[Source: Melges 24 World Championship] Competitors from across Europe and North America gathered on Sunday evening for the opening ceremony at the Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis 2009 Melges 24 World Championship. The fifty-one boat fleet is made up of entries from the USA, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Ukraine and over the last several days the competitors have been working their way through the Championship registration process as well as getting in some vital on the water practice time. The time for preparation is over now however, as racing in the six-day twelve-race series is scheduled to start on Monday.
If the results of the Pre-Worlds Regatta give any indication of form, then it was to confirm the potency of the European contingent racing here this week. The reigning World and European Champions from Italy, ‘UKA UKA Racing’ steered by Lorenzo Bressani, cemented their position as the pundits’ favourite, with victory ahead of Italian America’s Cup helmsman Flavio Favini on the Swiss registered ‘Blu Moon’. Third place was taken by another Italian helm, 2006 World Champion Nico Celon on ‘Fantastica’. Outside of these three boats, the high quality Euro squad at this event also includes the double European Championship winning ‘Joe Fly’ crew steered by Italian 470 Olympian Gabrio Zandona as well as Britain’s two-time Melges 24 World Ranking helm Jamie Lea on ‘Team Barbarians’.
Matching the potential of the visitors are a raft of high profile US helms, each capable of putting together a World Championship winning series here in Annapolis: US sailing legend Terry Hutchinson on ‘Quantum Racing’ comes into this event as the current Melges 24 North American Champion, a title he won here last year; Brian Porter on ‘Full Throttle’ is the 2009 US National Champion and has 2002 World Champion Harry Melges calling the shots; Bill Hardesty and Vince Brun have four Melges 24 World Title victories between them and have teamed up aboard ‘Event’s Clothing/Atlantis’ and Chris Larson the serial one-design champion and local favourite has three-time Finn Olympian Richard Clarke as tactician role aboard ‘West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes’.
The Corinthian Division (no professionals allowed) at this regatta has attracted a fourteen-boat entry and looks likely to produce a fierce battle for the Corinthian World Title. Arguably the favourite here is USA helm Bruce Ayres aboard ‘Monsoon’ who in the Pre-Worlds Regatta has been mixing it at the front of the main fleet and finished one place short of the main fleet podium in fourth. Othmar Mueller von Blumencron (USA) on ‘Gannet’ is the reigning North American Champion and has clearly set his sights on reclaiming the Corinthian World Crown which he last won in 2007. Henry Filter from the Championship host Eastport Yacht Club, sailing aboard ‘Wild Child’ but his local knowledge to good use in the Pre-Worlds Regatta to finish as third Corinthian behind Ayres and von Blumencron; a result he will be no doubt be hoping to improve on in the main Championship.
The mouth watering prospect of such a star-studded list of international teams pitting their wits against not only each other but also the unique challenges of the Chesapeake Bay, suggests that the Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis 2009 Melges 24 World Championship is likely to be one of the closest and hardest fought World Championship in the history of the class.
The Championship will run from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 October with up to twelve races scheduled.