by Fiona Brown
The 2013 Melges 24 World Championship took place from September 30 to October 5 at the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere, California, and attracted a star-studded entry of 59 professional and Corinthian teams from around the world.
02 Nothing Ventured, 45 Brio, 12 Twelve Happy Thoughts and 51 Maka’ala - 2013 Melges 24 World Championship
While more than half of the entries came from the USA, the fleet also included teams from 12 other countries including Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland.
As is the norm for Melges 24 world championships, the 2013 edition pitched some of the best professional and Corinthian (no pro-sailors allowed) crews against each other in a single overall fleet with the Corinthian results also counted separately to determine who will be crowned Corinthian world champion.
In the end, nine of the scheduled 10 races were sailed with the battle for the title coming down to a knife edge final race decider. Going into the final light airs race Italian Flavio Favini at the helm of Swiss entry Blu Moon held a single point advantage at the top of the leaderboard over American class stalwart and international campaigner Brian Porter on Full Throttle in second.
A fourth for Porter in the fickle in that race was ultimately good enough to secure him the title he had been trying to win since the very first Melges 24 World Championship in Torquay, England in 1998. He had come tantalisingly close several times along the way - second on no less than three occasions - but this time, despite a valiant final race comeback attempt from Favini, Porter's stars finally fully aligned and he was able to close out the 2013 championship series by two points.
2013 Melges 24 European Champion Favini had to settle for second overall,six points ahead of Denmark's Kim Christensen on Soffe 2 whose second place in the last race earned him the final overall podium place.
After a close fought series-long battle in the Corinthian Division, American Don Jesberg on Viva became 2013 Melges 24 Corinthian Champion by three points from second placed fellow American Loren Colahan on Lounge Act. Meanwhile, a Corinthian race win on the final day for Canadian Michael Bond on Recidivist moved him up to third overall.
The first day of racing delivered three excellent races sailed in bright sunshine and winds ranging from eight to fourteen knots.
All three races had different winners, with American Terry Hutchinson at the helm of Scott Holmgren's Rose Bud taking the first race, fellow countryman Brian Porter on Full Throttle winning the second and Bermuda's Alec Cutler on hedgehog victorious in the third.
Consistency was a hard to come by commodity throughout the fleet and almost all of the top ten boats at the end of the day counted at least one double digit score.
The exception to that rule was Jeff Madrigali at the helm of Kevin Welch's American entry Mikey who managed a 7,2,4 score to top the leaderboard. In second with a 13,10,1 scoreline was Alec Cutler on hedgehog and third by way of three eighth places was Italian Andrea Racchelli on Altea.
In the Corinthian Division America's Loren Colohan on Lounge Act topped the standings with six points after three races, tied on points with second placed fellow American, Don Jesberg on Viva. Italy's Andrea Pardini on Maitech sat in third place.
Light winds at the beginning and end of the second day meant only two races of the scheduled three could be run. The first race of the day was delayed by around an hour before the breeze came on strong and racing took place in winds gusting up to 20 knots.
Favini's men on Blu Moon revelled in the fresher conditions to win the fourth race of the series by a massive margin. Second was American Bora Gulari on West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes and Porter's Full Throttle crew took third.
The second race of the day was sailed in fractionally lighter and more patchy winds and saw Gulari go one better than in previous race and take the win. Gulari's countryman Terry Hutchinson took second and Denmark's Kim Christensen on SOFFE 2 third.
Soon after that, with the wind rapidly fading and becoming increasingly unstable, the race committee wisely opted the fleet ashore for the day.
After two days and five races Favini held the overall lead with Gulari's boat-of -the-day 2,1, performance moving him into second place, one point behind Favini and one point ahead of Hutchinson in third overall.
In the Corinthian fleet Don Jesberg's 5,1, score moved him into the Corinthian lead, six points ahead of fellow US sailor Loren Colohan on Lounge Act in second. Two points behind in third was Australian Kevin Nixon on Accru.
The third day of competition saw three races take place in shifty northeasterly breezes, which ranged as low as eight knots and as high as 18 knots.
A fourth in the first race of the day and a win in the next one saw championship leader Favini with a seven point lead with seven races sailed. However, the Blu Moon crew stumbled in the shifty final race of the day, coming home in thirteenth place and narrowing his overall lead to just a single point going into the final day.
Meanwhile, a boat-of-the-day 3,2,8, scoreline from Brian Porter leapfrogged him from fourth to second overall and very much breathing down Favini's neck with two more scheduled races to go.
A win in the first race of the day for Australian Nathan Wilmot at the helm of Conor Clarke's Irish entry Embarr moved him up to third place overall - eight points out of second and nine points out of first.
After an inconsistent series up until then, American sailor Argyle Campbell on Rock N' Roll returned to more usual form in the third race of the day, picking his way through some shifty and patchy conditions to pull off a commanding victory.
Second in that race was Denmark's Kim Christensen who now sat in fourth place overall, two points behind Wilmot.
Fellow American Corinthian sailors Don Jesberg on Viva and Loren Colahan on Lounge Act remained locked in combat for the Corinthian Division lead. Jesberg's Corinthian 1,6,3, on the third day put him at the top of the Corinthian leaderboard on 21 points, just two points ahead of Colahan who could only manage an 8,3,2.. A 2,11,10 , score for Australian Kevin Nixon saw him remain in third, now nine points off first.
Going into the the final day, the overall championship now hung on a knife edge, with the top of the leaderboard highly compressed and just nine points separating the top three boats.
Winds were all but non-existent at the scheduled 1200 midday start time, but after waiting patiently for nearly two and a half hours, the race committee were finally able to set a start line in a fitful 5 - 6 knots of breeze. Eventually, after one general recall and a short delay to allow the breeze to settle properly, the fleet got away under an I and Z penalty flag combination.
All eyes were on the expected battle between Favini on Blu Moon and Porter on Full Throttle.
At the first top mark it was Porter who came out best, rounding in third while Favini had plenty of work to do in fifteenth place. The Italian helmsman immediately began to make big gains however, passing nine boats on the first run to round the leeward gate in sixth place.
By the final windward mark, Porter had moved into second. Favini was still in sixth but had considerably reduced the distance to the leading pack.
After a painfully light five to six knots final run, Porter had dropped to fourth at the finish. Behind him, Favini was still on a charge and trying desperately to squeeze his way into the fifth position he needed to snatch back the title from Porter.
Approaching the line on the outside of a tightly bunched group for a few moments it looked like Favini might just get his bow to the line ahead. But when the group gybed in union for the finish he didn't have enough momentum to carry him through and in the end had to settle for seventh place in the race and second overall.
A gamble on the right hand side of the final run for Denmark's Kim Christensen slingshotted him into second at the finish and moved him into third place overall, Final race winner Bora Gulari secured fourth overall. Third going into the day, a disappointing tenth for Nathan Wilmot in the final race saw him drop to fifth overall.
In the Corinthian Division a final day seventh place for Don Jesberg was good enough to see him crowned 2013 Melges 24 Corinthian Champion by three points from second placed Loren Colahan on Lounge Act. Meanwhile, a Corinthian race win for Canadian Michael Bond on Recidivist jumped him up to third in the final Corinthian standings.
Having taken so long to win his first Melges 24 world title, Brian Porter said he had high hopes of trying to defend it at the 2014 Melges 24 World Championship which will be hosted by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in Victoria, Australia from January 27 to February 2, 2014.
'I am working on that right now,' Porter said. 'I would love to defend in Australia - it's been a dream of mine to go to there and sail. I know so many great Australian sailors and I have competed against those guys a lot, so I would love to be there.'