Uka Uka Racing looking invincible
With three races scheduled, the penultimate day of the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship was always going to be a critical one for those with aspirations of an overall podium position at this regatta. Happily the weather gods smiled on Tallinn today, providing eight to 12 knot breezes enabling the Race Committee to run three excellent races and in the process, catch up with the original programme.
Turning in a seven, five, one scoreline, Lorenzo Bressani on Uka Uka Racing now takes a 32 point lead into the final day. Behind him the scrap for the other podium places is likely to be a fierce one. Despite an inconsistent day, Norway's Kristian Nergaard on Baghdad has held on to second place overall, but now has just a five point advantage over Italy's Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye in third. Although fourth placed Italian Flavio Favini on Swiss entry Blu Moon is some 14 points adrift of Bolzan, experience has taught us that Favini can never be discounted and there is no doubt that he will have his eyes firmly fixed on stealing a podium place tomorrow.
Among the Corinthians local Estonian Tonu Toniste on Lenny flew the flag in style today, taking victory in the overall fleet in Race Eight this morning followed up with a seventh in Race Nine. Despite a 22nd in the final race of the day Toniste has nevertheless moved up to 15th overall and also set up a thrilling finale to the Corinthian Division. Toniste's two Corinthian bullets today have moved him into second place in that division, just five points behind the Corinthian leader, Norway's Oyvind Peder Jahre on Storm Capital Sail Racing Team, who could only manage a disastrous 11, 6, 13 Corinthian scoreline today. Third placed Corinthian, Italy's Marco Schirato on La Besa, also had a difficult day and is now 23 points behind second placed Toniste.
Race Eight of the Championship was started in around eight to 10 knots of breeze and immediately saw Toniste taking full advantage of his local knowledge. Working the left of the first beat predominantly, Toniste was well up among the leading pack approaching the first windward mark. As the wind faded slightly in the final couple of minutes of the beat, Toniste pushed hard out to the port layline, a tactic which gave him a jump on the pack and saw him lead around the first mark by around three lengths. This delighted the local supporters who cheered their hero enthusiastically along the spreader leg. Second around the top mark was Finnish Corinthian Jorma Kinnunen on JJ Team, followed closely by Italian Ricardo Simoneschi on Audi.
Down the first run Toniste played the shifts perfectly and by the leeward gate had extended his lead significantly. An early gybe from Simoneschi had positioned him nicely for a little extra pressure and a subsequent right hand shift which moved him up to second ahead of Kinnunen at the gate. Toniste sailed very composedly for the final two legs, showing great speed and excellent fleet management to ultimately take a well-deserved race win. Behind him however, the action was frenetic on the final stage of the run, with Simoneschi having to fight hard to hold off the advances of Italy's Andrea Racchelli on Altea. With these two focused solely on each other, fourth placed Favini saw his chance and coming in hot from the right, stole second place from both of them on the line by the narrowest of margins.
Race Nine saw a now fired up Toniste aggressively fighting for and winning the pin end of the line. However, on the first beat the left did not pay quite so much as the previous race and at the first windward mark it was Norway's Eivind Melleby on Full Medal Jacket who rounded first. Second around was Italian Luca Valerio on All In with Nergaard in third and Bressani in fourth. By the leeward gate Nergaard and Melleby were almost tied for the lead as they each rounded opposite sides of the gate. Bolzan also had a good run and rounded hot on the heels of the leaders in third. On the second beat Nergaard and Melleby slugged it out for the lead with advantage finally going to Melleby at the second windward mark. Nergaard rounded second and Bolzan third. A three way battle for the lead was waged down the final run and at the line Melleby prevailed to take a narrow win ahead of the rapidly advancing Nergaard in second and followed a few seconds later by Bolzan.
After having to claw his way from the late 20s up to seventh in the first race of the day and finishing fifth in the next one, the final race of the day finally saw Championship leader Bressani hit the front of the fleet. Leading from the off, Bressani seemed always to be in control throughout the six-leg race, despite the ever present threat of fellow Italian Nicolo Bianchi on Saetta. By the final windward mark these two had spurred each other on into a huge lead over the chasing pack. On the last downwind Bianchi tried every trick in his repertoire to force a mistake from Bressani. Despite a being lured into a gybing battle on the approach to the finish, the Championship leader held his nerve to take his second race win of the series. With Nergaard slumping to 18th in that race and Bolzan only managing 12th, Bressani has now extended his lead at the top of the leaderboard to 32 points. You can never say it's over until it's actually over at a Melges 24 World Championship, but with just two races to sail Bressani's lead is looking pretty much unassailable. A clearly tired but happy Bressani commented tonight: "Today we had another good racing day. We ended up with three good results and in the first race we managed to regain lots of lost ground. Although we are well ahead on points now we know all too well that anything can happen at a regatta and we will all have to keep focused until the very end to secure victory."
The fight for the remaining podium positions looks likely to be a fascinating one, with second placed Nergaard just five points ahead of Bolzan. Both will also be conscious of the threat of fourth placed Favini who despite being fourteen points off third, will be more than ready to seize any opportunity to capitalise on their mistakes.
Provisional Overall Top Ten After Five Races
1. ITA787 - UKA UKA RAcing - Lorenzo Bressani - 30 pts
2. NOR400 - Baghdad - Kristian Nergaard - 62 pts
3. ITA727 - Hurricane - Murphy & Nye - Alberto Bolzan - 67 pts
4. SUI782 - Blu Moon - Flavio Favini - 81 pts
5. ITA783 - Audi - Riccardo Simoneschi - 94 pts
6. ITA807 - Gullisara - Carlo Fracassoli - 97 pts
7. ITA716 - Saetta - Niccolo Bianchi - 102 pts
8. ITA735 - Altea - Andrea Racchelli - 132 pts
9. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 136 pts
10. FRA599 - Poizon Rouge - Jean-Marc Monnard - 144 pts
Provisional Corinthian Top Five After Two Races
1. NOR751 - Storm Capital Sail Racing Team - 42 pts
2. EST790 - Lenny - Tonu Toniste - 47 pts
3. ITA780 - La Besa - Marco Schirato - 70 pts.
4. SWE666 - Number of the Beast - Jonas Berntsson - 83 pts
5. FIN529 - Midnight Sun Sailing One - Sami Ekblad - 85 pts