With five races sailed at the Lerici edition of the European Melges 32 2008 Audi Sailing Series the discard is now in force and Claudio Recchi on Lorenzo Santini’s Uka Uka have moved into a five point lead over Thule in second.
Matrix sits on the same points as Thule in third place. Both Kismet and Red, in fourth and fifth respectively, are within striking distance of the lead and with the chance of three more races, cannot be discounted.
Competitors at the Lerici edition of the European Melges 32 2008 Audi Sailing Series were left with little to do but enjoy the sunshine and coffee while they waited for the wind to settle in this morning. The fleet eventually put to sea at around midday and when the boats reached the start area they found a shifty, twelve to fourteen knot breeze, blowing directly from Lerici.
Shortly after the start of race one the crews got to find out exactly how big the wind direction fluctuations were when a huge left hand shift put the whole fleet onto port tack simultaneously. As the boats made their way up wind they had to contend with a series of sudden gust and lulls and for a long time it was difficult to predict who would come out on top.
It was Joe Woods’s British team on Red who picked their way perfectly up the beat to round first with a fifteen second lead. In second was Stefano & Massimo Leporati’s Kismet and third was Luigi Melegari on Matrix. The shifts downwind were just as extreme as upwind and the wind holes even more costly. At the leeward gate, Red extended their lead when Kismet and Matrix had to drop their gennakers early in order to make the mark.
Lerici edition of the European Melges 32 2008 Audi Sailing Series - image Stefano/Carlo Borlenghi. -
Up the next beat Red had to keep close cover on Kismet, who having rounded the left hand gate, were able to get to the supposedly favoured side a little earlier and close the gap on the leader.
Half way up the beat Red’s cover forced Kismet to tack away further left still.
Almost immediately the wind kicked right giving Red enormous leverage on Kismet. This shift also brought Uka Uka back into the fight as they moved swiftly from fifth to second.
However at the windward mark they slightly misjudged their approach and failed in their attempt to squeeze around the buoy. Their resulting penalty turn dropped them back behind Kismet on the run. Meanwhile aboard Red, despite a nervy moment when they appeared to have run out of wind, they held firm to take a comfortable race victory. Kismet finished second and Uka Uka third. Overnight leader Fausto Rubbini on Thule recovered from a poor start to sneak back to fourth. With the breeze building slightly, race two was no less tricky for the tacticians. A big left shift at the start saw the pin end of the line crowded and some boats even starting on port.
At the top mark Kismet, Uka Uka and Lanfranco Cirillo’s Fantasticaaa rounded in quick succession. The downwind run saw the leaders putting in a series of gybes to keep themselves in the pressure and in synch with the shifts. At the leeward marks it was all change as Uka Uka eased into the lead ahead of Thule, Matrix and then Fantasticaaa.
The scrap for the lead continued all the way up the second beat and when the boats rounded the windward mark for the final time Uka Uka still led from Kismet and Matrix. With breeze fading quickly on the run these three were glad to simply get across the finish line.
With one more day of racing to go and a forecast of ten to twelve knots off the land again tomorrow, we can expect the finale of this regatta and the overall series to go down to the wire.