Hyeres, France -Lorenzo Santini’s Italian crew aboard UKA UKA Racing showed their true mettle on day three of the 2009 Melges 24 European Championship in Hyeres; posting a near perfect 2,1 score to leapfrog into a commanding ten point lead at the top of the leaderboard. Rounding the first mark in the top five in the first race, they gained places on each of the five legs and by the final beat were snapping at the heels of leader Pilot Italia Hurricane steered by Alberto Bolzan. Race two saw UKA UKA Racing and Renato Valivero’s Allin round the first mark simultaneously before engaging in a race long battle for the lead with helmsmen Lorenzo Bresanni and Pietro Sibello both pulling out all the stops in their effort to get the upper hand. Sibello looked to have seen off the challenge from Bressani when he rounded the top mark for the final time several boat lengths ahead, but Bressani came up with some special magic on the last run to squeeze into a fifty metre lead at the finish.
Overnight leaders Maurizio Abba’s Alina had a nightmare start to their day when they were Z-flagged on the first attempt at starting the first race and then found themselves totally boxed in on the subsequent start. They bounced back well in race seven of the Championship, coming home in fifth place and maintaining their fervent hopes of challenging for the title by the end of the regatta. Nico Celon at the helm of Lanfranco Cirillo’s Fantastica remains in third overall this evening courtesy of the discard system, which allows him to exclude his disappointing eleventh place in race six. A hard fought third in the final race of the day keeps him firmly in the overall hunt, just three points adrift of second. Flavio Favini, the reigning European Champion aboard Franco Rossini’s Blu Moon, had a somewhat lacklustre day by his own high standards and whilst the team’s 9,8 score sees them into fourth place they have a real points mountain to climb over the last two days. Local French hopes are now pinned on Maxime Paul aboard Big Ship, whose steady improvement over the regatta so far continued today with fifth and seventh moving him up to fifth overall.
UKA UKA Racing’s Federico Michetti agreed that his crew had performed exceptionally today but denied that their fourteenth place yesterday had put on any undue pressure. ‘We are very happy with the fourteenth because in fact we rounded the first mark in the thirties after a poor start so the recovery was a good one.’ He gave testimony to just how good the competition and the racing had been today. ‘We had to fight very hard to earn our results today and particularly in the last race the battle with Pietro Sibello was fantastic. Sailors like him make the standard very high at this regatta.’ Whilst understandably delighted to be back on top at this point, with two days racing to go Federico says that UKA UKA Racing are far from complacent about their ten point lead. ‘We know that we have good people chasing us and in particular Nicolo Bianchi on Alina is having a very good Championship. We are enjoying ourselves in Hyeres and will try to keep on doing so.’
In the Corinthian Division the overnight leaders Storm Capital Racing dealt themselves a double blow to their title hopes by picking up a Black Flag in race six and a twenty percent Z-Flag penalty in race seven. This disastrous day sees them fall to second place in the Corinthian standings. Corinthian boat of the day was Estonian Tonu Toniste’s Lenny, who clocked up a pair of Corinthian bullets to move up the table to seventh overall. John Christian Eriksson’s Aqua Racing had a solid day, turning in a second and a third which leaves them as top Corinthian tonight. By way of their pair of sixes today, Rudolf Houdek’s Secret Men’s Business take the final Corinthian podium position.
With three races left to sail in the 2009 Melges 24 European Championship and given that conditions in Hyeres are predicted to lighten tomorrow and Friday, there are no certainties for any of the teams currently topping the results. The nature of big fleet one design racing and Melges 24 competitions in particular, means that this regatta is still very much open and it looks to be building nicely to an exciting climax by the end of the week. There are three further races to sail in the ten race series which concludes on Friday.