19 January 2004 – The fifty-eight strong Melges 24 fleet opened their regatta at Terra Nova Trading Key West with two excellent races today. The only disappointment of the day was the weather, which failed to delivery the traditional Key West sunshine until mid afternoon and instead brought overcast skies and light showers.
Race one got underway on time and at the first attempt in 10 knots from 220 degrees. The left hand end of the line appealed to the big names and they were on the money. At the weather mark it was reigning World Champion Shark Kahn who popped out just ahead of the pack in front of Sebastian Col, helming Frenchman Philippe Ligot’s P&P Racing. Philippe Kahn rounded in third with Sean Scarborough fourth, Ireland’s Maurice “Prof” O’Connell, helming for Enda O’Coineen fifth and Nick Maxwell in sixth. Rounding in seventh and eighth respectively were brothers Jeff and Sheldon Ecklund. The brotherly rivalry between these two crews extends to the tacticians as well with Harry Melges calling the shots for Jeff and Hans Melges for Sheldon.
The first run saw lots of place changing with Col pulling into the lead by the leeward mark. Behind him Britain’s John Pollard, who had rounded the first mark in twelfth, sailed a blinder and pulled right up into second with Shark Kahn third, Philippe Kahn fourth and Martin Wedge fifth. In the Ecklund/Melges brotherly battle it was Sheldon who won out on this leg pulling up to sixth whilst Jeff had a lousy run ending up down in sixteenth. O’Connell dropped to seventh with Scarborough just behind him.
On the second lap Col took advantage of the clear air and opened up a great lead. The wind had dropped slightly and up the second beat it went right to 240. Behind Col, Pollard and the Kahns put on a great display battling for second place and at the line it was Philippe Kahn second, Pollard third and Shark Kahn fourth. Wedge managed to hang onto fifth from O’Connell, Sheldon Ecklund and Scarborough.
A heavy shower went through during the lunch break and race two then started in 14 knots from 240 degrees. Although the fleet got away on the first attempt there were a large number of boats OCS, seven of whom failed to recross the line including Col and O’Connell. The centre right seemed to be the sweet spot and at the windward mark Philippe Kahn headed the fleet from Flavio Favini, helming for Switzerland’s Franco Rossini, Mike Dow, Norway’s Jorgen Hege, Pollard and Kristian Nergaard, also from Norway. Yet again seventh and eighth round the mark were the Ecklund brothers with Jeff just ahead of Sheldon.
Favini managed to slip past Philippe Kahn on the first run while Pollard pulled up into third, Nergaard moved into fourth and dow dropped into fifth. Heje had a disappointing run rounding ninth whilst the Ecklunds pulled up a place with Jeff sixth and Sheldon seventh.
Up the second beat Favini pulled out around 20 seconds from Philippe Kahn while Nergaard moved up to third with Pollard fourth, Dow fifth and Sheldon Ecklund sixth. Shark Kahn sailed a very impressive beat and moved up to seventh from the mid teens just ahead of Britain’s Richard Thompson.
On the final run Favini and Philippe Kahn held first and second. Pollard managed to get the better of Nergaard and Shark Kahn kept the pressure on to take fifth with Bruce Ayres moving up from tenth to sixth. Sheldon and Hans won this leg of the Ecklund/Melges brother battle finishing seventh whilst Jeff and Harry had to settle for a twelfth.
In the overall standings Philippe Kahn leads the regatta by two points from John Pollard with Shark Kahn third. Sheldon Ecklund’s consistency was enough to put him in fourth just ahead of Flavio Favini and Franco Rossini’s Blu Moon team, whose win in the second race compensated for their sixteenth in the first. Sixth and seventh slots are filled by Brit’s Martin Wedge and Paul Brotherton, helming for Ian Cleaver, with Kristian Nergaard ninth and Italy’s Silvio Santoni, helming for Franco Maria Rao, in tenth.