McKees take charge in the Melges

More perfect conditions at Acura Key West 2009

Tuesday January 20th 2009, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United Kingdom
Mother Nature changed her mind and smiled on Acura Key West 2009 today. Advance forecasts called for extreme winds, but instead a consistent 15-20 knot NNWerly enabled this high-powered international fleet to enjoy two great races.

“Another fantastic day of sailing in Key West. Days like this are why we come here. The conditions were outstanding,” Melges 24 skipper Riccardo Simoneschi said.

Simoneschi is a two-time winner of Acura Key West, presented by Nautica. The Italian skipper posted a solid line of 4-3 on Tuesday and holds third place overall in Melges 24, largest class in the regatta with 33 boats. Former Olympic medalist Charlie McKee is calling tactics for Simoneschi, who is 10 points off the very hot pace being set by his countrymen on UKA UKA Racing. Skipper Lorenzo Bressani has won three of four races so far, an impressive feat in the highly-competitive class.

“They are tough to beat. They are fast and smart, which is a winning combination,” said McKee, whose brother Jonathan is trimming on UKA UKA Racing. “We are getting better with each race and hopefully we can remain in contention.”

Blu Moon, skippered by Franco Rossini of Switzerland, finished second in both races and won the day. He also received Tuesday’s Sperry Top-Sider Boat of the Day honors, awarded to the winner of the day’s most competitive class. Three-time Olympian Chris Rast is tactician aboard Blu Moon, which stands second in the overall standings - two points behind UKA UKA Racing.

Another Italian team continued its impressive performance in the professional-laden Farr 40 class. Mascalzone Latino, owned and driven by Vincenzo Onorato, has won three of four races with the other result being a second. Adrian Stead has been on fire calling tactics for the three-time defending world champs, who hold a comfortable six-point lead over Acura Key West 2008 winner Barking Mad.

“We are sailing well, but obviously not nearly as well as they are,” said Terr Hutchinson, tactician for owner Jim Richardson aboard Barking Mad. Hutchinson is not afraid to admit that he can pick up a few subtle nuances from a team that is clearly at the top of its game. “We have learned heaps in two days just from watching Mascalzone… how their sails are set up, how they are driving, what they are doing tactically,” he said. “It’s not over yet. There are still a lot of races left. We just have to keep chipping away and hope we’re in range going into the last day.”

Fort Lauderdale resident Jeff Ecklund and his team aboard Star maintained their lead in Melges 32, the other large grand prix one-design class filled with big-name tacticians. Star, like UKA UKA Racing and Mascalzone Latino, has won three of four races held so far. However, a 10th out of 20 boats in Race 3 hurt Star’s cumulative score, which is two points better than second-place Red of Torquay's Joe Woods.

“It’s a tough fleet with real tight racing. Small mistakes can lead to big losses,” said Star tactician Harry Melges, whose family-owned company builds both the Melges 24 and 32.

IRC 2 is loaded with innovative new designs that are giving each other some real competition. Cool Breeze, a brand new Mills 43 owned by John Cooper of Cane Hill, MO, won Race 4 to vault from third to first in the 13-boat fleet. An indication of how close the top boats are in this class comes from the fact a mere 18 second separated the top four finishers in Race 3. Soozal, one of three King 40-footers that are making their competitive debut in Key West, finished second in Race 3 by just seven seconds behind the J/44 Gold Digger (James Bishop).

“The racing in this class has been unbelievable. There are a lot of very good boats that are evenly matched,” Soozal skipper Daniel Woolery said.

Action is heating up in IRC 1 as well after Rosebud/Team DYT stretched its legs and showed its prowess in the heavy air. The STP 65, the largest entry in the regatta, won Race 3 then finished second in Race 4 by 34 seconds on corrected time. Ran, the modified TP52 of Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, now has an impressive line of 1-1-2-1.

“It was a great day of racing for our team, although I’m disappointed we didn’t win the second race as well,” said Malcolm Park, main trimmer on Rosebud/Team DYT. “We’re stronger than the TP52s going upwind and we had two of those legs today.”

Massachusetts-based owner Roger Sturgeon and his 16-man crew must beat the four 52-footers on its course by nearly six minutes in order to overcome its handicap. “This is a tight course for a boat this big and it’s hard to get her around the cans,” said Park, noting that Rosebud has some draft restrictions. “(Monday) was a learning experience for us in terms of figuring out where we can go. Today’s course was a little more open, both in terms of draft and length.”

PHRF 3 leader Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry Taylor from Annapolis, is the only boat in the entire fleet that has won all four races. Tangent, the cruising version of the design, is heavier than most of its competitors in the class and thus welcomed the strong breeze.

“We are definitely loving the conditions. When the wind is up, we are smiling,” said Taylor, whose team won Race 3 by just one second over fellow Annapolis entry L’Outrage, which has been runner-up in all four races. "It certainly eases the pressure when you get off to a good start like this. We are feeling more relaxed and confident each day.”

XS, a Robinson 41 that had been leading PHRF 1 after Monday’s action, dropped its rig in Race 3. Owner Douglas Fisher said gear failure was more to blame than the strong wind.


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

More photos on the following pages....

The Melges 32 class send this report:

The first race of the day took place under overcast skies, lumpy seas and the breeze ever increasing throughout the day from the northwest. For the start, the fleet experienced 12-15 mph of wind right at the gun. The start resulted in a several individual recalls including Marty Kullman and Mike Carroll (Clearwater, Fla.) on USA-131 New Wave. It was already a tough regatta for this champion team and the set back of being OCS just made it tougher. Fleet newcomer Jean Francois Cruette from France on FRA-158 Taboo; Jason Carroll (New York, N.Y.) on USA-128 Argo were among those that had outstanding starts off the pin end. The first upwind leg produced Woods rounding first, followed by Cruette and Stuart Simpson (London, UK) on GBR-84845 Team Barbarians.

As the race progressed Woods found himself defending the top spot from Cruette on more than one occasion, only to find right at the finish line Campbell storming in from right field totally launched, blasting across the finish line just in front of the Woods and Cruette dual. The comeback of the day came from Kullman/Carroll as they came in from the left for a second place finish. Woods won out over the 2006 Melges 24 Corinthian World Champion Frenchman by just a short length with Cruette in fourth.

Race four in the series and final race of the day, found another great start for the Melges 32 fleet, again Carroll delivering the right punch line at the pin as he led the fleet initially out to the left. At the top mark, Steve Rhyne (Seabrook, Tx.) on USA-157 Mojo led the pack around first followed by the only lady helm in the fleet, Kate Mullin aboard the Canadian entry CAN-134 Arkle in second and Savino Formentini in third on MON-1999 Bitipi. Not far behind was Ecklund and Kullman/Carroll both clawing their way to the front.

Tuesday's races produced some of the tightest racing ever, the fleet incredibly compact as it went around the marks. With the breeze up to 20 mph, Rhyne was chased by Carroll, Kullman/Carroll and Alex Jackson (Newport, R.I.) on USA-666 Leenabarca with Dave Ullman calling tactics then Carlo Alberini (Pesaro, Italy) on ITA-186 Calvi Network and Woods. Ecklund stole the show and the race in the last few hundred yards of the final beat putting him ahead of Formentini and Mullin finishing respectively.
Looking to the mid-point of the regatta, the Melges 32 Class heads into Wednesday with Ecklund ahead by five points.

Top 10 results (after four races)
1. Jeff Ecklund, STAR; 1-1-10-1 = 13
2. Joe Woods, Red; 2-8-3-5 = 18
3. Derek Campbell, Banshee; 4-2-1-15 = 22
4. Jason Carroll, Argo; 3-13-5-4 = 25
5. Savino Formentini, Bitipi; 17-3-8-2 = 30
6. Carlo Alberini, CALVI Network; 8-5-13-6 = 32
7. Marty Kullman/Mike Carroll, New Wave; 13-10-2-9 = 34
8. John Taylor, Ninkasi; 10 RDG-4-7-16 = 37
9. Kate Mullin/John Sherlock, Arkle; 10-20-6-3 = 39
10. Alex Jackson, Leenabarca; 6-9-17-7 = 39

And the Melges 24 class send this:

The Melges 24 fleet was supercharged in Key West today, where two more fantastic races were completed taking the fleet right up to the half way point of the event. .
The race committee was determined to get the first heat started on time, but some unsettled weather quickly approaching the course postponed things for a short while. It was breeze on conditions from the very start ranging 12-15 mph. The first race was finally set at 330, and called for a course 4 with the breeze steady on the increase including a chance for rain, which managed to moderately hold off. At the start there was a light drizzle but hardly a deterrent for the Melges 24.

The start of race one of the day was really great as every team got off the line with a lot of speed - an impressive sight! The committee boat was the favored end all day, but most headed out left, then favoring the right again as they all looked for some shore-side pressure. At the top mark Alan Field (Los Angeles, Calif.) on USA-587 WTF took an immediate and strong lead. Slowly but surely they put distance between themselves and the remaining top five competitors. "This is what we come to Key West for!", exclaimed Field on Monday afternoon after racing, where it's believed his real romp to triumph began. "We still need to work on some things. We need more stamina as this is a really tough fleet, but we love it!"

Rounding the mark right behind Field was Kyle Vowels (Chicago, Ill.) on USA-160 One Sixty and Neily Williamson (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) on USA-771 Millewa Milluna in third, then USMCA President Travis Weisleder (Fishing Bay, Va.) on USA-605 X. Field went on to take the ultimate win, his first here in Key West in the Melges 24. Holding steady with a very strong result was Rast taking the second place position, followed by Gabrio Zandona helming for Giovanni Maspero (Como, Italy) on ITA-777 Joe Fly in third.

Race four in the ACURA Key West series was all about the power that is here in Key West representing the country of Italy. The Italians simply love this boat and their passion today was their greatest asset. With the very same course bearing as race one and the breeze really beginning to build, overnight leader Bressani took a substantial lead at the top mark a couple of minutes ahead of Rast and Zandona. That was the standing for the remainder of the race. Bressani, Rast and Zandona were soon joined by IMCA Vice Chairman (Europe) Riccardo Simoneschi on ITA-783 Giacomel Audi in fourth.

With Bressani's impressive performance today he still maintains the overnight lead. Rast is second, Simoneschi is third, Zandona is fourth and Field moves up to fifth.

Top ten results (After four races)
1.) Lorenzo Bressani/Lorenzo Santini, Uka Uka Racing; 1-1-5-1 = 8
2.) Chris Rast/Franco Rossini, Blu Moon; 4-2-2-2 = 10
3.) Riccardo Simoneschi, Giacomel Audi; 6-5-4-3 = 18
4.) Gabrio Zandona/Giovanni Maspero, Joe Fly; 10-3-3-4 = 20
5.) Alan Field, WTF; 13-4-1-6 = 24
6.) Vince Brun, Bailout; 2-6-14-5 = 27
7.) Brian Porter, Full Throttle; 5-8-8-7 = 28
8.) John Kolius, KO Sailing; 3-7-9-12 = 31
9.) Bruce Ayres, Monsoon; 7-12-15-8 = 42
10.) Kyle Vowels; One Sixty; 8-13-11-10 = 42

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