PORTO CERVO, ITALY – The second and final day of the Volvo Melges 24 Pre-World Championship Regatta at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo brought respite from yesterday’s storms. In sparkling Costa Smeralda sunshine with a breeze that built steadily from 12 to around 20 knots, racing concluded with two outstanding races.
Fifty three of the 117 teams due to compete in the main championship elected to race in the Pre-Worlds Regatta, and Italy’s Alberto Bolzan, sailing ITA727 Pilot Italia for Gianni Catalogna, put in a bravura performance to win all three races and take the regatta.
Speaking after racing, Bolzan commented: “These Pre-Worlds results are relevant to understand how this World Championship will evolve. We won all the three races; in the first day it was pretty shifty, and Pietro D’Alì (tactician) has been really good taking the proper side of the course. Today, having a stronger wind, the crew was decisive, keeping a high pace. Affinity with Pietro is tight, and his choices convey a strong sense of security to the rest of the crew”.
Switzerland’s Matthias Keller, helming SUI530 Acqua for Gianluca Tribo, took second overall and also wins the Corinthian Pre-Worlds Regatta for all amateur crews.
Britain’s John Pollard, sailing GBR690 A-Team Westaway, came in third overall, while the joint US/British entry GBR592 Sevenstar Slam (www.sevenstarslamracing.com) took fourth. Aboard Sevenstar Slam are brothers Simon Strauss (New York, N.Y.) and Quentin Strauss (GBR) as well as double and reigning Melges 24 World Champion (1999, 2007) tactician Bill Hardesty (San Diego, Calif.) and another accomplished Melges 24 racer James Hill (GBR).
A New-York based Englishman, Simon Strauss has been a stalwart in the Melges 24 class for years, but has really upped the stakes for this event with his expert crew. He is looking to fight his way to a top-ten finish at Worlds for the first time.
“Today was definitely tricky with the breeze coming right off the land,” commented Strauss. “The first start was left-favoured, and we sailed deep to that side. The leaders to the top mark came back to the left middle around three- quarters of the way up, and that seemed to provide the best combination of shift and pressure for the race. Downwind, the starboard gybe was the way to go–one gybe and then in to the gate. The second race brought some relief to the right side about halfway up, though the pressure on the right was iffy until that point, making a flier to the right a bit risky. There was an even bigger right shift very close to the mark, possibly too close to really take advantage of.”
Despite the frequent shifts, Hardesty thought that “good lanes were far more important than tacking on every shift today – the breeze was shifting through five degrees or less, so we worked on our speed and found the best lanes we could.”
In the Corinthian Division, second place overall went to Holland’s Carlo Vroon, sailing NED177. Germany’s Rudolf Houdeck, sailing GER731 Secret Men’s Business, was third.
Tomorrow, the 117 teams from 16 nations have a final day of registration and further informal race practise. The Volvo Melges 24 World Championship 2008 commences on Sunday 1 June and runs through Friday 6 June with 12 championship races scheduled. The 117-boat fleet will be split into four groups for an initial six-race “round robin” series before dividing into Gold and Silver fleets for the final six races.
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