If you've ever wanted to watch a master class in Melges 24 sailing yesterday was the day to be out on the water.
Italian Flavio Favini and his Swiss team, headed by owner Franco Rossini, led the fleet from start to finish in all three races taking him into a comfortable lead.
Overnight leader Jamie Lea, helming for Britain's Richard Thompson, had a disastrous start to his day when he was OCS in the first race. He was not alone as around 1/3 of the fleet found their numbers being called forcing them to head back round the ends. Despite the speed with which the race management team relayed the numbers it inevitably took time to get through them all and those at the end of the list had a long way to go back. Keeping Lea company were Harry Melges (helming for Jeff Ecklund) and Morgan Reeser (helming for Neil Sullivan) who had the misfortunate to be the last number called.
Strong overnight winds had kicked up a significant swell and chop and with around 16 knots of breeze it was set to be a very hard day at the office, particularly with 3 races scheduled. Of those not OCS in the first race Favini and Brian Porter made the most of the first beat. Porter arrived at the first mark slightly ahead but then had to complete a penalty turn before rounding allowing Favini, Cedric Pouligny, Argyle Campbell, Vince Brun, Doug Clark (helming for Paula Zubrzycki) and Tony Wattson through inside him. Favini was never again challenged for the lead but the rest of the fleet chopped and changed all the way round the course. Never one to be put off by a minor set back Porter fought his way back up to second, while Frenchman Laurent Pages came from 9th to 3rd. Pouligny and Campbell both sailed really consistently to take 4th and 5th respectively.
For race five the breeze was down slightly and the sea was beginning to flatten off a little. Again Favini broke away on the first leg and made the most of the clear air to extend his lead on each leg. Behind him Porter and his 3 time Worlds crew Harry Melges were enjoying a bit of friendly rivalry, coming into the first leeward mark neck and neck. Porter eventually got the better of Melges to finish 2nd. Campbell and Pouligny were both having another great race although this time Campbell got the upper hand taking 3rd with Pouligny 4th. Melges ended up 5th just ahead of Reeser.
By the start of race six sea conditions had eased considerably and the wind was up a couple of knots. By now Favini had the bit between his teeth and seemed determined to prove to the American's that their domination of the Melges 24 Class at Key West was in serious jeopardy. He took off from the line with pace and attitude and yet again came out leading at the top mark. Jeff Thorpe had an excellent first beat too leading Reeser, Brun, Porter and Britain's Mike Budd (helming for Roger Peacock) in to the mark. By the end of the second beat Porter had worked is way up to 2nd ahead of Morgan and Budd with Thorpe in 5th, Melges 6th and Brun 7th.
Although Favini was long gone the battle up the last beat between the rest of the pack was a site to behold. Despite Melges best efforts he couldn't quite get past Porter and had to be content with 3rd. Brun snatched 4th followed by Pouligny, Reeser and Budd.
In the overall standings the discard comes into play now that six races have been sailed so Favini leads by 9 points from Melges with Lea and Reeser tied in third. The weather forecast promises another day of excellent racing for tomorrow and the Melges 24 crews couldn't be happier.