Melges 24 World Championship 2011 day one in Corpus Christi, Texas, saw two closely fought races completed in sparkling conditions. The first race was sailed in an oscillating 7 - 10 knot breeze and saw Alan Field at the helm of USA 811 WTF, take the win after overtaking the initial leader, Nathan Wilmot on IRL 607 Embarr just before the second windward mark.
Melges 24 World Championships, Corpus Christi Texas. Day 1 Championship 2011
By the time Race two got underway the wind had clocked significantly to the right and built in strength up to around 14 - 16 knots. Kristen Lane steering USA 812 Brick House 812, led around the first mark, and despite letting her grip on the race loosen for a while on the second beat, she came back strong to retake the lead at the final top mark. From then on she was totally in control, and after sailing a tactically astute second run, she eased home to take a well deserved race win. A solid fifth for Wilmot in that race was enough to give the Irish crew aboard Embarr the overall lead, just one point ahead of reigning World Champion Lorenzo Bressani on ITA 817 Uka Uka Racing. Tied on points with Bressani is Norwegian Eivind Melleby on Full Medal Jacket, whose 5,3 score puts him in third place at the end of Day 1.
The expectation was always for light to medium conditions to prevail on the first day of the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship, and race one was started in an unstable 8 - 10 knots of breeze, with direction swings of up to twenty degrees. A significant right hand shift minutes after the start, saw almost the entire fleet tack onto port soon after the gun. The boats who got out to the right soonest appeared to pick up a little extra pressure in the first half of the beat, but as the leg progressed it was Nathan Wilmot helming IRL 607 Embarr who came in from the middle right to lead at the top mark. Two to three boat lengths behind was Alan Field on USA 811 WTF. A further five boatlengths behind, Eivind Melleby on NOR 804 Full Medal Jacket, headed a a gaggle of seven or eight boats, including Flavio Favini on SUI 596 Blu Moon, Ricardo Simoneschi on ITA 819 AUDI, and Lorenzo Bressani on ITA 817 Uka Uka Racing. As the two leading boats extended down the first run, the breeze faded a little and became somewhat patchy, presenting plenty of passing opportunities amongst the still closely compacted chasing pack.
The dying wind had also continued to clock around to the right, requiring the race committee to shorten the second beat and lay a change mark considerably further to the right. Given the change in wind direction, the bulk of the leading group chose the right hand gate mark (looking upwind), but second placed Field chose to break off and round the left hand buoy. This ultimately proved to be a race winning move, as by the latter part of the second beat, Field had hooked into a left hand shift and some extra pressure which took him past Wilmot on the approach to the second windward mark. From there on Field was in complete control, and with the breeze now shifting even further right and slowly beginning to build again, he was easily able to maintain his leverage on the fleet to take a comfortable race win. Wilmot proved to be equally safe in second, with Melleby demonstrating some excellent downwind speed to take third.
After a brief delay to allow the breeze to complete its swing to the right, the race committee went in to sequence for the second race. Perhaps anticipating a further shift to the right, the fleet all seemed keen to start at the committee boat end of the line, and the resulting bunching caused a General Recall on the first start attempt. More evenly spread along the line for the second start, the fleet then got away cleanly, with Bora Gulari on USA 820 New England Ropes/West Marine nailing the start at the right hand end and getting an initial jump on the fleet. However even before the mid point of the first beat it was Eiichiro Hamazaki on JPN 783 Esprit, who was making the early running on the right of the course, ahead of Favini and Kristen Lane on USA 812 Brick House 812. By the top mark Lane had squeezed into the lead ahead of Favini and Hamazaki in second and third. These three boats were engaged in a full on battle for the lead throughout the entire first downwind leg, with Lane ultimately rounding the left hand gate mark just seconds before Hamazaki turned at the right buoy. Favini was hot on their heels, rounding the left mark just a couple of feet ahead of Brian Porter on USA 749 Full Throttle. The scrap for the lead continued up the second beat, with Lane briefly relinquishing the lead to Favini at the midpoint, before coming back strongly in the closing stages of the leg, to squeeze in on the port layline and tack cleanly just feet ahead of Favini. This tack left Favini struggling to lay the mark and his subsequent clearing tack on to port in front of the incoming Lorenzo Bressani on Uka Uka Racing resulted in Bressani doing penalty turns. Lane had meanwhile escaped and was then able to extend her lead down the final run and went on to take the win ahead of Bressani in second and Eivind Melleby on Full Medal Jacket in third.
In the overall scorings, Nathan Wilmot's second and fifth were good enough to see him top the leaderboard at the end of the first day, with a one point advantage over Lorenzo Bressani and Eivind Melleby who were tied on points in second and third respectively. Kristen Lane's 8,1, scoreline puts her in fourth overall, tied her on points with Flavio Favini in fifth.
Melges 24 World Championships include a Corinthian Division for those teams without any ISAF classified professional sailors. The Corinthians race with the main fleet but are also scored separately for the Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship.
Two Corinthian first places for Eiichiro Hamazaki on JPN 783 Esprit gives him the overall lead at the end of Day 1, with Kevin Clark on USA 24 Smokin, in second place with a third and a fifth. With a eighth and a second, August Hernandez on USA 533 High Voltage, rounds out the Corinthian top three.
With a more familiar local weather system now appearing to establish itself, there is a good chance that tomorrow will see the full arrival of the Corpus Christi thermal breezes. To give the wind its best chance to develop, the start time for racing on Day 2 has been pushed back to 13.00.
Racing at the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship runs from Monday 16 May through until Saturday 21 May, with two races per day scheduled.
2011 Melges 24 World Championship website