UKA UKA Racing consolidate
There was relief all round on the third day of the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship when the Baltic waters off Tallin, Estonia finally delivered wind conditions worthy of this World Championship. Breezes quickly built from eight knots this morning up to 18 knots at times this afternoon, enabling the 79 boat fleet to complete three exciting races.
Lorenzo Bressani on Uka Uka Racing continues to lead the Championship after another stellar day which saw him follow a sixth in the first race of the day with a first and a second in the next two races. Bressani now holds a 15 point lead over fellow Italian Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye, whose ten, three, three combination today moves him up into second place overall. Making the biggest leap up the leaderboard was Melges 24 veteran Kristian Nergaard, who won the first race of the day in some style before chalking up a seventh and a fifth in the subsequent races to rocket from eighth at the beginning of the day up to third overall tonight.
Race By Race
Race three of the Championship got away cleanly at the first time of asking under an I & Z penalty flag combination. With the fleet predominantly heading for the shore on the left hand side of the racecourse, three Corinthian helms led the fleet at the end of the first beat.
First around the top mark was Finnish helm Samuel Thesleff on Activeark, followed closely by International Melges 24 Class Association Chairman, Gunter Tzeschlock from Germany on Ka Nalu Nui in second, and Swede Andrea Emmoth on Helga in third. Leader Thesleff showed some real courage by choosing to early gybe at the spreader mark, but this bravery was almost immediately rewarded with a significant boost in pressure which enabled him to dramatically improve his lead at the bottom of the run. Also benefitting from the early gybe was Nergaard who jumped from fourth to second by the gate. Nergaard was the first to benefit from some extra pressure on the left caused by a huge passing rain cloud and this enabled him to sneak past Thesleff into the lead. From then on Nergaard looked to be in total control and having extended down the second run, he ultimately cruised home for a comfortable race win. Meanwhile Thesleff had failed to hold off the combined challenges of two other Corinthians, Austrian Franz Urlsberger on Schoenherr and Estonian Tonu Toniste on Lenny who moved into second and third respectively, positions which they managed to hold to the finish.
Race four of the Championship was sailed in freshening conditions with 12 knots at the start, ramping up to around 15 knots by the first windward mark. An initial Z-Flag General Recall saw 16 boats awarded a 20% penalty to their score for this race and forced the Race Committee to post the Black Flag for the following start.
This race could not have been much closer at the front of the fleet. Bressani held a marginal lead over fellow Italian Carlo Fracassoli at the top mark, with Flavio Favini at the helm of Swiss entry Blu Moon in third, Nergaard pushing hard in fourth and Bolzan lurking ominously in fifth. With the wind increasing to 18 knots, downwind this group simply ripped it up, sailing high and fast and taking full advantage of clear air and an open race course. The action was breathtaking as the leading pack engaged in a high-speed drag race to the leeward gate. Although no places actually changed on this leg, the top group compressed even further, with all five boats rounding the leeward marks almost simultaneously. On the second beat Frenchman Jean Marc Monard on Poisson Rouge found a remarkable extra gear to move from seventh into second behind Bressani, with Bolzan also moving up into third.
Monard's charge continued on the second downwind and by pushing furthest to the left of the course he picked up a series of gusts which eased him into a four or five length lead. However he then allowed Bressani to get to his left in the final third of the run and this enabled the Italian to retake the lead just before the finish. Monard came home second and Bolzan third.
The Race Committee opted for an immediate Black Flag for the start of the final race of the day, with just one boat being recorded over the line at the gun. This race was a real Italian benefit at the front with Nicolo Bianchi on Saetta leading at the top mark from Bressani in second and Bolzan in third. The rest of the race was a fascinating cat and mouse tussle between Bianchi and Bressani watched closely by Bolzan, who was clearly ready to pounce on any mistakes by his countrymen. Despite the best efforts of Bressani to outwit the leader, Bianchi showed great composure to maintain his lead to the finish. Bressani rounded out a boat of the day performance in second which sees him extend his lead at the top of the overall standings after five races. Bolzan in third will also be pleased with his day's scoreline which moves him into second place overall. A solid fifth in this race steps Nergaard up into third overall tonight.
With up to seven races still to sail, Bressani is far from running away with this Championship; nonetheless few would argue that he at least has a firm grip on.
Uka Uka Racing tactician, Jonathan McKee says that his helmsman's performance was particularly impressive today, especially in the start box: "We had talked about our starting strategy for this event and agreed that we would be conservative given the high tariff of picking up a Black Flag. That puts a lot of pressure on the driver, but Lorenzo has been superb and always seems to manage to get us away cleanly."
McKee also commented on the trickiness of today's wind conditions: "We have had a range of conditions so far in this championship, from very light on the first day, to some full on planing today. I think everyone is pleased that we got three races in today in some decent breeze, as that makes for a better overall regatta. It was tricky at times. For sure there were some left shifts upwind all day that favoured the shore side of the beat, but the second half of those legs were less predictable and you had to have your wits about you."
Asked about the mood aboard Uka Uka Racing, McKee said: "It's great. Kind of laid back. Everyone is getting on and enjoying the experience of sailing together. However we all know that there is a long way to go in this World Championship."
The Corinthian sailors once again gave the professionals plenty to think about today. In race three Kristian Nergaard found himself the only professional in the overall top five as Franz Urlesberger, Tonu Toniste, Samuel Thesleff and Andreas Emmoth all put in storming performances to finish second to fifth overall and first to fourth Corinthians respectively. The fifth Corinthian finisher was Peter Steinkogler aboard sailingteamaustria.com who also finished ninth overall crossing the line just ahead of 2010 Melges 24 Volvo Cup runner-up Alberto Bolzan, and neck and neck with America's Cup helmsman Flavio Favini, who pipped him for eighth right on the line.
Urlesberger has an excellent pedigree having represented Austria in the Laser class at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. After his success in race three he'd obviously got the bit between his teeth and went on to win race four and take fourth in race five making him today's Corinthian Man of the Match. After receiving a pair of Z-Flag penalties on day one, today's results were a welcome relief for this very competent team who move up the Corinthian rankings from 18th to 4th.
Overnight Corinthian leader Storm Capital Sail Racing, helmed by Oyvind Peder Jahre of Norway, continued to sail extremely consistently today. He added a 6, 2 and 3 to the pair of first places he had already accumulated giving him a comfortable 20 point lead. Behind him it was all change with boats yoyoing madly up and down the leader board. Tonu Toniste was also very consistent and after his second in race three he then went on to finish third in race four and eighth in race five, which whizzed him up the scoreboard from sixth to second on 33 points.
Nine points behind Toniste and one point ahead of Urlesberger is local hero and top amateur match racer Tiit Vihul sailing Rock City. Vihul had opened the regatta with a third and fifth but sadly today he struggled to find form and had to be content with adding 7, 17, 10 to his scorecard dropping him from second to third. Italy's Marco Schirato sailing La Besa won the final race of the day and having finished 8 and 11 in the other races he leaps up from 15th to round out the Corinthian overall top five.
Provisional Overall Top Ten After Five Races
1. ITA787 - UKA UKA RAcing - Lorenzo Bressani - 12 pts
2. ITA727 - Hurricane - Murphy & Nye - Alberto Bolzan - 27 pts
3. NOR400 - Baghdad - Kristian Nergaard - 36 pts
4. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 42 pts
5. ITA807 - Gullisara - Carlo Fracassoli - 44 pts
6. SUI782 - Blu Moon - Flavio Favini - 49 pts
7. JPN797 - ThreeBond - Tetsuya Matsunaga - 67 pts
8. ITA783 - Audi - Riccardo Simoneschi - 73 pts
9. ITA766 - Arteria 24ever - Michael Hestebaek - 79 pts
10. FRA639 - Euro-Voiles - Christophe Barrue - 92 pts
Provisional Corinthian Top Five After Two Races
1. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 13 pts
2. EST790 - Lenny - Tonu Toniste - 33 pts
3. EST761 - Rock City - Tiit Vihul - 42 pts
4. AUT681 - Schoenherr - Franz Urlesberger - 43 pts
5. ITA780 - La Besa - Marco Schirato - 47 pts.
Full results here