Aline takes the lead

Maurizio Abba's team moves into pole at the Melges 24 Europeans in Hyeres

Tuesday August 25th 2009, Author: Justin Chisholm, Location: United Kingdom
Once again the weather gods have smiled on the 2009 Melges 24 European Championship in Hyeres, delivering perfect sailing conditions for day two of the regatta and enabling three perfect races to be completed. The Race Committee made good use of their trusty Z and I Flag combination throughout the day, ensuring the minimum time was wasted on restarts and only once had to resort to the Black Flag to keep the competitors in line. Although the general expectation was for winds in the high teens, all three races today were sailed in just 12 to 15 knots which nevertheless kicked up a surprisingly large chop.

Maurizio Abba’s Alina crew continued their impressively consistent performance from yesterday and with five races now completed they top the leader board with a 3,4,3,2,2 scoreline. Tactician Daniele Cassinari attributes their sparkling performance to great boatspeed and good starts. Although the perceived wisdom suggests that the left of the racecourse is favoured, Daniele says that they regularly started at the right hand end of the line: "The most important thing is to get away cleanly in the Melges 24 fleet. We started mostly on the right but our helmsman Nicolo Bianchi did a great job of finding clean lanes for us off the start line. This meant that we were always able to get to the windward mark in the front pack."

Although there was little change in wind direction during the entire day, Daniele believes that there were many passing opportunities downwind in all three races. Asked how it felt to be leading the European Championship at this point, he laughed and pointed out that for the Alina team this is a familiar situation. "We have been here before many times; leading a big event near the mid point. So far we have not managed to convert this into a major victory."

No doubt the Alina crew will be aware that yesterday’s overnight leaders UKA UKA Racing, who now sit in second after an uncharacteristic 14th place this morning, are nevertheless still very much in the hunt. This afternoon they bounced straight back to more familiar form with a third place in race two and a comprehensive victory in the final heat, putting them just six points behind Alina.

Nico Celon aboard Lanfranco Cirillo’s Fantastica is also keeping the pressure on the regatta leaders and his 2,5,5 today sees him sit in third place, tied on 20 points with UKA UKA Racing. Putting in less consistent performances today were fourth placed Saetta, owned by Carlo Fracassoli and steered by Pietro Sibello, as well as Franco Rossini’s Blu Moon. Saetta recovered from a disappointing 10th and 11th showing in the first two races to keep their podium aspirations alive with a fourth in the final outing.

Already carrying a 12th from yesterday, Flavio Favini aboard Blu Moon could ill afford the final race 19th, which somewhat spoiled his fifth and first in the day’s opening and middle races. While Blu Moon has clearly not quite been firing on all cylinders so far at this Championship, there is a still a lot of racing to do yet and only the foolish would think about writing off this world class crew at this stage.

Although the Norwegian syndicate-owned Storm Capital Sailing Team stamped their authority on the Corinthian Division here in Hyeres today with a 2,1,3 string of results, spinnaker-trimmer Sivert Denneche says that their true focus is actually on a top ten result in the main standings. They certainly appear to be right on track with that goal, as after five races they are currently sitting in tenth place overall.

Second in the Corinthian Division is John Christian Eriksson’s Aqua Racing steered by Mikael Johansson, whose 1,15,2 combination leaves them some 13 points adrift of the Storm Capital crew. A disappointing day on the water for Sergio Cosano’s Italian crew on Fish Dog, saw them struggle to turn in a 12,9,11 set of results and leaves them a further 15 points adrift.

As the Race Committee now find themselves one race ahead of schedule, tomorrow the racing has been put back to a more civilised midday start time, with just two races scheduled. Local experts are suggesting that winds will be a touch lighter than today with even the slight possibility of some rain during the afternoon.

The 2009 Melges 24 European Championship fleet are unlikely to let precipitation dampen their enjoyment of the racing however; and truth be told, after the sweltering heat of the last few days, most would probably regard a little rain as a welcome the change of pace. The series continues until Friday with a total of ten races scheduled, the single discard will come into play after the sixth race.

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