Lea holds 20 point lead

As Melges 24s have two races remaining at the SNIM in Marseilles

Monday April 21st 2003, Author: Fiona Brown, Location: Mediterranean
Heavy squalls and torrential rain caused a four hour postponement for the Melges 24 crews at the SNIM in Marseille today, but the wait was worth it for two fantastic races in 16-22 knots of breeze.

The day's drama began even before the start with Alba Batzill, who had been lying in second place, loosing his rig whilst sailing in the pre-start area. As the afternoon wore on a number of other boats dropped out with gear failure and there were plenty of thrills and spills as crews struggled to cope in the gusty and choppy conditions. With the wind coming off the mountains again it was noticeably flatter and slightly lighter on the left hand/inshore side of the course, which was favoured by the majority.

After a general recall on the first start of race eight the committee went straight to black flag and the fleet got away clear at the second attempt. At the first weather mark Jamie Lea, helming Black Seal for Richard Thompson, had a boat length lead. Behind him Luc Videau tacked in from the port lay line right in front of Sebastien Col, helming Partner & Partner, who came in on starboard. Videau seemed to hit a bad wave as he tacked and as a result the two boats made minor contact allowing Jerome Dupin, sailing MGM and Bruno Jourdren in Lord Jiminy to come level with them. Lea's glory was to be short lived as he sailed a bad run and by the leeward mark Dupin had taken the lead. Up the second beat Dupin opened up his lead rounding ahead of Jourdren and Thierry Berger who had made up to third. Down the final run Col managed an impressive comeback to take the race from Dupin with Lea third, Flavio Favini, helming Blue Moon for Franco Rossini, fourth, Kenneth Thelen fifth and Francois Lebourdais sixth.

Race nine got away at the first try with Col getting an excellent start and then sailing a text book beat to lead by almost a minute at the first mark. Francois Lebordaise and Lea came into the mark together but the port tack Lea had no space and was forced to bail out, loosing several places in the process. Francesco Bruni, helming for Adriano Pretti, rounded third with Jourdren fourth. For the rest of the race Col just kept pulling away from the fleet and went on to win by almost two minutes from Lebourdais with Christophe Barrue third, Damien Lemoign fourth, Olivier Ponthiue fifth and Lea sixth.

With Batzill out, overnight leader Luca Santella, sailing Joe Fly for Giovanni Maspero, scoring 22, 7 and the second discard coming into play it was all change at the top of the leader board. Lea now has an impressive 20 point lead from Lebordais with Favini in third and Luca Valerio fourth. Santella now finds himself in fifth with Col sixth and Thelen seventh.

Two final races are planned for tomorrow and Lea will be hoping he can hold his lead to take a record third SNIM Melges 24 title.

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