[Source: International Melges 24 Class Association] The Race Committee stepped up the pace today at the 2008 Melges 24 North American Championship, running four excellent races (race four to seven in the 12 race series) in winds ranging from 10 – 15 knots. Terry Hutchinson on USA 751 Quantum Racing made his intentions clear for this regatta by moving into a seven point overall lead. Gabrio Zandona on ITA 777 Joe Fly had a mixed day on the water but won the first and last races to sit in second place tonight. Chris Larson on USA 655 West Marine Rigging / New England Ropes put in a steady performance to claim the final podium place, eight points behind Zandona.
Zandona came out punching in race four, winning the start and rounding the first mark well in the lead. His charge faltered a little down wind when he got out of phase with the shifts and dropped to third at the gate behind Bruce Ayres USA 747 Monsoon and Othmar von Blumencron USA 679 Gannet. Zandona hit the afterburners on the next beat however and scorched back into a lead he was able to hold to the end of the race. David Dabney USA-626 Wireless also made the best of the conditions to move from sixth to second. Ayres initially looked to have suffered badly on this leg but recovered to round third.
Down the final run, nobody’s place was secure with the premium on keeping heads out of the boat and staying in the veins of pressure. With Zandona securely across the line with a win under his belt, the chasing pack were involved in a gybing frenzy which resulted in Flavio Favini SUI 521 Blu Moon catapulting himself from fourth to second. Simon Strauss on also pulled up to take third ahead of a disappointed Ayres, whilst Dabney had to be content with fifth.
Race five was all about Chris Larson who led around every mark to take a convincing win. Behind him a tight knot of boats including Shane Vowels GER 624 I’m with Stupid, Hutchinson, von Blumencron and Ayres, were involved in a prolonged fight for second place. This was only eventually resolved close to the finish, with Hutchinson taking second and von Blumencron third. Yesterday’s overnight leader Dave Ullman kept his title hopes alive with a fourth.
Race six was also dominated by a single boat. Simon Strauss USA 757 Simplicity found some of his true form for the first time this regatta, winning the start and taking control of the race from the off. In shifty conditions he played an excellent tactical game, gaining leverage on the fleet with every tack and gybe. Stuart McNay on USA 620 had his work cut out holding off a sustained challenge from Favini throughout the whole race but eventually prevailed to take second. On the final run Favini had to break off his attack to close off an advancing Jamie Lea GBR 569 Team Barbarians who crossed the line on Favini’s transom to take fourth. Corinthian David Dabney clocked up a solid fifth.
With light airs forecast for tomorrow, the race team wisely opted to put one in the bag by running a five leg fourth race. Perhaps it was fatigue or enthusiasm, but no less than twenty boats were called OCS at the start of race seven. Significantly, several boats failed to return to exonerate themselves, including Morgan Reeser USA 750 M-fatic, Ullman and Favini. Zandona had no such worries and having rounded ten lengths clear at the windward mark he went on to give the fleet an absolute sailing master class. Hutchinson had a difficult job on his hands getting past Kristen Lane, but finally wrested second from her at the start of the final beat. With Zandona and Hutchinson finished, a couple of big shifts at the end of this leg upset the running order, allowing Peter Lane USA 539 Brickhouse 539 to move up into third and Argyle Campbell USA 630 Rock n’ Roll to take fourth ahead of Ayres.
The new championship leader, Terry Hutchinson, is understandably happy to be leading but was critical of his own performance. “Everyone on this boat is sailing really, really well. That being said, I feel like the weakest link as I’m struggling a little with my time and distance. We set a goal that if we could come out with a fifth and above we would be happy. We had a tough first race, but had a great come back to ninth.” He also had this to say about the conditions in store for tomorrow “Tomorrow will be a hard day, really hard. Third day of an event like this with a cold front, we can expect light and shift conditions. Very interesting conditions are definitely on the way.”
Corinthian division leader Othmar von Blumencron is also pleased to have extended his lead on second placed David Dabney. “We are an amateur team and so don’t get much time to practice. That usually results in us getting better as the regattas go on but this time we have made a good start so our challenge is maintaining our performance.”
Racing at the 2008 Melges 24 North American Championship continues tomorrow and runs through to Saturday with five more races scheduled. To follow the racing live as it happens visit the IMCA’s from the race course blog at http://blog.melges24.com.
TOP TEN RESULTS (Preliminary, After seven races)
1.) Terry Hutchinson, Quantum Racing – 4, 2, 4, , 2, 6, 1 = 20
2.) Gabrio Zandona/Giovanni Maspero, Joe Fly – 9, 6, 2, 1, , 8, 1 = 27
3.) Chris Larson, West Marine Rigging/NE Ropes – 8, 8, 7, 6, 1, 7, 6 = 35
4.) Dave Ullman, Pegasus 505 – 1, 3, 3, 12, 4, 17, [50/DCS] = 40
5.) Bruce Ayres, Monsoon – 5, 9, 8, 4, 10, , 5 = 41
6.) Flavio Favini/Franco Rossini, Blu Moon – 2, 7, 1,2, 29, 3, [50/DNF] = 10
7.) Othmar Blumencron, Gannett – 13, 12, 9, 7, 3, , 10 = 54
8.) Stu McNay, USA-620 – 11, 5, 10, 14, , 2, 14 = 56
9.) Brian Porter, Full Throttle – 6, 10, 6, 10, 5, 24,  = 61
10.) Jamie Lea, Team Barbarians – 7, 11, 14, 11, , 4, 17 = 64