With Bressani On The Brink Of Victory, Scene Is Set For A Final Day Showdown For The Remaining Podium At The 2011 Melges 24 World Championship

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20 May 2011

The international fleet competing at the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas, enjoyed two more breezy races on day five of the regatta. By way of a 1,5, performance today, Lorenzo Bressani on ITA 817 Uka Uka Racing extended his lead at the top to 26 points over second placed Brian Porter on USA 749 Full Throttle. Alec Cutler on BER 655 recovered from an eleventh in the first race of the day to take victory in the second race, and he moves up into third overall tonight, 2 points behind Porter. Nathan Wilmot on IRL 607 Embarr now lies in fourth, 7 points adrift of Cutler and 1 point ahead of Kristen Lane on USA 812 Brick House 812 and Flavio Favini on SUI 596 Blu Moon, who are tied on points in fifth and sixth. With just two more races scheduled for tomorrow's final day, Bressani's overall victory is looking increasingly assured; however just 10 points separate second and sixth positions, and the scene is now set for a fierce battle for the remaining podium places.

The penultimate day of racing at this year's Melges 24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas, produced two more thrilling races sailed in a solid breeze that ranged from 15 - 18 knots. In the first race of the day it was business as usual for Lorenzo Bressani on ITA 817 Uka Uka Racing. Having got away cleanly at the favoured left hand end of the line, he led around the first windward mark, from Ricardo Simoneschi on ITA 819 AUDI in second, and Warwick Rooklyn on AUS 553 Bandit in third. On the first downwind leg Nathan Wilmot on IRL 607 Embarr made a big gain to move from fifth at the top mark to a close second to Bressani at the leeward gate. The two leading boats split marks, with Bressani going to the left buoy and Wilmot to the right. Third at the gate was Rooklyn, followed closely by David O'Reilly on USA 700 ARDOR/C.R.E.A.M. in fourth, Bora Gulari on USA 820 New England Ropes/West Marine in fifth, Brain Porter on USA 749 Full Throttle in sixth and Ricardo Simoneschi on ITA 819 AUDI in seventh.

By the second windward mark Simoneschi had jumped up to third, chasing Bressani and Wilmot in first and second. Just behind, Gulari, O'Reilly and Porter were involved in a three-way battle for fourth place as they started the second downwind leg. The final leg was a high-speed drag race with the boats who found the best pressure and clearest lanes coming out on top. Bressani was never under threat and blasted across the line to take his sixth race win of the week. Gulari meanwhile had come down the run with his hair on fire and now had Simoneschi in his sights. The Italian attempted a blocking gybe just before the line but Gulari simply blew through to leeward at top speed to snatch second place. Simoneschi followed close behind in third, with Porter stealing fourth from Wilmot in fifth, and Rooklyn in sixth.

The start of the second race of the day saw the bulk of the fleet favouring the left hand half of the line. Wilmot's attempt to win the pin ended in disaster when a big wave right on the gun stopped him dead in his tracks and caused him to drift onto the pin end boat's anchor line. Meanwhile, Simoneschi, Porter, Gulari and Bressani all got away cleanly a few lengths up from the pin end, and they rounded the first top mark in that order. After some blistering downwind sailing on the first run, Porter rounded the right hand buoy fractionally ahead of Simoneschi in second and Bressani in third. After sailing a quite unbelievable leg, Alec Cutler on BER 655 hedgehog, who had been called OCS at the start and consequently rounded the top mark mid fleet, arrived at the leeward gate in fourth place.

Cutler continued his charge up the second beat, and in the final third of the leg, when the leaders began to tack back to the left, he pushed further out to the right and was rewarded with a major right shift which saw him take the lead just before the second windward mark. Simoneschi and Porter rounded in second and third respectively, with Bressani now pegged back to fourth. Flavio Favini on SUI 596 Blu Moon had eased into fifth ahead of Gulari in sixth. On the final run to the finish Cutler bravely trusted his conviction of extra pressure on the right of the racecourse and gybed away from the chasing pack. Further back, Gulari and Favini had also gybed early and were benefiting from the increased windspeed over on the right. These three boats made huge gains in the second half of the run, with Cutler extending his lead considerably and Gulari and Favini moving through into second and third places respectively. Behind them Porter was able to hold off Bressani to take fourth.

With the final two races in the twelve race series scheduled to be sailed tomorrow, Bressani's 26 point lead is now surely unassailable. Behind him however, the battle for the remaining top three places looks likely to go down to the wire. Going into the final day, Porter lies in second place, 2 points ahead of third placed Cutler. A further 7 points back in fourth is Wilmot, who holds a single point advantage over Kristen Lane on USA 812 Brick House 812 and Favini, who are tied on points in fifth and sixth.

In the all amateur Corinthian Division, after winning the first race of the day, series leader Eiichiro Hamazaki on JPN 783 Esprit, then marred his so far perfect scoreline with a 12 point scoring penalty in the second race following an on the water incident. Hamazaki still leads the Corinthian Division by 13 points from Christof Wieland on GER 635 Unsponsored who chalked up second places to both Hamazaki and second race winner Kevin Clark on USA 24 Smokin. A third and fourth today for August Hernandez on USA 533 High Voltage, sees him back up to third place overall, 12 points behind Wieland.

Racing at the 2011 Melges 24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas, comes to a climax tomorrow Saturday 21 May with the two final races of the championship series scheduled.

Pusser's Painkiller Wipeout Of The Day Awards
A highlight of our daily prize giving ceremony is the presentation of the Pusser's Painkiller Wipeout Of The Day Awards sponsored by our wonderful long standing sponsor Pusser's Rum. As you can imagine this is an extremely prestigious award presented only to those achieving wipeouts or other acts of sailing that impress our secret team of judges. The winners this week so far are:
Day 1 - Germany's Christof Wieland and the Unsponsored team for their sportsmanlike conduct in confessing to a foul and retiring from the race with grace and humor.
Day 2 - Nathan Wilmost and the crew of Conor Clarke's Embarr from Ireland who lost it on a leeward gate scattering the fleet behind them. Fortunately everyone avoided major contact although Peter Lane did look particular fetching draped in Embarr's red spinnaker.
Day 3 - Corpus Christi's own Mark Hulings, Meredith Rummel, Michael Davidson, Paul Arnston and 14-year-old Chloe Childs (our second youngest competitor) who performed a most spectacular high speed broach. We were particularly impressed with young Chloe's nonchalance during the entire incident, which she took entirely in her stride.
Day 4 - We may not have had any broaches on day four but what we did have was some short sharp chop, which could stop a Melges 24 dead in its tracks. Dave Black and the Black Dog team from Canada impressed us all with an amazing upwind "launch" which saw the boat out of the water right back to the keel when they hit a particularly ferocious wave.
Day 5 - Frenchman Henri Samuel his crew aboard ZigZag got in on the act today with some very impressive seamanship and botchery. Their bottom rudder fitting broke at the end of race one and, rather than give up and go home, they set to with some spare string and a bit of tape and bodged the thing up. Perhaps most impressive of all is that they went on to come 13th in the next race - their second best result of the series.

Velocitek Speed Challenge
Today was Velocitek Speed Challenge day. Between 10am and 4pm competitors could record their speed on their Velocitek devices. The highest 10 second average speed recorded will win a $1,000 prize. The Velocitek devices have all be presented to the recorder this evening and the winner will be announced at tomorrow night's final awards ceremony at the Omni Marina Hotel.