Matt ALLEN 22 7 3 3 4 39
3 Barking Mad USA Jim RICHARDSON 3 17 9 13 1 43
4 TWT ITA Marco RODOLFI 2 1 5 15 22 45
5 Nerone ITA Mezzaroma/Antonio Sodo Migliori 4 5 1 29 7 46
6 Brighton Star AUS David GOTZE 13 13 8 8 11 53
7 Warpath USA Steve and Fred HOWE 12 25 4 11 2 54
8 Mascalzone Latino ITA Vincenzo ONORATO 1 8 11 22 15 57
9 Twins 2 FRA Erik MARIS 11 6 22 12 6 57
10 Fiamma ITA Alessandro BARNABA 14 18 18 5 3 58
Regatta News (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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