18 nations competing at Melges 24 Worlds
With several days of pre-regatta registration now completed and on the eve of the official start of racing, all 79 boats competing at the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship in Tallinn Estonia, were successfully launched before this evening's six o'clock deadline and the regatta's Opening Ceremony at the Kalev Yacht Club.
This year's Championship has attracted entries from 18 nations across three continents and features crews from as far afield as South Africa and Japan. As is expected at major Melges 24 championships, the pedigree of the fleet is impressive as ever, boasting past Melges 24 World Champions, Olympic medallists, America's Cup veterans, any number of dinghy, one-design and offshore national and world champions, as well as some of the most talented international Corinthian crews to be found anywhere.
The meticulous efforts of the competitors readying themselves for this event has been matched in equal measure by the lengths to which the organisers have gone to ensure that this regatta runs smoothly and according to plan. Tallinn of course is no stranger to high profile yachting events, having been the Olympic Regatta venue for the 1980 Moscow Games and in more recent times played host to a string of major dinghy and keelboat championships. Melges 24 World Championships however set the standard for one-design sportsboat regattas and the preparation for this event began more than two years ago, involving countless hours of combined effort from the International Melges 24 Class Association, the Finnish/Estonian Class Association and the hard working members of Tallinn's Kalev Yacht Club. Based on the highly positive reaction so far from the competitors about the hassle free registration and launching process, it appears that everyone's hard work is already being rewarded.
With only hours to go now to the start of the twelve-race series, the atmosphere around the regatta centre is best described as electric. Although there are certainly some obvious candidates for the podium positions here in Tallinn this week, the 2010 World Championship looks likely to be one of the most open in recent history. The 12-boat Italian squad is the largest at the event and perhaps also has the greatest potential to produce a winner, including as it does the likes of 2008 Melges 24 World Champion Lorenzo Bressani helming Uka Uka Racing, the highly accomplished Luca Valerio on the helm of All In, as well as the yet unfilled potential of Alberto Bolzan steering Hurricane Murphy & Nye. Additionally, rising Italian star Nicolo Bianchi on Saetta recently won the 2010 Italian Volvo Cup Series and will be looking to make a further name for himself on the world stage this week.
Strong as the Italian squad is, there are also a significant number of crews from other countries with the skills and experience to enable them to mount serious challenges for the 2010 world title. An Italian sailing under a Swiss sail insignia, Flavio Favini at the helm of Blu Moon is the only other helmsman competing this week who has lifted the World Championship trophy before and he has left no doubt that his intention is to repeat the experience in Tallinn.
Despite only being in his first full season in the Melges 24, South Africa's Ian Ainslie is said to be on deadly asymmetric form right now, having narrowly missed out on victory at the recent SB3 World Championship on Lake Garda. Norway's Star Class Olympic campaigner, Eivind Melleby, who finished third at last year's World Championship in Annapolis, USA, has also been turning in some impressive results so far this year and is very unlikely to be phased by the size of the fleet or the level of competition here in Tallinn.
Melges 24 World Championships are raced as one fleet but include a Corinthian Division which strictly excludes ISAF Category 3 sailors. Competition in this division is understandably fierce and with some of the most talented amateur teams in the world racing here this week, it will be no surprise to see Corinthian crews getting in amongst the leaders of the main fleet.
Certainly 2008 Melges 24 Corinthian World Champion and reigning Corinthian European Champion helm Oyvind Peder Jahre steering Norway's Storm Capital Sail Racing Team has proved capable of winning races in the past and could well be a main contender in both divisions here in Tallinn. Also likely to prove potent Corinthian challengers this week will be local heroes Tonu Toniste on Lenny and Tiit Vihul on Rock City, as well as Italian helm Mario Ziliani on Fishdog, Switzerland's Sonke Boy on Music 55 and Austria's Christoph Skolaut on Franz Rocks.
Championship racing runs from Saturday 7 to Thursday 12 August, with up to three races per day and a maximum of 12 races total scheduled. Five races are required to constitute a series. When six or more races have been completed a boat's series score will be the total of her race scores excluding her worst score. The first start of racing each day is schedule for 12.00 except for the final day when the first start is schedule for 10.00 and there will be no warning signal after 14.00.