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8 August 2003, 09:57 am
Santella Is Unstoppable
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Team Joe Fly © Pierrick Contin

Melges 24 European Championship

A day of excitement and upsets today at the Jacob's Creek Melges 24 European Championship in Helsinki where two further races were completed on another day of perfect sailing conditions with 15-20 knots from the NW and glorious sunshine.
Overnight leader Luca SANTELLA and the Joy Fly Team, which includes owner Giovanni MASPERO and tactician Morgan LARSON, had another good day scoring 3, 1 giving them an overall lead of 13 points. Unfortunately overnight second placed Christophe BARRUE with Denis INFANTE's Eurovoiles was not so lucky and after being 15 in race eight was black flagged in race nine dropping him down to 11 overall. A total of ten boats were black flagged in race nine including Jamie LEA with Richard THOMPSON's Black Seal Team, Morgan REESER and the P&P Racing Team of Philippe LIGOT and Egidio BABBI of Citti' di Cesena all of whom were in the top ten going into today's racing.

The start of race eight was relatively uneventful getting underway at the first attempt with an individual recall from which the offenders all clearing the line correctly. The left hand end of the line was favoured and at the top mark it was Reeser who rounded first ahead of Antoine FRICKY in Sogeti from Luca VALERIO in Maurizio Abba's Alina, Flavio FAVINI, helming Blu Moon for Franco ROSSINI and Joonas PAIVARINTA helming Seawind for Ari BLOM. Troubling the top ten for the first time this week was Mark RUSHALL in Quentin Strauss's Proctor Winning Masts who rounded sixth. Rushall is racing in only his second ever Melges 24 event and has been testing a possible new rig for the Melges 24 produced by Proctor. "So far the rig has been behaving very well but with a crew that has never sailed together before it has taken us a few days to settle into the boat. This morning things clicked and we had a really good race." commented Rushall.

On the first run the top three held their places while Santella, who had a rather average beat, took an early gybe and worked the run for all it was worth pulling up to fourth at the first leeward mark ahead of Favini, Santoni and Rushall. From here on Reeser defended to the finish slowly opening up a comfortable lead from Fricky. Santella had to work hard to hang onto his third slot defending first against an attack from Favini and then Santella. Fourth place eventually went to Santella with Favini fifth whilst Andrea RACCHELLI in Altea came from the teens to take sixth from Rushall.

Getting race nine underway took three attempts with 10 boats BFD. For this race it was Favini who took control on the first beat and having held his leaded and opened up what looked to be a safe gap by the final windward mark he was disappointed to be pipped to the post by Santella and the Joe Fly team down the final run. After a first lap in second and then the next three legs in third place Santoni also lost out down the final run finishing fifth after being passed by first Valerio and then Jean Francois CRUETTE in Cedric de KERVENOAEL's Scutum. Rob Smith, helming Barbarians for Stuart Simpson, put in his best performance of the week taking sixth with Racchelli seventh and Kenneth THELEN in Suunto eight.

Several protests were lodged from crews regarding their black flag disqualifications. Amongst these is Reeser who will be hoping for a decision in his favour to put him back in with a chance at the title.

The provisional overall positions have seen a big reshuffle. Behind Santella and Valerio, Reeser now holds third from Favini with Thelen in fifth, Racchelli sixth and Kristoffer SPONE helming Fruen Maren for Nils HAUFF in seventh. The forecast looks good to complete the final race of the series tomorrow and no doubt the Joe Fly Team will be aiming to sail safely to ensure their first major victory in the Melges 24 Class.

With no major developments from last night's protests, Luca SANTELLA and Giovanni MASPERO's Joe Fly Team now have an unassailable lead going into today's final race at the Jacob's Creeek Melges 24 European Championship in Helsinki. It's hot, sunny and the wind is from the NW at around 12-14 knots so we are looking set for a perfect finale to a great championship.

There is a certain poignancy in the Joe Fly Team victory as both helmsman Luca SANTELLA and trimmer Federico MICHETTI were close friends of the late Giorgio Zuccoli, the first ever Melges 24 European Champion in whose honour the Melges 24 European Championship Trophy is named. For Federico in particular this is a special victory as he was part of Giorgio's highly successful Melges 24 crew which also won the 2000 Melges 24 World Championship.

Top Ten After 9 Races

Pos Boat Name Nation R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 Pts
1 Joe Fly ITA 10 4 2 1 1 9 2 3 1 23
2 Alina ITA 2 12 3 7 12 1 6 2 3 36
3 P&P Sailing Team FRA 5 8 12 6 6 7 10 1 BFD 55
4 Blu Moon ITA 4 7 6 38 15 13 4 5 2 56
5 Suunto FIN 11 6 17 12 5 2 7 8 8 59
6 Altea ITA 12 1 18 8 9 DSQ 9 6 7 70
7 Fruen Maren NOR 13 2 9 11 7 17 11 17 9 79
8 Citta' Di Cesena ITA 9 3 RDG(6) 10 16 26 8 11 BFD 89
9 Black Seal GBR 8 17 8 3 4 27 3 20 BFD 90
10 Devotissimo ITA 1 9 5 14 2 DNF BFD 4 5 92
Fiona Brown (As Amended by ISAF Secretariat)
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