Pre-Worlds no indication

Race veteran and one Team Pegasus's four helms, Dave Ullman gives his views on this week's Fullpower Melges 24 Worlds

Monday May 7th 2007, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
The 2007 Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship, hosted by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, starts five days of competition on Tuesday amid some intriguing confusion about the conditions and the competition.

When the temperature hit 85degF Monday with the wind in single digits, a day after some of the planet’s elite sailing talent completed this weekend’s Pre-Worlds buried deep in the 58-boat fleet, there was cause to ponder.

But leave it to Dave Ullman, who has seen it all in his years under sail, to bring the picture into focus. Weren’t past class champion Nicola Celon (2006), driving Amadori Ezio’s Italian boat, and 2001 European champion Cedric Pouligny, driving Miles Quinton’s Mojo from the UK, in 43 rd and 49 th place?

"It didn’t mean anything," said Ullman, a perennial contender who finished ninth. Ullman figured that only two-thirds of the boats were using their racing sails "and some didn’t bother to finish all their races," he added. As for the balmy weather and meek breeze: "It’s setting it up for windy," Ullman said.

Ullman, 61, finished third in the 2005 Worlds at Key Largo, FL, drives one of four Team Pegasus boats, along with owner and event title sponsor Philippe Kahn, Mark Christensen and Kahn’s 17-year-old son Samuel (a.k.a. Shark) who won the 2003 Worlds at nearby San Francisco at the age of 13. All four were in the top 10 in the Pre-Worlds - which may mean something.

"We’ll probably have two or three in the top 10 [of the Worlds]," Ullman said.

How long can he remain competitive? "It takes a lot of body management," Ullman said. "I’m sailing with young guys, and I’m the weak link."

Few would agree with that, but Niels Kisling, a local sailing veteran and SCYC member, agreed with Ullman’s outlook. Kisling said, "our fog pattern will be back by the end of the week. It’ll be foggy in the mornings and everybody will be grumpy, but then it’ll clear and the wind will blow."

A very different venue

Whatever the weather or his success on the race course, U.S. Navy Lt. George Roland of San Francisco will probably enjoy the week. Roland, a Medevac helicopter pilot for two tours in Iraq, bought his Melges 24 named Karma only 10 months ago, just before his second tour.

"I got the boat just to have a goal to keep me going through the seven months I was stuck out there with no family," Roland said. "My wife’s in the Navy but we can’t deploy together."

Roland’s two worlds could hardly be more different. "It’s a different mind-set," he said. "You’re just there and doing your job. Here it’s more about the team and the fun aspect. But it’s all about competition - trying to do well and not get hurt. The concentration here, especially when the boat is powered up downwind, it’s similar to the things you need to look at when you’re flying a mission. The seat of the pants feel of sailing is similar to flying."

Of the grim aspect, he said: "You have to learn to separate it from your mind. You just worry about flying. Like with sailing, you have to trust everybody else to do their jobs."

When he wasn’t on a mission, sailing was often on his mind. "All the time. Every time we flew over the gulf to get somebody off a boat, you look down and it’s blowing 20 knots and all I’m thinking is, ‘Boy, I wish I had my Melges 24.'"

His third tour, he said, "is hopefully on hold, so we’ll be able to do [the 2008 Worlds in] Sardinia. I should be set up for going back 2 1/2 years from now. We’re scheduled to go out there for the next five of six years."

Karma’s crew is tactician David Mai, Adam Storey, Mike Casinelli and Deborah Tamburri. They didn’t score well in the Pre-Worlds after missing the first two races because they didn’t want to risk their best racing main sail in Saturday’s big breeze. "It wasn’t worth it," Roland said. "But we’ll be ready."

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