|HYERES, FRANCE-(31-8-2006) 'Brutal' is how Brian Porter described day five of the Melges 24 World Championship in Hyeres where crews completed races seven to nine in the gold and silver fleets in light, shifty easterly winds. Many of the crews struggled to change gears after several days of heavy conditions and nearly every boat had at least one mediocre result today. The light airs congested the fleet on the first beat and placed greater emphasis on getting off the starting line cleanly. If you found yourself on the wrong side of the first beat it was extremely difficult to find a lane out.
For those of you who enjoy statistics our official IMCA statistician tells me that in today's three gold fleet races 24 different boats had at least one top 10 finish, while 42 of the 60 strong gold fleet had a finish of 40th or worse and only five boats were able to keep all scores inside the top 20 for the day. As a result the overall standings have changed considerably and with more light airs forecast for tomorrow this regatta certainly won't be over until the fat lady sings.
DRP Partner & Partners, owned by Philippe Ligot of Marseille, helmed by Francois Brenac and crewed by William Thomas, Christian Ponthieu and Thomas Allin, had one of the day's most consistent score lines, moving from second to first overall in the process. They took a conservative eighth in race seven, a convincing win in race eight and finished the day by recovering from near disaster in race nine, rebounding from a missed left hander to grind back to 19th. Overall they now count 31 points and lead the championship by 11 points.
Bete, owned by Ezio Amadori of Italy, helmed by Nicola Celon and crewed by Manuel Giubellini, Ralmondo Tonelli and Alberto Bolzan, is lying in second with 42 points. Despite a 55th in race eight, Bete's earlier finishes and a third and a tenth in the other races were consistent enough to rocket them up the standings. Switzerland's Poizon Rouge, owned and helmed by Jean Marc Monnard, is in third with 51 points after a day’s score of 10, 8, 48 while Sogeti Hyeres, owned by Benjamin Cohen and helmed by Antoine Frickey, is fourth with 55 points after scoring 28, 11, 2. Chicago’s Brian Porter, sailing Full Thro ttle, has slipped from third to fifth despite a relatively respectable day’s score of 9, 14, 17 which leaves him on 57 points overall.
For overnight leader Alina Helly Hansen, helmed by Luca Valerio and owned by Maurizio Abba, today was something of a nightmare. They struggled to cope with the shifty conditions and their normally impressive speed seemed to frequently desert them. In race seven they were recalled at the start and only managed to struggle back up to 41st place. Things looked much better in race eight with a 6th, but in race nine they picked the wrong side off the line, got the wrong side of the left hander and ended up 37th. As a result they have dropped down to 8th overall with 76 points.
Alongside DRP Partner & Partners, helmed by Francois Brenac, today’s other race winners were John Gimson in race seven, helming Wild Thing for owner Eamonn O’Nolan, and Christophe Barrue in race nine, helming Euro Voiles for Denis Infante. John Gimson, an up and coming British Olympic squad sailor and 29er Worlds silver medallist, also came third in race eight. Sadly a port starboard just after the start of race nine combined with picking the right side of the first beat put him out of the running and he finished 33rd. Overall he now counts 77 points and lies in 9th. Christophe Barrue and the Euro Voiles team are one of the top local boats but sadly their ninth race win was the only highlight of their day which also i ncluded a 47th and 49th leaving them in 15th overall.
Over in the silver fleet Imagination 2, helmed by Carlo Gullotta from Italy, leads overall with 177 points, Jens A Wathne sailing Party Girl from Norway lies second on 182 points and Giorgio Colato, helming Marchingenio, also from Italy is in third on 184 points.
Three final races are scheduled tomorrow and with further light airs forecast it could be a very interesting finish to this hotly contested regatta.