With a brief on-shore postponement by PRO Bill Canfield and his legion of volunteers from Sail Newport, the deep Audi Melges 20 fleet headed North of the Newport Harbor Bridge to kick off the sixth edition of the U.S. National Championship. With past champions, fleet veterans, and several talented newcomers in attendance, what the fleet lacked in size was quickly made up through talent and tight racing.
2014 Melges 20 U.S. Nationals
Once the breeze settled in at eight knots from the Southwest, Canfield wasted no time getting a race started. North American Fleet President Rob Wilbur on Cinghiale darted out to a nice lead nailing the right side of the course staving off several hard chargers for the left side. What seemed to be a steady, stable breeze quickly faded as the fleet inverted on the downwind. Wilbur was able to maintain a lead, but Marc Hollerbach on Fu and Drew Friedes on Pacific Yankee made huge gains on the run to get in the hunt. Hollerbach would eventually take the bullet after a fierce battle with Wilbur.
With a slight uptick in pressure for the start of Race Two, Hollerbach was back to the front of the fleet to take the lead at the first mark. On the next upwind however, it was Cesar Gomez Neto on Portobello who hit the left side hard out of the leeward gates to get the attention of the leaders. Hollerbach did a nice job of battling back from the right side and taking advantage of some small shifts at the top of the course to maintain a narrow lead and keep the bullet, followed by Gomez and Wilson's Oleander.
In the best breeze of the day that saw pulses to 10 kts, a clean start saw the fleet fighting for the ability to get to the left side of the course. After a few minutes of racing, those who had struggled to keep their lanes had to bail and give up on the left which ended up paying big. Again, Wilbur started with style and was able to cross the fleet on port tack, however Morgan Kiss on Baciami and Wilson were able to follow closely on Wilbur's tail at the top mark.
After an intense downwind battle, many tight crosses and ducks and a windward mark layline missed by some of the lead boats, Wilson took the bullet in his brand new Audi Melges 20 straight from the factory. 'Our team arrived yesterday morning, put the boat together for the first time and were able to set it up and have a great day of racing,' said Jim Wilson. Drew Wierda on W nabbed second place followed by Gomez's team on Portobello.
Once back to the dock, Audi Melges 20 teams were treated to cold beer, and a bevy of appetizers put on by the staff at Sail Newport. The Audi Melges 20 fleet hunkered down and relaxed after a challenging, yet fun day on the water. The forecast is similar for day two, and with the compact, talented fleet the scores from top to bottom are anything but secure. An additional three races are scheduled. With the completion of race number six, a discard of each teams worst score will go into effect.
Top Five Results (After Three Races)
1.) Jim Wilson/Sam Rogers, Oleander; 5-3-1 = 9
2.) Marc Hollerbach/Jonathan McKee, Fu; 1-1-8 = 10
3.) Drew Weirda/Scott Nixon, W; 6-4-2 = 12
4.) Cesar Gomes Neto/Andre Forseca, Portobello; 13-2-3 = 18
5.) Rob Wilber/Anthony Kotoun, Cinghiale; 2-9-7 = 18