Bolzan on a charge
Day four of the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship in Tallin, Estonia saw two races sailed in ten to 15 knot shifty breezes giving the skippers and tacticians several head scratching moments out on the Baltic.
Carlo Fracassoli on Gullisara led the first race from the off and managed to hold off sustained challenges from fellow Italian Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye as well as Kristian Nergaard on Baghdad to take his first race win of the championship. The second race saw a major right hand shift soon after the start, which trapped several of the top teams out on the left. Despite leading for much of the six-leg race, Frenchman Jean Marc Monard on Poizon Rouge found himself dragged back into the pack on the shifty third beat. On the final downwind leg to the finish the top five boats were sailing line abreast as they approached the line. Kan Yamada from Japan helming Bros got the final shift just right to edge in front to take the win. Behind him Italy's Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye and Norway's Kristian Nergaard on Baghdad were dead-heated for second place with the decision going Nergaard's way by the width of a bowsprit block.
With a single discard in now place, a fifth in the first race and a tenth in the second today was good enough to see Lorenzo Bressani on Uka Uka Racing still top the leaderboard tonight. Bressani leads by nine points from Nergaard in second with Bolzan a further three points adrift in third.
Today's tricky conditions saw several of the potential Championship contenders turn in a mixed scorecard this evening. Fracassoli followed up his race win this morning with a 30th in the second race, but still sits in fourth overall tonight. "We were much luckier in the first race than the second.," he commented ruefully this evening. "In the first race we started on the left and the first shift was to the left so we had a good first beat. Once you are in front it is much easier to sail your own race. In the second race we started on the left but there was a big turn to the right in the final minute before the start. When the line is as long as it is here then you have to pick an end as there is no chance to change your mind just before the start."
Championship leader Bressani, had by his own standards, a bad day at the office. Having pulled through the leading pack in the first race to round the final top mark in second, he then sailed out of the breeze on the last run to the finish and could only watch as Bolzan, Nergaard and Sweden's Ingemar Sundested on Rocad Racing, all sailed around him. On the second start Bressani was then among the large group on the left caught out by the right shift and rounded the first mark in that race down in the early 20s. Showing typical resilience in the face of this adversity, he immediately set about recovering as many places as possible and over the next five legs chipped away boats one by one on until he had worked his way back up to tenth by the finish.
Japan's Kan Yamada on Bros who is competing at his first ever Melges 24 World Championship, looked a little shell-shocked by his victory in the final race of the day. Rounding the final windward mark in fourth place, Yamada sailed a near perfect downwind leg, concentrating on keeping his lane clear, gybing at just the right times to stay in the pressure and by the finish had established a single boat length lead over the pack when he took the gun. "We are at our first ever Melges 24 World Championship, but this is not the first time I have raced in Tallinn as I came here 14 years ago for a 470 training camp. We are amazed to have won a race this week, as we didn't think it was possible in our first year. Our goal coming here was to finish in the top 15 and right now we are 15th, so we are happy."
One helm who managed to buck the trend of up and down results today was Nergaard, whose third and second place performance makes him boat of the day and sees him move into second place in the overall standings. Tactician Harry Melges agreed that it had been a tricky day on the water but says it was not so much about picking a side, but keeping your head out of the boat and anticipating what was coming next.
"We had some great downwind speed today, which always helps of course, but our main focus was keeping our wind clear and making sure we stayed in the strongest patches of breeze as long as possible," said Melges, who also acknowledged that they had been given a get out of jail card in the second race. "Well we saw that there was a little more pressure coming on the right and we were expecting a shift that way too. We wanted to win the boat at the starboard end and I guess we got a little too greedy and ended up boxed in and pretty much stationary at the gun. We took at least one transom and then managed to get free and on to port. I'll admit we were surprised to round the top mark in tenth place after that start."
Such was the unpredictability of the conditions that Nergaard's fleet position varied significantly throughout the race. Melges commented: "We lost a few places on the last beat and rounded in fifth. The last run was pretty freaky with all of the pressure appearing to be on the left. We kept trying to get ourselves as far that way as we could and actually ended up over standing slightly on the approach to the finish. That turned out to be fortunate as the breeze eased in the last few boat lengths so coming in hot was pretty good and we managed to steal second on the line."
In the Corinthian Division there were major place changes throughout the top ten. The only unchanged position is that of overall leader Oyvind Peder Jahre aboard Storm Capital Sail Racing who increased his lead by one point and now has a 21-point cushion on his closest rival. Jahre's day got off to a tricky start with an 11th place, his worst score of the regatta, but he went on to lead the Corinthian's home in the seventh race and so counts 14 points total.
His nearest rival is now Marco Schirato aboard La Besa who put in the best Corinthian performance of the day, finishing first Corinthian in race six followed by a third in race seven, jumping him up the standings from fifth to second. This strong crew came together as a team earlier this year and already they have been extremely successful winning the Corinthian Division of the 2010 Melges 24 Volvo Cup in Italy. Speaking after racing La Besa trimmer Enrico Sinibaldi commentedL "Our day went very well, we score 15th and 14th today [1st and 3rd in the Corinthians]. I think it wasn't so easy today so we are very happy. "
Also making a big jump up the rankings was Christoph Skolaut in Franz Rocks. He took third in race six followed by a ninth in race 7 and with his worst score, an 18th from the opening race, now discarded he is very happy to find himself just six points behind Schirato and firmly in contention for a podium position.
Tonu Toniste's local knowledge sadly couldn't help him avoid a Z Flag penalty in race six as a result of which he counts a 15th instead of ninth. He went on to finish eighth in race seven, but it wasn't enough to hold onto second and he now lies fourth overall on 41 points, ten points ahead of Andreas Emmoth sailing Helga who moves up from eighth to fifith overall thanks to fifth and sixth place finishes today.
Another crew moving ahead in the Corinthian ranking was Jonas Berntsson's Number of the Beast. He finished sixth in race six and then put in an excellent showing in race seven to finish second which takes him from 11th to sixth overall.
Also pleased with his day was Finnish Dragon, H-Boat and match race veteran Fredrik Markelin aboard HP who finished a very close second to La Besa in race six. The two boats were neck and neck down the final run and La Besa only got the advantage right on the line. After racing a very happy Markelin explained: "The key is to get a good start. Either it's that or a huge amount of luck, which is more unlikely. If you manage to start with the first 15 boats you have far better chances of getting a good clear track with clean air. So we succeeded with our start and it was easy to stay on from there. Today we had a better flow with the crew but we're obviously among a tough crowd of sailors. This is only the second season that we sail Melges 24 together, so we have a lot to learn. It's really about knowing the boat, and small details can be crucial for the outcome. When we have changes in wind conditions, we have small problems in being fast enough to find the right trims. The gennaker is also new for me. But Melges 24 a great boat, and a lot of fun! Second place Corinthian is great, we'll take a first tomorrow," Markelin says with a grin.
Without doubt the most disappointed man in the Corinthian fleet tonight is Rock City's Tiit Vihul. He went into the day as third Corinthian overall but after an OCS in race six and a DNF caused by gear failure in race seven he now finds himself languishing down in 13th place.
Provisional Overall Top Ten After Five Races
1. ITA787 - UKA UKA RAcing - Lorenzo Bressani - 17 pts
2. NOR400 - Baghdad - Kristian Nergaard - 26 pts
3. ITA727 - Hurricane - Murphy & Nye - Alberto Bolzan - 29 pts
4. ITA807 - Gullisara - Carlo Fracassoli - 45 pts
5. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 45 pts
6. SUI782 - Blu Moon - Flavio Flavini - 54 pts
7. ITA766 - Arteria 24ever - Michael Hestebaek - 69 pts
8. ITA783 - Audi - Riccardo Simoneschi - 73 pts
9. ITA716 - Saetta - Niccolo Bianchi - 82 pts
9. JPN797 - ThreeBond - Tetsuya Matsunaga - 67 pts
Provisional Corinthian Top Five After Two Races
1. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 14 pts
2. ITA780 - La Besa - Marco Schirato - 33 pts.
3. AUT406 - Franz Rocks - Christoph Skolaut - 39 pts
4. EST790 - Lenny - Tonu Toniste - 41 pts
5. SWE537 - Helga - Andreas Emmoth - 51 pts
Full results here