Tight At The Top As Japan’s Kamei Takes Early World Championship Lead

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3 December 2014

Miami, FL - There’s an old saying in racing: You can’t win a World Championship on the first day of the regatta, but you can certainly lose it. And for more than half of the talented 17-boat Melges 32 World Championship fleet, the points spread is almost unimportant. “We’re looking at the top nine boats separated by just nine points after two races,” explained Race Officer Anderson Reggio, leader of the Coconut Grove Sailing Club-based Race Committee that braved steep, choppy seas and 15-20 knots of breeze to set the racecourse for the ultra-high performance Melges 32 racers. In contrast to those nine boats, the bottom half of the fleet finds itself with an uphill climb in the quest for a podium finish on Sunday.

Race One saw slightly less breeze than the nuclear conditions at the Pre-Worlds, with teams struggling just before the start to pick the right headsail and rig tension for the puffy course, and with just seconds to the start, Pierre Casiraghi aboard Robertissima staked his claim for the pin end of the starting line. Casiraghi made it stick, leading out to the left, while 23 year-old Dalton DeVos (Holland, Michigan) and his Delta team struggled with an average start, flushed out to the right of the course.

DeVos’ team found breeze and shifts on their side, working their way back to the middle with a solid lead over the fleet. Meanwhile, Casiraghi continued to play the shifts reaching the windward mark in third, sandwiched by two Japanese skippers. As DeVos raced down to the gate at speeds nearing 20 knots, Casiraghi jumped into second place, splitting with Delta on the second beat. The always-competitive Richard Goransson aboard Inga From Sweden reveled in the lumpy waves, grinding his way toward the front of the fleet after a mid-line start.

The young Michigander rounded the final mark just a boat length ahead of the Monaco team, and the battle was on. “I really didn’t know how close they’d gotten – I’m generally too busy steering and trying to pick my way through the waves to really look around much,” said DeVos. “When we finally gybed and I saw them in front of us, I realized our lead had disappeared.”

DeVos wasn’t phased at all despite coming so close to the race win. “Second place is plenty to be happy with in this fleet,” he said, adding that the conditions were ‘pretty much perfect for these boats. Ripping through big waves, big breeze, and warm water are what they were created for!’

Picture-perfect conditions continued through a short break, and the aggression these teams are known for bubbled to the surface during the start of Race Two. With the entire team pushing the starting line with ten seconds to go, there was no way Reggio and his team would see an ‘all clear’ start like Race One, and four boats - including Race One winner Robertissima – were called ‘OCS’, returning to the start line to clear themselves.  

With a long two-mile beat, boatspeed and navigating the bigger waves efficiently was key, and it was reigning World Champion Jason Carroll’s Argo coming from the middle left with a three boat length lead at the top mark. The New York-based racer – a competitor in every Melges 32 Worlds ever held – turned three boat lengths into some 3,000 feet at the finish, beating second place Naofumi Kamei on Mamma Aiuto! over the line by over two minutes – an unheard of margin in Melges 32 championship racing. “We were feeling pretty good about a hard-fought seventh in Race One, but that second race really was amazing for us,” said Carroll, who credited his crew with the victory. “That’s not going to happen too many times at this level of sailboat racing, and these guys earned every inch of it with their hiking and intensity right to the line.”

Multiple world champion helm Deneen Demourkas (Santa Barbara, California) showed her downwind form constantly passing boats on the runs to take third place for team Groovederci.

After sailing a mistake free Race One and collecting a fourth place, Kamei and his mostly Spanish team showed good speed and smarts to take the second spot in Race Two behind Carroll. Kamei’s six points is good enough for the overall Championship lead, and while Mamma Aiuto’s Manu Weiller said he was a little surprised to be leading after Day One, he knew his team was ready for the Worlds. “We progressed a lot and we felt strong going into this regatta,” said Weiller, who admitted that Mamma Aiuto! wasn’t the fastest boat in the fleet today, but that was OK. “The crew had clean maneuvers, our skipper stayed calm, and we had a good day,” he said. “This Championship has barely begun.”

Former World Champions William Douglass on Goombay Smash and John Kilroy, Jr. on Samba Pa Ti found themselves on the back foot after just two races. Douglass suffered a knockdown on the first downwind leg of the day, damaging a spinnaker and retiring. While Kilroy was disqualified for a rules infringement at the chaotic top mark of Race 2.

With day one in the books, the motto for many teams it to ‘keep grinding.’ There are four more long days ahead with plenty of opportunities for teams to rise or drop in the standings. The forecast remains similar for the coming days – a forecast that’s almost impossibly good for Melges 32 racing - and you’re invited to watch.

Wednesday marks the second day of racing with a first initial warning of 1100.

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TOP TEN RESULTS (After Two Races)
1.) Naofumi Kamei/Manu Weiller, Mamma Aiuto!; 4-2 = 6
2.) Jason Carroll/Cameron Appleton, Argo; 7-1 = 8
3.) Dalton DeVos/Jonathan McKee, Delta; 2-7 = 9
4.) Pierre Casiraghi/Vasco Vascotto, Robertissima; 1-9 = 10
5.) Alessandro Rombelli/Terry Hutchinson, STIG; 5-6 = 11
6.) Richard Goransson/Morgan Larson, Inga From Sweden; 3-10 = 13
7.) Alec Cutler/Richard Clarke, hedgehog; 10-4 = 14
8.) Ryan DeVos/James Spithill, Volpe; 6-8 = 14
9.) Deneen Demourkas/Flavio Favini, Groovederci; 12-3 = 15
10.) Edoardo Lupi & Massimo Pessina/Lorenzo Bressani, Torpyone; 8-14 = 22
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