All Change On Day Four In San Francisco
16 October 2003 - If you'd told us six days ago that a fourteen
year old kid would have Harry Melges on the ropes going into
the final day of the Audi Melges 24 World Championship in San
Francisco we'd have politely laughed you out of court. Today
we have egg on our faces and Shark Kahn and his Pegasus 1 crew
of Richard Clarke, Mark Christensen, Brian Hutchenson and Brian
Lee have Harry Melges, Jeff Ecklund, Hans Melges and Steve Inman
well and truly worried.
Today's two races brought thrills and spills as Melges and Kahn
both found themselves down in the cheap seats for a change. After
yesterday's shifts the wind was rock steady at 225 and racing got
underway at lunch time in 6 knots, which increased to around 16
knots by the end of race eight.
The first start was fraught and Harry Melges ended up wallowing
in the third row as the fleet, and his main rival, sped off up
the beat. After a first mark rounding at 29th Melges spent the
race playing catch up to eventually finish 11th. Kahn meanwhile
was once again showing that he is not to be trifled with and
took second place on the first lap behind Paul Brotherton, helming
for Ian Cleaver. By the second windward mark Kahn had the lead
and eventually won by nearly two minutes. Brotherton duelled
with Kerry Poe for second as Brian Porter, Flavio Favini, helming
for Franco Rossini, Egidio Babbi and Sebastian Col made heavy
work out of fourth, eventually crossing the finish line in that
order within seconds.
In race eight it was Kahn's turn to find himself out in the cold.
Having put in a respectable beat he looked set for a top ten
first rounding as he approached on port. Unfortunately the starboard
layline was full to bursting and couldn't find a slot until the
low 20s. If his older and more experienced rivals hoped this
would leave the youngster dazed and confused they were to be
sadly disappointed and Kahn simply dug in and worked his tail
off, finally finishing sixteeth. Up ahead Melges was fairing
only a little better, his first mark rounding of tenth seemed
solid enough and with his legendary speed the spectators fully
expected him to storm his way to the front. By the second windward
mark he was up to seventh but he lost again on the second run
and found himself back in tenth, eventually just pipping Sebastian
Col on the finish line for eight. At the front of the fleet reigning
Melges 24 European Champion Luca Santella, helming Giovani Maspero's
Joe Fly Team, took the tape for only the second time this regatta
winning the race by a over a minute. Brian Porter eventually
took second after some fun and games with Dave Ullman. Don Jesberg
was fourth while Sheldon Ecklund and local hero Seadon Wijsen
struggled over fifth with Ecklund finally getting it. Rob Greenhalgh,
helming for Paul Lovejoy, came in seventh just ahead of Melges.
Going into the final day Shark Kahn now leads on 17 points with
Harry Melges just one point behind him. Brian Porter (42 points)
and Luca Santella (47 points) are set for an equally tight battle
for third place. Since Cedric Pouligny and Morgan Reeser swopped
helm/tactician roles the P&P Team have seen an significant
improvement in their fortunes and they are now lying fifth overall
(65 points) ahead of Egidio Babbi (71 points), Rob Greenhalgh
(72 points), Dave Ullman (74 points), Paul Brotherton (78 points)
and Jamie Lea (84 points).
The leaders were not the only ones to have an eventful day. The
most serious incident was a leeward mark collision in race eight
between Keith Grzelak and Denise Surtees which left Grzelak with
a large hole in the port quarter and Surtees with a broken pole.
Fortunately Grzelak's crew were able to stuff the hole with a
sail bag and keep the boat fully heeled to starboard for the
tow home. Martin Wedge was the other high profile casualty when
he lost his rig in race eight and found himself forming an interesting
obstruction on the second down wind leg. Fortunately the St Francis
Yacht Club safety team swung into immediate action in both cases
escorting everyone safely to the dock.
Two final races are schedule for tomorrow, although the fact that
racing is already postponed until noon and no races can be started
after two pm will make for a tight programme.
Full Results and Scores