by Fiona Brown
Sixty Melges 24 teams from 12 countries across Europe and Scandinavia took part in the four day SNIM Regatta over the Easter Weekend in Marseille France.
60 Melges 24 teams raced at SNIM 2006
The event provided a variety of conditions and some incredibly close racing for this first regatta in the Melges 24 European Ranking Series 2006.
After ten tough races it was Italy's Nicola Celon helming Bete for Amadori Ezio who took the laurels from Benjamin Cohen of Monaco sailing Sogeti Transiciel. The French Partner & Partners crew of Philippe Ligot with helm Francois Brenac took third with John Pollard's Excellent from the UK in fourth.
Racing opened on Friday in moderate conditions. The first race start was heavily pin biased but very soon after the start the right got all the pressure and a big starboard lift. Downwind it was death to gybe early as all the pressure was now towards the shore.
The second race was even more pin biased and the further left you went the better it got, although later in the race it became somewhat processional. By the end of the first day Maurizio Abba's Italian crew aboard Alina were leading from Franco Rossini of Switzerland aboard Blu Moon with helm Chris Rase and local boy Paul Maxime sailing Marseille Big Ship Quantum who shared second place.
Random was the word for day two when three races were sailed in winds up to 20 knots and as low as 5 knots. In race three the trick was to hit the left hand shore as hard as possible upwind. Downwind the shore paid again big time as boats on the left who had initially looked good ran out of pressure. Next time round those in the wide awake club gybed before reaching the shore and made huge gains. The good guys hit the shore again on the first beat of race four, but downwind a huge squall on the right caught out some of the leaders who found themselves stranded in light airs on the right.
For race five a shift in the final minute of the sequence gave a massive pin bias. Downwind the breeze became more and more random with some boats becalmed and some full planing. Things got worse on the second beat with the whole left and middle of the course down to a few knots and the boats on the right fully hiked. The race team took pity on the fleet and shortened at the end of the second beat.
After five races Bete had slipped into the lead with Partner & Partners second and Sogeti Transiciel third.
On day three the PRO showed her class by holding her nerve to wait over two hours for a sea breeze to develop. When it did it was a pleasant 15 knots producing planing conditions downwind and sloppy wave patterns upwind. For race six the starboard end was busy and several boats bailed out at the last minute to avoid rafting. A number of crews were black flagged but Marseille Big Ship Quantum came out smelling of roses to lead from start to finish.
Race seven was a little windier and the left paid upwind. Jamie Lea led Riccardo Simoneschi at the weather mark and they provided spectators with some fantastic viewing as they vied for pole position. Lea eventually forced Simoneschi to the less favoured left gate on the final lap to take control whilst Celon sailed an incredible last leg to pull up into second.
In race eight some of the fleet were caught out by a much shorter beat laid close to the neighbouring big boat fleet. Sogeti Transiciel made the best of the situation to lead from start to finish. By the end of the day Celon aboard Bete had extended his lead with Sogeti Transiciel second and Partner & Partners third.
The final day brought two final races in light and fickal conditions. In race nine Bete match raced Sogeti Transiciel off the line and went on to finish third behind winner Excellent and second place Flor Direct owned by Alain Roig.
Race ten appeared to go to Marseille Big Ship Quantum but on crossing the line they discovered that they and several others were OCS leaving Jean-Marc Monnard aboard Poizon Rouge to take the gun with Altea second. Bete clocked up another third place to take the series.
The IMCA would like to thank the SNIM organisers for a fantastic regatta and special thanks must also go to Justin Chisholm of Team Barbarians for his reports from the race course.
The European Melges 24 fleet now moves onto Bari in Italy for the next Italian Volvo Cup Series event on 11-13 May. The Melges 24 North American Championship will take place in Santa Cruz, California from Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 May.
Final overall leaders, 60 entries:
1 ITA 643 BETE, EZIO AMADORI 28pts
2 MON 601 SOGETI TRANSICIEL, COHEN BENJAMIN 43
3 FRA 571 PARTNER & PARTNERS, LIGOT PHILIPPE 54
4 GBR 650 EXCELLENT 60
5 ITA 572 GIACOMEL AUDI RACING TEAM, PAOLACCI MASSIMO 68
6 SUI 599 POIZON ROUGE, MONNARD Jean Marc 72
7 ITA 583 SHEREKHAN, CARDASCIO Maurizio 74
8 ITA 409 ALINA, ABBA Maurizio 75
9 NOR 506 LEK, GER DAHL ANDERSEN 75
10 GBR 406 TEAM BARBARIANS, SIMPSON STUART 85
Full results for the SNIM Regatta: http://www.lanautique.com/images/upload/Resultat/snim6a_mel.htm