Italy lead the field
66 of the 117 teams due to compete in the main championship elected to race in the Pre-Worlds Regatta and Italy’s Alberto Bolzan, sailing ITA727 Pilot Italia for Gianni Catalogna put in a bravura performance to win all three races and take the regatta. Switzerland’s Matthias Keller, helming SUI530 Acqua for Gianluca Tribo took second overall and also wins the Corinthian Pre-Worlds Regatta for all amateur crews.
Britain’s John Pollard sailing GBR690 A-Team Westaway finished third overall with the joint US/British GBR592 Sevenstar Slam crew of Simon Strauss, which includes double and reigning Melges 24 World Champion tactician Bill Hardesty, in fourth.
In the Corinthian Division second place overall went to Holland’s Carlo Vroon sailing NED177 and Germany’s Rudolf Houdeck sailing GER731 Secret Men’s Business was third.
Speaking after racing regatta winner Alberto Bolzan commented “These Pre-worlds results are relevant to understand how this World Championship will evolve. We won all the three races; in the first day was pretty shifty, and Pietro D'Alì (tactician) has been really good taking the proper side of the course. Today, having a stronger wind, the crew was decisive keeping a high pace. Affinity with Pietro is tight, and his choices convey a strong sense of security to the rest of the crew".
New York-based Englishman Simon Strauss, who placed fourth overall, has been a stalwart in the Melges 24 class for years, but has really upped the stakes for this event. Sailing with double Melges 24 World Champion tactician Bill Hardesty (1999, 2007) and accomplished Melges 24 racers Quentin Strauss and James Hill, Simon is looking to fight his way to a top ten finish at Worlds for the first time.
"Today was definitely tricky with the breeze coming right off the land," commented Strauss. "The first start was left-favoured, and we sailed deep to that side. The leaders to the top mark came back to the left middle around three quarters of the way up and that seemed to provide the best combination of shift and pressure for the race. Downwind the starboard gybe was the way to go, one gybe and then in to the gate. The second race brought some relief to the right side about halfway up, though the pressure on the right was iffy until that point, making a flier to the right a bit risky. There was an even bigger right shift very close to the mark, possibly too close to really take advantage of."
Despite the frequent shifts Hardesty thought that "good lanes were far more important than tacking on every shift today - the breeze was shifting through five degrees or less, so we worked on our speed and found the best lanes we could."
Tomorrow the 117 teams from 16 nations have a final day of registration and further informal race practise. The Volvo Melges 24 World Championship 2008 commences on Sunday 1 June and runs through until Friday 6 June with twelve championship races scheduled. The 117 boat fleet will be split into four groups for an initial six race "round robin" series before dividing into Gold and Silver fleets for the final six races.
More photos on page 2...