Uka uka takes it
|The final day of racing at the Volvo Melges 24 World Championship, hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, brought high drama and great celebration as the Italian Uka Uka Racing team of helmsman Lorenzo Bressani, owner Lorenzo Santini, Federico Michetti, Francesca Prina and tactician Francesco Bruni claimed victory over the 114 strong, 16 nation fleet in one of the most hotly contested events in the sailing calendar.
The Uka Uka Racing team was a favourite from the outset, but going into the final day and with three more races to sail it was still a five way shoot out between Bressani; IMS and Melges 24 World Champion Alberto Bolzan, sailing Pilot Italia for Gianni Catalogna; America’s Cup veteran and 2001 Melges 24 World Champion Flavio Favini, sailing Blu Moon for Franco Rossini; Luca Valerio, on Alina Helly Hansen for ; and 2006 Melges 24 World Champion Nicola Celon, helming ITA638 Marchingenio for Giorgio Marchi.
Race ten in the series got underway after an initial general recall in 10-12 knots from 280 degrees and on relatively flat seas. Favini led the fleet at the weather mark from Bressani with Nicolo Bianchi on Saetta, and Gabrio Zandona on Joe Fly for Giovanni Maspero, on his heels. Down the first run Favini began to pull away, but behind him the battle for second was still a three way tousle until the second beat when Zandona was suddenly forced to pull out because of a broken shroud turnbuckle. As Favini stretched out his lead the battle between Bressani and Bianchi raged with Bianchi eventually claiming victory in the closing moments. Meanwhile back in the pack Alberto Bolzan, Luca Valerio and Nicola Celon were dealing with problems of their own. Bolzan and Celon fought a hard battle for 11th place which Celon eventually won, while Valerio trailed in 26th place.
Going into race 11, Bressani now led with 27 points, Celon held second on 41, Bolzan was third on 44, Favini fourth on 53 points and Valerio fifth on 63 - but more surprises were to come.
Favini was one of several teams called over the line and had to go back. Despite his very best efforts he knew the game was over and he ultimately pulled out of the race. John Pollard, sailing A-Team Westaway, led the fleet at the first mark from Bianchi, with Valerio third and Roberto Martinez, helming Carla Ubertalli’s Online-Sim Firebolt fourth. Pollard went on to win the race and after a terrific battle Valerio took second from Bianchi with Martinez fourth. Bressani sailed across the line in tenth place and knew that the World Championship was his.
And so race 12 was to decide second place between Favini (53 points), Bolzan (57 points), and Valerio (65 points). Although out of the running for the title Binachi was determined to end his week in style and sailed to a superb win giving him seventh place in the overall standings. Bressani was keen to put the seal on his victory and took an extremely relaxed second while Celon came through to take third in the race and finish the regatta in 6th overall. Behind them Favini, Valerio and Bolzan were all well buried and concentrating as much on each other as fleet. Valerio got the best result at 15th, followed by Bolzan in 22nd and Favini in 30th to give Bolzan second place overall with Valerio third and Favini fourth.
Bressani, already a J24 World Champion and a veteran of world class campaigns in Mumm 30, Farr 40 and many other classes, teamed up with owner and Mumm 30 World Champion Lorenzo Santini and trimmer and team manager Federico Michetti, already a Melges 24 European Champion in his own right, last year specifically to challenge for this event. Adding America’s Cup veteran, Italian Olympic 49er and highly experienced Melges 24 sailor Francesco Bruni as tactician and Women’s World and UFO22 European Champion Francesca Prina on bow completed this formidable team.
A delighted Lorenzo Bressani commented: "It's my sixth world championship win, but in conjunction with the J/24 World Championship in 2003 it is the best win that I can remember! Obviously we are very happy. There are some really great teams here internationally as well as those that came from the US. The fact that Flavio did not have a good race - it was a turning point today. So, we are very happy."
Team Manager Federico Michetti, who started his Melges 24 sailing career with the late, great Giorgio Zuccoli Melges 24 World Championship in 2000, concurred, "This is amazing. Really, on every leg I was thinking of and praying to Giorgio to please, please, please help me. Please help us. This has been a really unbelievable season. I am so proud for everything, because we started with this team one and a half year ago and the goal was to win this Worlds. We have been looking forward to this so much. It's amazing, being the World Champion in Porto Cervo!"
In the Volvo Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship, for the all amateur crews, competition was equally fierce with Oyvind Peder Jahre, helming Terra Eindomsmeglng and crewed by Norwegian owner Stian Briseid, Sivert Denneche, Marius Falch Orvin and Taja Zaikova, ultimately taking the title by 14 points from reigning Melges 24 Corinthian North American Champion Bruce Ayres on Monsoon. Third place went to the 2006 Melges 24 Corinthian World Champions Bouygues Telecom, helmed by Jean-Francois Cruette and owned by Cedric de Kervenoael.
The results on the Silver Course were the closest fought of all with Corinthian teams filling the top three positions. Paolo Brescia took victory by just four points from Sonke Boy, helming Music 55 for Reudi Huber, with fellow Swiss Matthias Keller, helming Acqua for Gianluca Tribo in third place.
"We are so happy to have won the Silver fleet,” said Paulo Brescia, “however we would have like to have been sailing in the Gold fleet. This is just great, as we are a group of amateur sailors - I am an architect, the crew is combined of a lawyer and engineers. The Melges 24 is great because we can sail against such great sailors in the world. We have only sailed together for a short time, but my crew is a combination of some very good 470 sailors. We worked well together so we decided to race together, this is such a great class."
Speaking after racing Gold Course Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio said: “It’s been spectacular. The people here working on the committee and the mark boats - you don’t see it better than it gets here. They’re the ones who make it work, I’m just an enabler. The mark boat guys are outstanding as is the whole organisation. We got through the entire event without a single black flag.”
The International Melges 24 Class would like to thank the race committee, members and staff of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, title sponsor Volvo Cars Italy, supporting sponsors Conte of Florence and Moby Lines and the people of Porto Cervo for making this one of the most exciting Melges 24 World Championships to date.
“It has been a fantastic championship, it required a huge organizational and logistical effort but it was well worth it in the end,” said Edoardo Recchi, YCCS Sports Director. “We managed to hold all 12 of the races scheduled for the worlds, something which is rarely achieved and, in view of the conditions, is really quite remarkable. The level of competition was incredibly high and the racing was always close-fought and exciting, a really excellent championship."
Looking ahead for the International Melges 24 Class, the 2008 Melges 24 North American Championship and the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship will be hosted by the Eastport Yacht Club, Annapolis, Maryland, from October 26 to November 2. The 2009 World Championship will be on 27 October to 7 November, also in Annapolis. The 2009 Melges 24 European Championship will be hosted by the COYCH, Hyeres, France on 20-29 August .