In the bag for Uka Uka
Despite the willingness of both the competitors and the Race Committee to do everything possible to complete the final two races of the 2010 Marinepool Melges 24 World Championship in Tallin, Estonia, the wind refused to make an appearance on the final day.
After a patient wait of several hours, the one painfully light airs race which did get under way had to be abandoned part way down the first downwind leg. The lack of any racing today, meant that the placings from the previous day remained unaffected, with Italian helm Lorenzo Bressani on Uka Uka Racing confirmed as the 2010 Melges 24 World Champion. Norway's Kristian Nergaard on Baghdad took second place overall, ahead of Italy's Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye in third. In the closely fought Corinthian Division, Norway's Oyvind Peder Jahre on Storm Capital Sail Racing Team were crowned 2010 Melges 24 Corinthian World Champions, ahead of Estonian Tonu Toniste on Lenny in second and Italian Marco Schirato on La Besa in third.
Realistically the eventual abandonment of racing on the final day had little impact on the already foregone conclusion that Italy's Lorenzo Bressani on the helm of Uka Uka Racing would be crowned champion. Bressani had turned in a stellar performance in the Championship series, winning three of the ten races sailed and never placing outside of the top ten all regatta, meaning that he had established a virtually unassailable 32 point lead going into the final day. Although the Race Committee gave themselves the best chance to complete the full 12 race series by bringing the fleet afloat in time for a ten o'clock start this morning, the wind simply refused to cooperate. After waiting several hours, and enduring some heavy rain showers, the Race Committee confirmed to the fleet by radio that a maximum of one race would be possible before the official two o'clock cut-off for racing. This announcement meant that Bressani could now not be caught and triggered an immediate victory celebration aboard Uka Uka Racing who, to the cheers and applause of their fellow competitors, then downed sails and headed for the dock.
At around 12:30 and with the deadline now looming, the Race Committee opted to at least try to get racing under way. Their chances originally looked good, but after the fleet, had made it painstakingly slowly to the windward mark and even three quarters of the way down the run, what little wind there had been simply vanished, forcing the Race committee's hand and the abandonment of the race.
With no racing possible today the overall standing were unchanged from the previous day, with Bressani confirmed as overall World Champion, Norway's Kristian Nergaard on Baghdad finishing in second place and Italian Alberto Bolzan on Hurricane Murphy & Nye taking the final podium position. The cancellation of racing also put paid to what could have been a fascinating battle for the 2010 Melges 24 Corinthian World title, between the reigning Melges 24 Corinthian European Champion, Oyvind Peder Jahre on Storm Capital Racing Team and second placed Tonu Toniste from Estonia on Lenny.
Jahre came into this event as a past Melges 24 Corinthian World Champion (2008) and as reigning Melges 24 Corinthian European Champion. By finishing in ninth overall and winning the Corinthian Division, Jahre says he and his young crew have achieved their pre-regatta goals. 'We wanted to retain the title and finish in the top ten overall. We have done both so we are happy.' Asked about the rising standard in the Corinthian Division, he commented: "That is what we like about the Melges 24 Class. Amateurs like us can compete against the best professionals in the fleet. Ultimately this makes your sailing better and there are now some really good Corinthian teams who are capable of getting race results at the top of the fleet. We have seen that here in Tallinn all week.' Jahre says his team's commitment to the class is undiminished. 'We will be back next year for sure. We all have jobs and we don't get too much chance to practice, so we will most likely do what we did this year and use the Italian Volvo Cup Series as our training schedule."
Equal measures of relief and delight were evident on the faces of the Uka Uka Racing crew as the realisation dawned that they had achieved what they set out to do at this Championship. For helm Bressani and team owner Lorenzo Santini this is their second Melges 24 World Championship victory together, having first claimed the title in 2008 at Porto Cervo. Tactician Jonathan McKee is also now a double Melges 24 World Champion, having won his first title with James Spithill at Key Largo in 2005. However, going one better than his fellow crew members, is trimmer and team manager Federico Michetti. Remarkably, with this victory Michetti has now won three Melges 24 World Championships - the first person ever to do so. Along with his two Uka Uka Racing victories, Michetti claimed his first Melges 24 World Title in 2005 at La Rochelle, crewing for his close friend and mentor, the late Georgio Zuccoli. Although this is Uka Uka Racing bowman Fabio Gridelli's first ever Melges 24 World Championship victory, the smile on his face tonight shows that the win tastes no less sweet than for his overachieving team mates.
Talking before this evening's prizegiving at the Kalev Yacht Club Bressani said that he was pleased to have won but claimed that it had been more difficult than it looked. "This was a tough event. The fleet was big and full of good sailors and the venue is very challenging on the water." Bressani was also quick to praise his crew. "In Lorenzo Santini we have a remarkable owner and without him none of us would be here. This week our tactician Jonathan McKee has been outstanding. He and I are opposite temperaments and I think that is why we sail well together. Our bowman Fabio Gridelli has fitted in perfectly with the team and has not put a foot wrong all week. What can I say about a three time Melges 24 World Champion like Federico Michetti? He is a great sailor, motivator and nobody pays as much attention to boat preparation as him."
Tactician McKee echoed Bressani's comments: "This is a pretty remarkable team and I'm honoured to be a part of it. All the members of the crew play their own complementary roles and it all just works. Lorenzo [Bressani] is a remarkably talented helm and one of the best speed merchants I have ever sailed with." Asked about the future for the Uka Uka Racing programme McKee confirmed that they have their sights firmly set on defending their title in 2011 in Corpus Christie, Texas. "The standard in this class just keeps on rising and we know we will have to work hard to improve if we are going to be able to compete effectively next year. Right now however we are just going to sit back, relax and savour this win for a while."
Full results here