There was only one race on each course on day four of the Volvo Melges 24 Worlds, hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo, but what an amazing race it was.
For the second day running the competitors awoke this morning to brilliant sunshine and a fantastic warm Mistral driven breeze of about 16 knots from the north-west.
The day's initial objective was to complete the sixth and final race of the round robin series, after which the competitors must return ashore to hear any protests and then finalise the split into gold and silver fleets for the remaining races of the series. The Race Committee had also hoped to get the fleet back out on the water in the late afternoon to complete race seven but a strong and building wind of 22-25 knots with regular gusts of towards 30 knots made it impossible.
With six of the possible 12 races now completed and the discard in play it's all change at the top of the leader board with just ten points separating the top four boats and twenty three points between first and tenth. The racing on both courses was incredibly tough and thrillingly close and spectators were kept on the edge of their seats as the teams battled each other and the spectacular conditions.
With an extremely confident win on Course A Luca VALERIO, helming Maurizio ABBA's ITA722 Alina Helly Hansen, has taken the overall lead by just three points, with Alberto BOLZAN
, sailing ITA727 Pilot Italia for Gianni CATALOGNA, now lying in second place overall after coming fourth in the Course A race.
Over on Course B Lorenzo BRESSANI and the ITA715 Uka Uka Racing team of Lorenzo SANTINI, won their race and now hold third place overall just one point behind BOLZAN and six points ahead of Flavio FAVINI
, helming Franco ROSSINI's SUI521 Blu Moon, who came third on course B.
"In the last two days we sailed very well. Today it entered the discard and Alina, which until yesterday was a little bit behind discarding a thirtieth place, now heads up the provisional overall standing. It's still everything very open. The first 10 - 12 of the overall standing are all able to win. It'll depend on weather forecast and how many races will be possible to do between tomorrow and Friday. We are one day later in respect to the schedule and tomorrow it should be still strong Mistral,"
said Uka Uka Racing's team manager and trimmer, Federico MICHETTI
Nicola BIANCHI and his team aboard ITA716 Saetta had a great day. Their second place on Course B was sufficient to move them up the overall standings from eleventh to fifth and onto equal points (24) with Nicola CELON
of Giorgio MARCHI's ITA638 Marchingenio and Brian PORTER
's USA649 Full Throttle who lie sixth and seventh respectively on count back. CELON and PORTER both finished sixth on their respective courses.
The all amateur Corinthian Division's Bruce AYRES
, sailing USA637 Monsoon, also gave the professionals a run for their money today. Ayres, a former Melges 24 Corinthian North American Champion, has been a familiar face at the front of Melges 24 fleets since the early days and revels in heavy airs. On Wednesday he took on Luca VALERIO
, Gabrio ZANDONA
, helming ITA633 Joe Fly for Giovanni MASPERO
, and BOLZAN in an incredible dog fight that was a joy to watch. VALERIO had incredible speed and managed to open up a small lead on the run which he extended on the last beat, but behind him AYERS, ZANDONA and BOLZAN continued to go at it like cats and dogs. The professionals did everything they could to shake AYRES off up the final beat but he hung in there tenaciously eventually splitting ZANDONA and BOLZAN on the line.
In the overall Corinthian standings Oyvind Peder JAHR, helming NOR554 Terra Eindomsmeglng for Stian BRISEID, scored a fourth place and continues to hold his overall lead by just one point from Jean-Francois CRUETTE and Cederic DE KERVENOAEL's FRA612 Bouygues Telecom, who won today's course B Corinthian race and move up from third to second. Giovanni PIZZATTI, helming ITA664 Maidollis for Gian Luca PEREGO, has slipped down to third overall after a slightly disappoint eighth place, while Bruce AYRES' great day at the office has moved him up from fifth to fourth. Tommaso DEL RIO, helming SLO689 Riverstone for Alessandro BAGNOLI, is now fifth Corinthian overall, while Estonia's Tonu TONISTE, EST646 Lenny, and Germany's Rudolf HOUDECK, GER731 Secret Men's Business, are both on 21 points with TONISTE taking sixth place on count back.
Although disappointed not to be back on the water for a second race this afternoon the competitors unanimously agreed that the Race Officer's decision was the right one. The weather forecast is for a steady 17-22 knots from the north-west on Thursday, reducing to 14-17 knots on Friday so the fleet is hoping for two more days of great sailing. The Race Committee has already announced that racing will start early at 10:30 giving them the best possible opportunity to complete three more races.
The gold and silver fleets have been decided with the first 57 places overall assigned to the gold division and places 58 through 114 assigned to the silver division. The series continues until Friday when there is a final start time cut off of 1500 hours. Six of the 12 scheduled races have now been completed.
Volvo Melges 24 World Championship - www.melges24worlds2008.com