Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bacio finishes 6th place out of 37 boats at the Melges 20 Gold Cup in Malcesine, Lake Garda

Together with the owner, Michael Kiss from Holland Michigan, Alain Stettler and I represented the USA at the unofficial World Championships of the Melges 20 class.

A brand new Melges 20 (Hull #190) was waiting on us in Malcesine on Monday morning and my good friend Alain Stettler and I spent most of the day putting our sweet little new toy together. (Kudos go out to Federico and his team at Melges Europe for excellent service and always lending a hand if something wasn’t quite as it should.) After some more boat work and two days of practice we started racing on Thursday.
At Charleston Race Week this year we won the Melges 20 event, so the expectations from owner Michael Kiss were understandably high! But looking at the line-up at this event I knew it was going to be WAY harder. First of all we had all of the top Italian teams and they have been sailing these boats hard, REALLY hard and are way ahead of everyone else in terms of boat handling and tuning. Secondly, the tacticians and crews were more or less the crema de la crema in Italy and internationally. Names like Gabrio Zandono, Roberto Benematti, Matteo Ivaldi, Flavio Favini, Nathan Wilmot, Juan de la Fuente, Branko Brzkin, Chicco Fonda were starring down at me… Hmmm, this was going to be interesting and challenging to say the least.
A 6th place in the first race put us on the right track but our hopes for a top finish evaporated when our bow sprit unexpectedly broke in the second race and we limped into the finish in 23rd. To make things worse the fleet sailed another race and we’d have to score a DNC. Arrghhh....

Again Federico and his Melges Europe team pulled through and the next morning we magically had another bowsprit installed when we arrived at the boat. Which other class provides that kind of service, hellloooo!!!
For the rest of the regatta we now had to play it safe as we were already counting a 23rd and were using the DNC as our discard. We sailed a good series of single digit finishes which put us in 6th place overall in the end. Full results can be found here.
Oh and did I mention that almost all races were sailed in 15 - 20 knots and sunshine?

For our team this was mainly a good event to learn more about the tuning and for Michael to get more comfortable in boat-on-boat situations and managing tight lanes. We did a lot of spy work on the top Italian teams and were on par with them at the end of the regatta. So overall this has been an excellent opportunity for us to improve our skills and hopefully get a little jump on the US Fleet at the up coming Nationals in Holland, MI in about a months time.

What were the highlights of this regatta?
  • Excellent service
  • Spectacular regatta venue and race management
  • Great food
  • Outstanding crew (Alain)
  • Very focused and trusting driver (Michael)
  • A few good tactical calls
  • Improvements in upwind speed
  • Solid downwind speed
  • Morning and evening bike rides along Lake Garda

What were the down sides of this regatta?
  • Broken bow sprit
  • It actually rained once
  • Traffic through Torbole
Here some more pics by Carlo Borlenghi, Renato Tebaldi, Meredith Block and Fabrizio Prandini
Bacio at leeward gate, Alain fighting with the kite
Bacio blasting downwind
All Ladies team "Troublemakers" showing how it is done!
Alain and Michael taming the beast, where's Chris?
Michael getting us around the leeward mark safely

For more pics and video by Mr Clean visit the Melges Europe Facebook page.

So far sailing in this class has been a blast and I can't wait to get back on the Melges 20!

Chris out

Monday, July 12, 2010

Melges 24 Volvo Cup in Torbole, Lake Garda

Last week I had the great opportunity to sail Melges 24 with my "old" Match Racing Team and the addition of Felix Kaiser on one of the most beautiful sailing venues in the World, Lake Garda. We were going to sail the Swiss EFG Bank Melges 24, Hull nr 336. Lake Garda didn't disappoint and we had 12 races sailed in 12-20 knots of "Ora" and sunshine, every day.
My team included Alain Stettler (an old high school buddy of mine) our trimmer, Patrick Zaugg our tactician, Pascal Alder our bow man and Felix Kaiser doing Middle.
Before the race even started we had a bit of drama. The racing was going to start on Thursday and somehow we thought it started on Friday! As Pascal and Felix were only arriving on Thursday evening we needed to find some replacement crew. Lucky enough for us, Dave Hudson (a good friend of our family) from Capetown was in town practicing for the Laser SB3 Worlds and we "borrowed" Marlon and Roscoe from his team for the first day.
Sailing in Torbole in the Melges 24 is really intense as usually you have to work the left side of the course, up the cliffs and then find the right moment to exit on port.
Having a fleet of 60 boats tacking up the shore provides for some interesting crossing situations and often some boats end up having to be taken out of the water at the end of the day. Not having practiced together at all we started a bit shaky and after two days were laying in eight place, knowing why the Italians are dominating this class. It's impressive how professional this guys run their campaigns! But in the mean time we had also managed to snitch a bullet from them and were drawing first blood....

The third day saw us sailing a consistent series with all top 8 finishes which solidified our position in the top eight, laying only ten points out of third. With three races to go, a podium finish was definitely still in reach. In the first race on the last day another mid-line start with a good transit line gave us a great lane to the cliffs and we were able to squeeze around the windward mark in 2nd. A couple of well placed gybes saw us take the lead and eventually the bullet. Nice way to start the last day of racing!

Things were looking good with 2 minutes to go before the start of the next race, but I was a bit trigger happy and jumped the gun. "OCS Bow number 99" came over the radio and we had to turn back to restart. After having some serious issues with connecting the dots on the first upwind, we eventually rallied back to 16th. Unfortunately the race was started under the Z-flag rule which meant that 20% of the fleet was added to our score (becoming our throw-out). The race committee signaled the warning signal to the last race 2 minutes before 14h00, the last possible time to do so and we were off to another race. We actually played the middle this time and rounded the mark in 4th. Ricardo Simoneschi on "Audi" and our team went back and forth for third place. We eventually got him on the last gybe to the finish, when "simo-gybed" with him and then rolled him. Needlessly to say the whole team was pleased with this last maneuver! Our finishes were: 7, 23, 4, 11, 1, 18, 6, 8, 5, 1, (16) and 3, putting us in 6th overall.
It was really nice to be sailing with some friends, bombing around lake Garda during the day, eating great food in the evening and closing the "Wind's Bar" at night. I guess this qualifies as a true active holiday in my book!
My thanks go out to all my team mates and to EFG Bank for providing us with a fine Melges 24 for this regatta.
More pictures to the regatta can be found here and the results can be found here.
Photo credits by Pierrick Contin