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23 September 2005, 11:01 am
RACCHELLI Leads But Championship Is Wide Open With One Race To Go
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Ocean BMW Melges 24 European Championship 2005
Torquay, Great Britain

Racing on the penultimate day of the Ocean BMW Melges 24 European Championship was as challenging and hard fought as ever and today's final race in Torquay, Great Britain will decide the winner in this hugely competitive and high scoring regatta. Overall Andrea RACCHELLI (ITA), sailing Altea, has now moved into the lead on 55 points with Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA), helming Joe Fly for Giovanni MASPERO, snapping at his heels on 56 points.
The penultimate day opened with more light airs from the south-southwest, but gradually the wind built as the sun burnt off the haze. By the final race it was up to ten to twelve knots with everyone fully powered upwind but not quite able to plane downwind.

It was all change on the scoreboard as crews battled the shifts, the tides and each other. Behind the leading Italian pair of RACCHELLI and ZANDONA, Stuart RIX (GBR), helming Gill for Quentin STRAUSS, has dropped down into third on 62 points whilst Alba BATZILL (GER), sailing for Eddy EICH aboard No Woman No Cry, moves up into fourth and continues to lead the Corinthian Division with 72 points.

For overnight joint leader Gill the day started badly with a 19th in race nine. A mediocre start was compounded by a couple of bad calls on the first beat leaving them 23rd at the first mark with only limited opportunities for recovery. They went on to take second in race ten and then won the final race of the day by an impressive margin. Fellow overnight leader Joe Fly's game plan was clearly a conservative one. Three moderate starts saw them round the three first marks in twelfth, 18th and 13th respectively, but smart sailing gained them places on virtually every leg and they came home with two fifths and a sixth to add to their haul. Aboard Altea, RACCHELLI was also taking no chances as his 4,7,3 score shows. He managed to avoid the many start line scrums, got away cleanly and never dropped below ninth spot at any time during the day.

Old master BATZILL was the day's most consistent performer with two seconds and a fourth. He got an excellent start in race nine and led at the first mark but the up and coming young Michael HENNING (GBR) with his crew of young pretenders were in hot pursuit. HENNING got the better of him on the first run then put in a bravado performance to keep the double Olympic and reigning 6 Metre World Champion behind him. HENNING, who previously sailed aboard his father's Melges 24 and is running his own Championship campaign for the first time this week, also took a fifth in the eleventh race and moved up seven places to twelfth overall and sixth Corinthian.

For the French Partner & Partners team, helmed by Francois BRENAC (FRA), it was a disappointing day. They opened with a seventh but then had a couple of bad starts and ended up 24th in race ten and 14th in race eleven. Despite this they remain happy as their goal for this regatta, their first in over a year, was to make the top ten and they hold fifth going into the final race.

Jamie LEA (GBR), helming Barbarians for Britain's Stuart SIMPSON, troubled the front of the fleet for the first time, winning race nine from BATZILL with fellow Brit John POLLARD, helming Westaway Sails, in third. LEA and POLLARD, both more used to heading the Melges 24 fleet, have struggled to find form at this event and find themselves in eleventh and 15th respectively.

In the Corinthian Division BATZILL has it sewn up. Antoine ALBARET (FRA) is lying second with Thomas ROUZEL (FRA) third, Jerome AUBERT (FRA) fourth and Remy ARNAUD (FRA) fifth.

The final race of the series is scheduled to start at 1100 today and the wind gods are finally promising to deliver 20 knots from the west so the fleet looks set for a nail biting last race showdown in perfect Melges 24 sailing conditions.

Fiona Brown (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Andrea RACCHELLI holds a one point lead going into today's final race:© Richard Langdon/Ocean Images
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