Red into the lead

Joe Woods' Melges 32 in the chocolates at Key West despite tactician's dislocated shoulder

Thursday January 22nd 2009, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United Kingdom
Competition remains hot and the final results are going down to the wire at Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica. There was some significant shakeup in the standings for several of the grand prix classes and winners won’t be decided until the final day of racing in the week-long regatta.

Things couldn’t be tighter than they are in the Melges 32 class, where Torquay's finest Joe Wood on Red has taken the lead one point ahead of Star, owned by Jeff Ecklund of Fort Lauderdale, FL, who led the 20-boat class at the end of the initial three days, but suffered a pair of double digit results today. That enabled Red, skippered by Joe Woods of Great Britain, to make up a three-point deficit and overhaul the American boat.

Tactician Morgan Reeser gave a gutsy performance by sailing both races with a dislocated shoulder as Red posted a pair of eighths on Thursday. Meanwhile, Star suffered an 11th and a 13th, latter of which it was able to throw out. Star technically still holds the lead by virtue of tiebreaker based on winning more races than Red.

“It has been a curious day - almost brilliant, almost disastrous,” Woods said after arriving at the dock. “Ultimately, it was a decent day and we were able to close the gap on Jeff.”

Reeser, a two-time Olympian, is relatively new as tactician aboard Red as this is just his third event with the British team. He suffered the shoulder injury during Race 7 and had the dislocation reset by an on-water medic. However, it dislocated again and Reeser was taken to the hospital after racing.

“Knowing Morgan, I am guessing that he will be sailing on the boat tomorrow,” Woods said.

Red was leading the Melges 32 class going into the fifth and final day last January and was overtaken by Star. Woods is hoping for a reversal of fortunes this year. “We’ll see if we can finish it off and come away with the win this time,” he said.

Farr 40, another professional-laden class, is also totally up for grabs with two races remaining. Barking Mad, which entered Thursday with a seemingly comfortable eight-point cushion, finished last in the 12-boat fleet in Race 8. Skipper Jim Richardson and crew still hold a one-point lead over Mascalzone Latino, the three-time defending world champion owned by Vincenzo Onorato of Napoli, Italy.

“We rounded the first weather mark in second place, but we went backward from there. It was just a matter of poor boat positioning,” said tactician Terry Hutchinson, who blamed himself for the poor result. “What’s disappointing is that we had an opportunity to go into tomorrow with a certain comfort level.”

Richardson won the Farr 40 class at Acura Key West for the first time in 11 attempts last year and is hoping to retain that title. Another threat is Joe Fly, owned by Giovanni Maspero of Como, Italy, which is just three points out of the lead.

There was much rejoicing aboard Nanoq as the Danish entry pulled into its berth at the Schooner Wharf. Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark hoisted a beer with crew members to celebrate winning a race in Farr 40 class for the first time in three appearances at Acura Key West.

Prince Frederik got a great start, got lifted by a favorable shift and both upwind legs, rounded the second windward mark in first and held the lead on the finishing run. His best previous finish was a fourth last year.

“It was great sailing today and it felt good to win a race. That is always difficult in this class because it is so competitive with so many good sailing teams,” Prince Frederik said. “We have learned a lot and improved quite a bit by coming to this regatta. This result is nice, but we still have a long way to go.”

The Melges 24, the largest class in the regatta with 33 boats and packed with professionals like the Farr 40 and Melges 32, also has not been decided. UKA UKA Racing, the Italian entry skippered by Lorenzo Bressani, has sailed superbly and led at the end of each day’s action. UKA UKA Racing counts four bullets and a pair of seconds in seven races and holds a seven-point lead that is solid but not safe.

“We have not won this regatta yet. There will be another two races tomorrow so we cannot sleep well tonight,” Bressani said. “Seven points is a good margin, but not unbeatable. Blu Moon is our top competition so we will probably match race with them.”

The Swan 42 class has been closely contested throughout the week with three different boats holding the lead upon conclusion of each day’s racing. Arethusa, skippered by Phil Lotz of Newport, R.I., was the latest to move into first – posting a first and a third on Thursday to overtake Jon Halbert (Dallas, Texas) and Vitesse. Arethusa holds a one-point lead over Vitesse while first and second day leader Celeritas (Malcolm Gefter, Newport, R.I.) is just four points astern.

“The fleet has been very, very tight. All six boats have been clumped together at most of the mark roundings,” Lotz said. “It really is anybody’s regatta at this point. It’s hard to think about covering anybody at this point. We just have to go out and sail our own race.”

There is a tie in PHRF 4 between Lightning Rod and fellow S2 9.1 Elysium. Both boats have won four races so the tiebreaker went to the number of second place finishes and Lightning Rod, skippered by David Eames of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., has three compared to just one for Elysium (John Nevin, Milford, CT).

John Storck Jr. and his team aboard Rumor have been spectacular in J/80 class, winning six of eight races thus far. Racing was particularly tight on Thursday and Rumor was rewarded with the Lewmar Boat of the Day award.

Robert Armstrong continued his impressive performance in PHRF 2 aboard the J/100 Good Girl. The St. Croix resident has reeled off seven straight bullets since finishing second in Race 1.

Action in this ten race series concludes Friday, which is Acura Day.

Results after 8 races

1. Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, Hamble, UK, 1-1-2-1-3-1-1, 11
2. Rosebud/Team DYT, Roger Sturgeon, Hyannis, MA, USA, 3-2-1-2-1-5-4-5, 23
3. Anema & Core, Ennio Staffini, Annapolis, MD, USA, 4-3-4-4-2-2-2-3, 24

1. Soozal, Daniel Woolery, Pt. Richmond, CA, USA, 3-1-2-5-2-1-1-2, 17
2. Ngoni, Tony Buckingham, Jersey, UK, 1-2-4-6-1-3-2-1, 20
3. Cool Breeze, John Cooper, Cane Hill, MO, USA, 2-3-3-1-7-4-5-5, 30

Farr 40
1. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 2-4-3-2-1-2-2-12, 28
2. Mascalzone Latino, Vincenzo Onorato, Napoli, ITA, 1-1-2-1-9-10-3-2, 29
3. Joe Fly, Giovanni Maspero, Como, ITA, 3-2-5-9-2-1-4-6, 32

Swan 42
1. Arethusa, Phil Lotz, Newport, RI, USA, 4-3-1-4-4-1-3-1, 21
2.. Vitesse, Jon Halbert, Dallas, TX, USA, 5-2-2-2-2-2-4-3, 22
3. Celeritas, Malcolm Gefter, Newport, RI, USA, 1-1-3-1-6-6-5-2, 25

Farr 30
1. Kinetic, David Sutcliffe, Vancouver, CAN, 1-3-2-1-3-3-2-5, 20
2. Rhumb Punch, John & Linda Edwards, Solomons, MD, USA, 3-2-5-3-2-1-3-4, 23
3. Jack-A-Roe, John Dybas, Chicago, IL, USA, 2-5-4-2-5-4-1-1, 24

Melges 32 (with discard)
1. Star, Jeff Ecklund, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA, 1-1-10-1-1-5-11-(13), 30
2. RED, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 2-(8)-3-5-3-1-8-8, 30
3. New Wave, Michael Carroll, Clearwater, FL, USA, 13-10-2-9-(14)-2-2-1, 39

Melges 24 (with discard)
1. UKA UKA Racing, Lorenzo Bressani, Civitanova Marc, ITA, 1-1-(5)-1-1-2-5-2, 13
2. Blu Moon, Franco Rossini, Lugano, SUI, 4-2-2-2-(7)-6-3-1, 20
3. Joe Fly, Maspero/Zandona, Como, ITA, (10)-3-3-4-8-1-2-5, 26

1. Savasana, Brian Keane, Marion, MA, USA, Brian Keane, 3-2-1-1-2-6-2-3, 20
2. eclipse, Damian Emery, Mt. Sinai, NY, USA, 2-1-3-2-3-3-3-6, 23
3. Max Power, Gerrit Schulze, Cape May, NJ, USA, 1-3-5-3-1-1-6-4, 24

1. Rumor, John Storck, Jr., Huntington, NY, USA, 1-1-1-3-1-1-4-1, 13
2. Kicks, William Rose, League City, TX, USA, 2-2-3-1-3-2-6-5, 23
3. Angry Chameleon, Kristen Robinson, Annapolis, MD, USA, 4-3-2-6-5-5-5-3, 32

1. Primal Scream, Steven Stollman, Key Biscayne ,FL, USA, 1-2-1-1-3-2-3-6, 19
2. El Ocaso, Rick Wesslund, Miami, FL, USA, 7-3-2-2-2-1-5-7, 29
3. Wairere, Pete Hunter, Kill Devil Hill, NC, USA, 3-7-6-5-1-3-4-2, 31

1. Good Girl, Robert Armstrong, St. Croix, USVI, 2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1, 9
2. RUSH, Bill Sweetser, Annapolis, MD, USA, 1-2-3-2-7-2-3-2, 22
3. Man-O-War, Tom Beery, Pascagoula, MS, USA, 3-3-2-3-2-3-2-4, 22

1. Tangent, Gerry Taylor, Annapolis, MD, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-2-1-1, 11
2. L’Outrage, Bruce Gardner, Annapolis, MD, USA, 2-2-2-2-1-1-3-2, 15
3. Seefest, Ira Perry, Padanaram, MA, USA, 3-3-4.5-5-5-4-2-3, 29.5

1. Lightning Rod, David Eames, Ft. Walton, FL, USA, 2-1-1-2-5-1-2-1, 15
2. Elysium, John Nevin, Milford, CT, USA, 1-3-3-1-1-2-1-3, 15
3. Blah Blah Blah, Mark Milnes, Key West, FL, USA, 3-4-4-4-2-4-7-4, 32

Full results:

IRC 1, Farr 40, Swan 42, IRC 2, Farr 30 - here
Melges 32, Melges 24, J/105 - here
J/80, PHRF 1 - 4 - here

A report from the Melges 32s

Well, one thing is for certain. Most Melges 32 owners buy into the fleet for the highly competitive nature of the boat, the teams and the racing delivered the proof today with two more races leaving Joe Woods (Torbay, UK) on GBR-700 Red with a one point advantage over Jeff Ecklund (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) on USA-32 STAR now in second place. Dead even in points in third and fourth are Marty Kullman and Mike Carroll (Clearwater, Fla.) on USA-131 New Wave and Jason Carroll (New York, N.Y.) on USA-128 Argo.

Needless to say the conditions today made things quite interesting, especially for those teams that were doing exceptionally well going into race seven and eight in a series of ten total.

Somewhat flat seas, shifty breezes (course bearing of 040) and cool temperatures mixed in with the very best high performance sportboat racing in the world found one of three competing English teams, Stuart Simpson (London, UK) on GBR-84845 Team Barbarians getting a real jump on the fleet as they launched off the starting line and rounded the weather mark in first, then downwind through the gate working the left to stay in time with the shifts. Next in line, also on the left and determined to make this regatta one of their best was Derek Campbell (Seattle, Wash.) on USA-138 Banshee, then Woods pushing the speed factor in third. The last downwind run was full of excitement and loaded with action. At the second mark Campbell rounded in first, followed by Woods, then Carroll, then Bill Faude at the helm for Tom Neill (Chicago, Ill.) on USA-136 Nitemare, Simpson falling back to fifth. It appeared that Campbell, out front had the gig sewn up with Simpson overtaking Woods on the left for second.

Looking out to the right, the breeze filled in and sent Faude, with the aide of Jeff Madrigali calling tactics to the front line, Kullman/Carroll following suit. Faude took first, Kullman/Carroll were second and in third was Campbell.

In between races, Woods' Red team drummed up some additional extra curricular activity by requesting the assistance of a physician. Apparently at the start of the race seven, a blast of breeze jolted the boat, causing tactician Morgan Reeser to lose his balance and fall into the cockpit of the boat, dislocating his right shoulder. He toughed it out through the race, however was desperate to have the shoulder reset. Just in time for the start a paramedic somewhat reset the shoulder at least enough for him to carry on sailing in race two.

For the second race, a new course bearing was set to 020 with Faude pulling off another very lucky move port tacking the fleet successfully right at the second start, placing him well out front. As if a poor first race wasn't enough, Ecklund was called over early on the start, the fatal blow that ended his regatta lead. Faude rounded the top in first, chased by Kullman/Carroll and Alex Jackson (Newport, R.I.) on USA-666 Leenabarca having a great day in third, then Carroll, then Peter Rogers (Lymington, UK) on USA-121 Highlife in fifth. Through the gate Faude was followed by Carroll moving up to second and Jackson in third. The breeze was all over the place, no consistency whatsoever making the racing just that much more difficult. The race committee instituted a course change for the final mark rounding about 10 degrees to the left, breeze building to 13-15 mph. Kullman/Carroll took over the lead, with Faude now in second. Jackson took over third and Carroll held on to fourth. The top four put some distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet. Kullman/Carroll have demonstrated their ability to win before and they did so again today by taking the first place position to the line, then Faude, then Jackson.

For some, today was outstanding. Woods and crew were troopers; Faude, Jackson and Simpson demonstrated their potential with top ten finishes. Overnight leader Ecklund experienced just the opposite. It was a disappointing day, and as a result he will have to fight to survive for an overall win on Friday. His 11-12 score for the day has put his win on the line.

Looking to the final day of racing in the Melges 32, the teams - especially for the top four will require nerves of steel. Woods is officially seated in first and Ecklund is one point out in second, and tied with equal points are Kullman/Carroll and Jason Carroll. Jackson's fantastic day has pushed him ahead to fifth overall.

A very special thank you to Melges Performance Sailboats as the Melges 32 class ROCKED Key West last night! Melges organized a party just like last year at the Island Dogs Bar where Jeff Ecklund accepted the title of 2008 Melges 32 World Ranking Champion. This party was a giant celebration of the success surrounding the Melges 32 in Key West and around the world! Special thanks to all who were able to make it and THANK YOU to Melges!

Today's report from the Melges 24

It's pretty safe to assume that Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica has delivered everything it has promised and more to the Melges 24 fleet - the largest class in attendance. Lorenzo Bressani helming for Lorenzo Santini (Civitanova Marc, Italy) on ITA-715 Uka Uka Racing is still very much in the overall lead. Chris Rast helming for Franco Rossini (Lugano, Switzerland) on SUI-621 Blu Moon hacked away, but made little progress at taking over Bressani's lead as did Gabrio Zandona helming for Giovanni Maspero (Como, Italy) on ITA-777 Joe Fly.

The day was destined to be another beautiful, picturesque Key West afternoon - incredible sunshine, cool temps and some of the most challenging and shifty breezes seen yet at the event. The tough conditions provided each race of the day with its own set of racing obstacles and curve balls.

Race one of the day, race seven in a series of nine delivered a change-up in the running order of results. American entrant Alan Field (Los Angeles, Calif.) on USA-587 WTF blasted off the starting line with some impressive momentum putting him out ahead of the fleet almost immediately. At the top mark Field's lead was quite substantial, and as the race progressed his WTF Melges 24 just stretched the lead further.

Zandona and Rast put on a great chase to catch him but clearly, Field had the race figured out. The real battle was for second and third between Zandona, Vince Brun (San Diego, Calif.) on USA-553 Bailout and Rast. Zandona grabbed second while Rast settled for third. Brun managed a fourth place finish, while Bressani got fifth.

The start of the last race of the day was interesting as the breeze went hard left right at the gun, putting the fleet almost horizontal with the starting line. Bressani understood how important it was to get back in the game on this race as he vied for just the right starting position alongside Rast. The start resulted in several individual recalls including a set back for Brun as he was called over early. The running order from the first top mark to the finish was Rast in first, Bressani in second and Brian Porter (Winnetka, Ill.) on USA-749 Full Throttle in third. Riccardo Simoneschi (Genova, Italy) on ITA-783 Giacomel Audi wound up fourth, Zandona held on to fifth after being challenged regularly by Henry Colie (Mantaloking, N.J.) with Peter Commette at the helm of USA-736 Babs finishing up in sixth.

At last night's Melges organized party at the Island Dogs Bar. USMCA Class President Travis Weisleder gladly announced/awarded Franco Rossini and Flavio Favini (Chris Rast accepted on their behalf) with champaign gifts as they are 2008 Melges 24 World and European Ranking Champions. Andy Burdick and Harry Melges also accepted gifts for 2008 North American Ranking Champion Brian Porter.

As the fleet looks to the last day of racing in Key West, and the last two races of the event, throw outs are now in effect. Only one of Bressani's fifth place finishes is eliminated, Rast loses his seventh place finish in race five, and for Zandona his tenth finish in race one is gone. Usually this process brings the points spread closer but not this time in the Melges 24. This fleet is one of the most diverse and toughest in the world. Bressani knew coming into this event that he must be strong and persevering - the results show he has achieved that goal as he has a comfortable lead of seven points. But, he is anything else but 'out of the woods'. Just a simple mistake could cost him dearly. This same principle rings true for Rast in second overall only six points ahead of third place Zandona.

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