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22 September 2005, 09:47 am
Gill And Joe Fly Tied For Lead At Halfway Point
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Ocean BMW Melges 24 European Championship 2005
Torquay, Great Britain

Three more races were sailed yesterday at the Ocean BMW Melges 24 European Championship in Torquay, Great Britain, making eight of the twelve scheduled, and just three points now separate the four leading boats. Stuart RIX (GBR), helming Gill for Quentin STRUASS, and Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA), helming Joe Fly for Giovanni MASPERO, are tied in first on 40 points.
Andrea RACCHELLI (ITA) sailing Altea is third on 42 points and Francois BRENAC (FRA), sailing with Phillipe LIGOT's Partner & Partners Sailing Team, completes a tight top four on 43 points.

'Like the most difficult game of snakes and ladders you could possibly imagine,' was how Stuart SIMPSON (GBR) of Team Barbarians described yesterday's racing in Torquay. 'Big fleet Melges 24 sailing is as tough as it gets, particularly in these light conditions. The boats accelerate rapidly and if you miss a shift or mess up a manoeuvre you're history.'

On Tuesday night the Race Committee reported the Joe Fly team to the Jury for infringing the rules controlling support boats in the race area. The Jury found that the Joe Fly support boat had broken the rules and imposed a 20% penalty to the result of that race (race five), which cannot be excluded from their overall score. As a result Joe Fly's score in race five went from five to 15 points.

Yesterday's racing brought more very tricky conditions. There was a short delay in starting as the wind filled in from around south-southwest and its strength then varied constantly from four to eight knots. Joe Fly was the most consistent performer with a 1,4,2 score. Thanks to a disastrous start Gill opened with a 19th, their worst result of the regatta so far, but improved as the day wore on with twelfth and third. Altea was consistent with 8,10,6 to stay firmly in contention, whilst for Partner & Partners everything in the garden was rosy with a second and first, until the final race when they were caught up in another start line ruckus from which they could only get back up to 18th.

In the Corinthian Division, for all amateur crews, Germany's Alba BATZILL is heading the fleet. He had a mixed set of results with a ninth and 26th followed by a very close win in the final race. He had led the fleet from start to finish but had a real tussle with Joe Fly on the final run and only just held them off. BATZILL is also lying fifth in the overall results but the 22 point gap between him and the leaders puts him out of serious contention for the main trophy. BATZILL's nearest contenders for the Corinthian Trophy are the French pair Antoine ALBARET and Jermoe AUBERT.

With two days and four races to go the Championship remains wide open with four crews battling for pole position. Today's forecast was uncertain with pundits offering either more of the same light airs or a building breeze - the teams wait with baited breath!

Fiona Brown (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Gabrio ZANDONA helming Joe Fly:© Richard Langdon/Ocean Images
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