The fourteen competitors in the final regatta of the European Melges 32 2008 Audi Sailing series taking place in Lerici, Italy this weekend were treated to conditions more akin to Key West than the Mediterranean. The first day’s three races were sailed in sunshine and a solid twenty knot breeze which kicked up a two metre swell.
The spray breaking over the sea defences made a spectacular backdrop for the fleet as they left the marina this morning for their short sail to the racecourse.
The start of race one was an action packed affair with all the boats pushing the line hard. Soon after the gun both Joe Woods at the helm of Red and the Leporati brothers on Kismet had to dive back through the pack to restart. This left the way clear at the pin for Claudio Recchi steering Lorenzo Santini’s Uka Uka to make a near perfect exit from the line.
Capitalising on this, they were first to show at the windward mark, followed closely by Luigi Melegari’s Matrix and Fausto Rubbini on Thule. On the downwind leg the breeze was touching twenty five knots and all the crews had their work cut out keeping control as the boats hurtled down the huge waves.
The leeward gate was a battle zone with lots of shouting, gesturing and a number of protest flags. Matrix came out of the melee ahead of the bunch and by the windward mark had built themselves an unassailable lead. Red staged a remarkable comeback from their premature start to round the second windward mark in fifth.
Down the final run they appeared to hit the hyperdrive button moving up into second place by the finish. Behind them, Mauro Mocchegiani on Rush Diletta took a well deserved third place.
First to the windward mark in race two was Roberto Alberini on Calvi Network ahead of Rush Diletta and Kismet. Boathandling issues at the leeward gate dropped Calvi Network and Kismet out of contention allowing Rush Diletta to eke out a six boatlength lead by the second windward mark.
Thule rounded second in close company with Francesco Martino on Pilot Italia. Both these two managed to get past Rush Diletta on the run with Thule taking the winning gun.
In race three, with the breeze touching the high twenties at times, Uka Uka made a spectacular return to form. After nailing the start at the pin they went on to give the fleet a lesson in upwind and downwind sailing for the rest of the race. At the finish they had established a lead of nearly two minutes – a remarkable achievement in the Melges 32 class. Kismet also found their groove and took a comfortable second ahead of Stefano Di Properzio on Mataran in third.
Back ashore the weary sailors told of difficult racing conditions over and beyond the wind stength and the big waves.
‘It was very shifty out there today’ commented Uka Uka tactician Gabriele Benussi. ‘The breeze was quite unstable and it was difficult to predict what would happen next’. David Lenz, calling the shots aboard Red, confirmed the situation ‘I couldn’t find a pattern to it at all. In one race we started well and worked our way out to the right towards the flatter sea. The breeze was moving slowly right and we could have tacked and crossed the fleet at that point. A few boat lengths further and the breeze shifted hard to the left and we were dumped to the back of the pack’.
After a day of mixed fortunes for many, Fausto Rubbini’s Thule leads with a 4,1,5 scoreline. Luigi Melegari’s Matrix are second with 1,6,4 and Uka Uka sit in third with 8,4,1. Melges 32 - Positions after three races
1.) Fausto Rubbini, Thule – 4,1,5: pt. 10
2.) Luigi Melegari, Matrix – 1,6,4: pt. 11
3.) Lorenzo Santini/Claudio Recchi, Uka Uka Racing – 8,4,1: pt. 13
4.) Mauro Mocchegiani, Rush Diletta – 3,3,8: pt. 14
5.) Stefano Leporati, Kismet – 6,9,2: pt. 17
6.) Stefano Di Properizio, Mataran – 11,5,3: pt. 19
7.) Joe Woods, Red – 2,8,10: pt. 20
8.) Francesco Martino, Pilot Italia – 12,2,6: pt. 20
9.) Carlo Alberini, Calvi Network – 5,10,9: pt. 24
10.) LanFranco Cirillo, Fantasticaaa – 7,7,11: pt. 25
11.) Ferdinando Battistella, Hublot Big Bang – 9,11,7: pt. 27
12.) Stuart Simpson, Team Barbarians – 13,12,12: pt. 37
13.) Antonello Morina, Sei Tu 32 – 10, DNF, DNF: pt. 40
14.) Alfonso Gennari, Lea – DNF, DNS, DNS: pt. 45
International Melges 32 Class Association, www.melges32.com