84 for Melges 24 Worlds
With anticipation building ahead of the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship, taking place in Estonia over 4-12 August, 84 crews from 17 nations are very soon set to converge on the 1980 Moscow Olympic Regatta venue in Tallinn.
Melges 24 World Championships are a virtual guarantee of high calibre competition and this year's entry list is once again studded with stars from the sailing firmament, including America's Cup heroes, Olympians and a host of dinghy and one-design world champions. Italian sailors feature strongly amongst the helms highly likely to be in the hunt for the overall title, including 2008 Melges 24 World Champion and reigning European Champion Lorenzo Bressani helming Uka Uka Racing, 2001 Melges 24 World and 2007 European Champion Flavio Favini at the helm of Swiss entry Blu Moon, the ever promising Alberto Bolzan steering Hurricane - Murphy & Nye and the highly accomplished Riccardo Simoneschi on Audi.
Outside of the Italian squad, the French Euro Voiles team headed by Christophe Barrue have regularly proven their ability to turn in race winning performances and Norway's Volvo Ocean Race turned Olympic Star sailor Eivind Melleby will also be looking to reprise his stellar performance at the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship which saw him steer Full Medal Jacket into third place overall. Despite being in his first season on the circuit South African match racer Ian Ainslie appears to be quickly getting to grips with the Melges 24 and has been turning in some good results in warm up regattas this year.
Current Slovenian Melges 24 National Champion Peter Podunavac on Paikea has also proved capable of mixing it at the front of the fleet in 2010. Estonia's past Laser Olympian Peter Saraskin on Zuxu currently leads the Finnish Melges 24 ranking regatta series and will be hoping to put his local knowledge to good use come the world championship series.
Based on this year's form guide, Uka Uka Racing arguably goes into this event as the marginal favourites and according to helmsman Bressani he and his crew have been preparing for Tallinn since January this year when they kicked off their season with a victory at Key West Race Week. "Since then we have concentrated on the Italian Volvo Cup Circuit where we took the chance to try out some new techniques and set-ups." Having sailed in three events, won two of them, including the Italian Championships and finished second in the other one, it appears that their experimentation went pretty well.
Unsurprisingly then Bressani says the crew are happy with their preparatory work so far. However he is taking nothing for granted. "We know very little about the venue. Only our tactician Jonathan McKee has sailed there once, a long time ago. It is going to be a very tough regatta as we expect to see light to medium conditions and that means that all the boats are likely to have the same speed. My personal preference is for stronger winds where good boat handling plays a bigger part in the performance. We will arrive in Tallinn in time to compete in the Estonian Championship which will give us a chance to study the racing area."
Bressani agrees that the entry list is packed with good teams. "It is a Melges 24 World Championship, so that is to be expected. But this year there are many new teams on the list too to watch for. I think we will also need to keep an eye on some of the local boats, like Tonu Toniste on Lenny who raced at the top of the 470 fleet for a long time and knows the sailing area well."
Another team positioned solidly in the 'ones to watch' category is the NOSE Sailing Team racing on Saetta, headed by one of Italy's most promising young helming talents, 26 year old Nicolo Bianchi. Prevailing over several of the more established teams in the Melges 24 class, Bianchi and his crew won the final Volvo Cup regatta on Lake Garda recently to clinch an impressive overall series win. Bianchi believes their Volvo Cup victory has helped them all believe in their own ability to turn in a good performance in Tallinn: "There will be a lot of teams with the potential to get on the podium. I think that psychology will be an important factor and the first day of racing will be key to the overall result. Getting off on the right foot and being able to keep focused for the entire week will be vital." He also highlights the important roles that crew teamwork and consistency will play during the championship. "Harmony within the team is very important to enable us to perform beyond our individual limits. Ultimately, consistency of results is what brings success and this comes from knowing when to be conservative and when to go for the daring option."
The Corinthian Division at Melges 24 World Championships is reserved exclusively for non-professional ISAF Category 1 crews and while they sail within the overall fleet the Corinthian results are scored separately. Corinthian entries make up around 40% percent of the overall entry and competition for this year's Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship title is set to be characteristically fierce with a host of amateur teams vying to be crowned Corinthian World Champions. Certain to be a major challenger will be Norway's Oyvind Jahre at the helm of Storm Capital Sail Racing Team which won the world title in 2008 in Porto Cervo and followed this up with a European Corinthian victory in Hyeres in 2009.
Local Estonians Tiit Vihul on Rock City and Tonu Toniste on Lenny are also certain to be in the Corinthian mix along with Finland's Sami Ekblad on Midnight Sun Sailing One. Italy's Mario Ziliani on Fishdog and Swiss helms Michael Good on Zeroeight and Sonke Boy on Music 55 are also well capable of turning in a podium performance, along with Ukrainian Star Class campaigner Vasyl Gureyev at the helm of Barmaley. Unlikely to be phased by the pressure of world championship competition will be Sweden's Tomas Hansson, on Helga, who was crowned International OK Class World Champion in 2009.
With a world-class fleet set to assemble at the Olympic grade regatta venue in Tallin very shortly, the scene is set for a Melges 24 World Championship of epic proportions. Competitors will undergo three days of registration, crew weighing and boat measurement checks from 4-6 August before the main 12 race World Championship series takes place over 7-12 August.