Lining up for Corpus Christi
Entry for the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship, to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas over 11-21 May 2011, will close on Friday 22 April.
This coming weekend will see the final event in the Road To Corpus warm up series - Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week. From Charleston the teams will make their way cross country to Corpus Christi ready for the most prestigious event of the 2011 season. While there are a refreshing number of new helmsmen making their first ever appearance at a Melges 24 World Championship, the entry list for Corpus Christi is also studded with a significant number of both highly talented and seasoned campaigners.
Hoping to pull off back to back Melges 24 World Championship victories is reigning champion Lorenzo Bressani from Italy, who won last year's championship in Tallinn, Estonia in commanding style. Bressani, already a double Melges 24 World Champion - having previously taken the title in Porto Cervo, Sardinia in 2008 - will surely want nothing more than to become the first ever helmsman to take three Melges 24 World Championship victories.
Asked about his expectations for Corpus Christi however, Bressani appeared to have put such thoughts to the back of his mind. "We are going to Corpus Christi to try to defend the title. After finishing second in Key West, we sailed in Miami for the Bacardi and won. The most important thing about that result was that we found the feeling with the boat again and we came back very fast. I have never raced in Corpus Christi before but I know it is a windy place which will make for great racing and a great spectacle. We can't wait."
Bressani was beaten into second place at Key West Race Week this year by fellow Italian and arch rival Flavio Favini, who knows better than most what it takes to win a Melges 24 title. Having claimed the title himself in Key West in 2001, Favini will no doubt be going all out to repeat the experience in the big breeze in Corpus Christi.
Fresh off the back of a bronze medal performance in the Star Class at the Bacardi Cup in Miami recently, Norwegian Olympic campaigner Eivind Melleby will be looking to reproduce his Melges 24 World Championship performance from two years ago in Annapolis, USA where he finished third overall. Clearly on top form this year, Melleby also took a third place podium position at Key West Race Week in January.
Reigning US National Champion Alan Field has himself been turning in solid regatta results in the lead up to this year's championship - bouncing back from a sixth in Key West to finish second at the Bacardi Miami Race Week. So too has International Melges 24 Class President Ricardo Simoneschi (ITA), whose fourth in Key West and joint second with Field in Miami sets him up nicely for a strong world championship series.
2004 J/22 World Champion Alec Cutler has also been mixing at the front of the Melges 24 fleet in the run up to Corpus Christi. In Key West he proved his ability to close out individual race wins against top competition by taking two bullets and finishing fifth overall. In Miami he also finished in fifth, just two points adrift of Favini.
Representing the burgeoning Melges 24 fleet in Australia will be AUS Class President Warwick Rooklyn who recently stormed to victory at the Australian National Championship. Rooklyn, along with fellow countryman Heath Walters will no doubt be keen to see how their newly honed Melges 24 skills stack up against the rest of the world in Corpus Christi.
With so many great teams in attendance and the genuine prospect of some high wind crash and burn racing, it is no surprise that there is a real buzz of anticipation from everyone involved in this year's world championship. Certainly Irishman Conor Clarke just can't wait to get there. Work commitments and a relocation from Ireland to Barbados have kept him away from the International Melges 24 scene for a year or so, but an excited Clarke had this to say about Corpus Christi "I'm dying to get back in the boat after well over a year out. The last time we were out to play was Hyeres in 2009. I hear tales of big winds in Corpus Christi and I know that everything is bigger in Texas so I can't wait for those huge 'yee haa' sleigh rides downwind. It's shaping up to be a memorable event and it is my reward for missing a year of Melges racing and especially missing Tallinn last year."
There will be Pre-Worlds racing on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May. Championship Racing gets underway on Monday 16 May with the first warning signal scheduled for 11.00 and racing continues until Saturday 21 May with no warning signal permitted after 14.30 that day.