13 October 2003 – Harry Melges scored two impressive wins on the opening day of the Audi Melges 24 World Championships in San Francisco. It was a tough day of racing for the sixty nine strong fleet which has gathered from 10 nations for this sixth Melges 24 World Championship.
After a four hour postponement the sea breeze finally made it in under the Golden Gate bridge and racing got under way on the Berkley circle in 14 knots from 230 degrees. The a general recall the fleet got away second time around with some individual recalls. Up the first beat it was the left hand side that paid and at the weather mark Harry Melges, helming for Jeff Ecklund, was just in the lead from Rob Greenhalgh, helming for Paul Lovejoy. Behind them local boy Seadon Wijsen took third, Luca Santella in Giovani Maspero’s “Joe Fly” fourth, Olivier Ponthieu fifth, Brian Porter sixth and Shark Kahn seventh. The stage was set for a battle royal between Greenhalgh and Melges with Greenhalgh getting the upper hand on the run and then just managing to hold off Melges up the second beat. At the second weather mark Melges came in from the left and had to dip to tack in behind Greenhalgh. On the second run Melges finally managed to get back into the lead which he hung onto all the way to the finish. Behind Melges and Greenhalgh the battle for third was equally tough with places changing at every mark. Santella eventually took it from Ponthieu with Shark Kahn in fifth.
For the second race the wind had increased to around 18 knots with occasional gusts up to 20 from 220 degrees and a building ebb tide brought up the chop. Again the first attempt to start was recalled before the fleet got away with individual recalls at the second attempt. This time it was the right that paid but again it was Melges who popped out clean at the weather mark. Dave Ullman followed him in with Flavio Favini, helming for Franco Rossini, third and Stuart Rix, helming for Quentin and Simon Strauss, fourth. Down the first run Melges had impressive speed and by the leeward mark had opened up a 1 minute 45 second lead. Shark Kahn also put in an outstanding run to come from 12th to second ahead of Rix and Ullman with Martin Wedge fifth. Up the second beat Melges opened up further whilst Kahn got some distance over the pack which was lead round the second weather mark by Wedge ahead of Favini, Rix and Ullman. The final lap saw Melges sailing conservatively to hang onto his lead whilst Favini dug in to pull up to second. Having sailed a smart second run Philippe Kahn had pulled right up from the cheap seats and he and son Shark rounded the second leeward mark neck and neck with Shark opting left whilst Philippe to the right hand side of the gate. Up the last beat Shark held third place but Philippe dropped back into fifth behind Rix.
Overall Harry Melges now leads by six points from Shark Kahn with Luca Santella third, Rob Greenhalgh fourth, Philippe Kahn fifth and Flavio Favini sixth. “We had good boat speed up wind which helped us a lot and we were able to get off the starting lines without too much trouble and if you can do that and get in the right lanes and go where you want it definitely helps a lot, but you have to have good speed. I’m happy with today, but there’s a lot of sailing to go!” Commented Harry Melges after racing.
Whilst no one will be shocked to hear that Harry Melges is leading the regatta, the fact that Shark Kahn, a thirteen year old who only helmed his first Melges 24 regatta in Key West last January, is hard on his heels in second has come as something of a surprise. The depth of talent in this fleet is exceptionally high yet Shark looked totally poised and at home in the thick of it. Father Philippe might be smarting a little at finding himself three places and six points behind his son, but I think we can guarantee he’s one very proud parent right now.