Chris Larson Wins 2006 Melges24 U.S. National Championship
18 November 2006
Chris Larson at the helm for Scott Holmgren on Rosebud is the new, 2006 Melges 24 National Champion. In addition to Larson and Holmgren was the great league of Chuck Norris and Andrew Estcourt. Standing in for second, on his 37th birthday was Scott Nixon at the helm for David Ford on Lightwave Micro with Mark Ivey on board calling tactics, Bell Canty and Brian Smith. Overnight leader John Pollard on Excellent seemed to have everything under control in the first two races of the day, but a very dissappointing last race dropped them to third overall.
After yesterday's change-up in the results, the cause and effect of light air conditions, Pollard led the fleet overall by a comfortable margin, but with a very humble attitude. No mistakes is what he was looking for, good speed and solid boat handling would be required as mistakes can be unforgiving in a competitive, deep-in-talent fleet like the one in Jacksonville. Larson was in second and Nixon was third.
A unique energy and high anticipation could be felt on the docks as the last day of racing was expected to be monumental. Sailing conditions were almost a carbon copy of Friday. The very light air most certainly had some teams concerned as game faces were on and they were ready to race.
Race one started on time, winds 3-5 knots. On the start Ginson jostled for position approaching the pin, Pollard with a great start up the middle Ginson on his port hip. Larson, keeping Pollard in his sights match races on starboard. It's three wide - Ginson, Pollard and Larson playing the left. Coming straight up the middle Nixon was making great progress came in to the mark fast and several boat lengths ahead of Morgan Reeser at the helm for Geoffery Pierini, challenging Doug Kessler driving for Justin Chambers on LayLine.com, then Brian Porter on Full Throttle rounds fourth, Bora Gulari driving for Chuck Holzman on Flyer was fifth and Bob McElwain on Silver in sixth.
Downwind, Nixon left the building extending his lead by double. At this point Nixon's closest opponent was Kessler, then Reeser a short ways back. Nixon was first through with a clean douse, jetting back off to the left. Kessler and Reeser are back at it. At the mark, Kessler looses out again to Reeser. Pollard gains downwind and is back up to speed rounding fourth and Othmar Mueller Von Blumencron on Gannet overtook Holzman, Porter and Larson for fifth. Nixon now miles in front of the fleet, rounded the top again with the real race continuing for second between Reeser and Kessler. Blumencron held onto his fourth place position, Pollard and Porter took it to the mark. Porter shut the door on Pollard, Larson coming around on starboard. Pollard rounds in sixth. For the finish, conditions were super light and the cold chill in the air had dissappeared. A change of course was reflected at the leeward gate - a 30-40 degree shift. Nixon creeped across the finish. Reeser gets second. Blumencron comes in from left field, snagging third as Kessler, fourth practically stalls at the line, forced to deal with no wind and a lot of current. Larson takes fifth, Gulari finishes sixth with Pollard in seventh. Porter took eighth. Peter Cucci was nineth and tenth was Jamie Lea at the helm for Stuart Simpson on Team Barbarians.
For race two of the day (race eight in a series of nine) a course location adjustment took place as the wind shifted to 330. A slight postponement took place and shortly after 1:00 p.m. with only two races to go, the level of excitment was up, nerves on edge as the entire fleet was over on the first start, resulting in a general recall. The second start was clean, on the right side Lea launching at the start with Reggie Fairchild on SabalMedical.com and Mike Krantz at the helm for Rebecca Barkley on Lamorak alongside. Great battles on the left as well Pollard and Jeff Lindheim on Beer Googles coming in from the left taking the lead ahead of Gulari. Pollard loving the race rounding third followed by Porter in fourth and Larry Sellers rounded fifth. Gulari stayed the middle of the course downwind taking the lead, both Pollard and Porter passing Lindheim. At the top mark it was all Gulari with a nice set. Pollard is next with Lindheim back in the hunt in third, followed by Kelly Gough driving for Shawn Grisham on Bullseye in fourth, then Simon Strauss on Gill, Sellers, and Porter dropping back a few spots after great strides downwind. Gulari is first at the leeward gate heading right as before. Next closest competitor is Pollard some ten to fifteen boat lengths behind. Then Linheim, Porter, Sellers and Grough. Gulari went on to win, with Pollard taking second and Lindheim in third.
The last race of the series commenced around 3:00 p.m. The breeze has settled around at 3-5 knots. Championship leader Pollard, got a bad break at the start as he was OCS alongside a couple of other boats. Quickly he got off the line and shot back out to race. Larson finally got his shot at the top mark first, Pethick in second, Justin Chambers in third, John Podmajersky on USA-511, Blumencron and Lea rounded respectively.
Even though Larson got a nice jump on the fleet, Lea and Pethick gave him a run for the money to the bottom mark. Larson is around first taking the left side, Pethick followed. Chambers, Lea and Porter round respectively taking the right. Larson's luck changed as the race produced a shake-up in the leaderboard with Reid Collins on Desparate Measures taking a surprising lead downwind, Jamie Lea driving for Stuart Simpson on Team Barbarians also passed Larson, as did Podmarjesky. The race committee made a change of course, and the top five boats drag raced to the finish. Nixon's back in the running gaining on Lea to the finish. Collins stalls, Larson passes him as does Podmajersky. Larson back out front with Lea on the move on the outside in clear air. Collins and Podmajersky neck-and-neck. Then Lea and Podmajersky with a photo finish. Podmajersky taking fourth and Collins settleing for fifth.
Once things shook out back on the docks, the final decision and reconfiguring of numbers makes Chris Larson on Rosebud the new Melges 24 National Champions!
Congratulations and thanks to all competitors — most especially our European competitors that traveled so far to be with U.S. fleet. To Pat Lambert, Rick Preston and the entire race committee, the Florida Yacht Club, hats off to a fantastic championship! It could not have been more spectacular!
Special thanks for 2006 U.S. Melges 24 National Championship sponsors: Latis Yachting Solutions, LayLine, Melges Performance Sailboats and Quantum Sails.