The 18′ Skiff International Regatta wasn’t quite a changing of the guard, Howard Hamlin, 53, was the winning skipper for the third time in five years -but if runner-up Samuel (Shark) Kahn, 17, is the wave if the future, that’s fine with Howie.
‘It’s great to see Shark doing so well,’ Hamlin said after wrapping up the title with first and second places Saturday. ‘Maybe it will draw other young kids into the class.’
Kahn passed former winner John Winning, 54, for second place on the last day, and the Australian indicated that he, too, would welcome an influx of youth, although he will continue to campaign around the world ‘if the body’s up to it.’
Saturday saw the lightest winds of the five-day regatta—15 knots over the middle of the course and 19 at the leeward mark—but it was still a test of skills and equipment.
At the start of the day Winning’s Yandoo was the only boat that hadn’t flipped all week, but that distinction vanished midway of the second three-lap race around the 1 ½-mile windward leeward course. While attempting a jibe one of his crew accidentally knocked the tiller out of his hand and over Yandoo went. Winning read that incident as a signal to call it a regatta and head for the beach.
That left the race to Kahn, with Hamlin finding himself second in a race he didn’t even have to sail.
‘We were just trying to stay out of everybody’s way [in fourth place],’ Hamlin said, ‘and then we got a puff downwind and there we were.’
Kahn fell back to third after finishing fourth in Saturday’s first race, but recovered with a purpose to improve on his third place of last year.
‘Second place is awesome,’ Kahn said. ‘The first race we were a little nervous and stressed. The second race we realized we had to sail really hard to put a boat between us [and Yandoo]. We were just kind of lucky. I didn’t know what happened to John.’
Hamlin ended the week winning five of the last seven races, and the victory sustained his spectacular roll sailing a variety of skiffs this summer. He already had won the European 18 Skiff title on Italy’s Lake Garda, finished a close second in the 505 worlds in Great Britain and won the International 14 Nationals at Long Beach—all with different but exceptionally strong crews. This week it was Mike Martin of Newport Beach, Calif. and Trent Barnabas of Australia.
Next month Hamlin will compete in the I-14 Worlds in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.
‘This was a great series against Yandoo and Shark,’ he said. ‘It was really tight all the time and it was windy all week, which is what we live for.’
The class leaves town for another year with its legend of camaraderie intact. As usual, there were no protests—is there ever?—and during the week even teams that had dropped out of races with broken boats were back down on the beach at Crissy Field helping more fortunate opponents carry their craft up through the sand onto the grass staging area.
Saturday morning Great Britain’s Peter Barton and crew Martin Borrett returned the bowsprit and dagger board they had borrowed from rival Pegasus Racing’s arsenal of equipment, not to mention the boat Hamlin loaned them but by week’s end was too damaged to continue.
Hamlin won his two JJ Giltinan world championships in that boat but figures it’s still repairable as a loaner, if it means putting another competitor on the water.
Barton plans to return.
‘Sailing a skiff on San Francisco Bay is like hiking on the slopes of Mount Everest,’ he said. ‘Sailing upwind and downwind is achievable, but across the wind is the death zone. You can survive there momentarily but you can’t live there.’
Winning had a warning for potential new campaigners: ‘In many classes you can read a book and go out and do it. They’ve made sailing too easy. The difference makes this class special.’
This is one of the class’s three major events each year, along with the JJ Giltinan World Trophy Championship in Sydney and the European champion held last June on Lake Garda in Italy.
FINAL STANDINGS (10 races; two discards):
1. Pegasus White, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Trent Barnabas, Long Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor YC, (2)-(3)-2-1-1-2-1-1-1-2, 11 points.
2. Pegasus Black, Samuel (Shark) Kahn/Cameron MacDonald/Paul Allen, Honolulu, Waikiki YC, 1-2-3-(5)-3-1-2-2-(4)-1, 15.
3. Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/’Geoff Bauchop, Sydney, Aust., Australian 18 Footers League, (3)-1-1-2-2-3-3-3-2-(DNF/8), 17.
4. DeLonghi, Grant Rollerson/Simon Nearn/Dan Wilsdon, Sydney, Australian 18 Footers League, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-4-3-4-DNF/8-5-6-3-3, 36.
5. Vodka Cruiser, Patrick Whitmarsh/Mark Breen/Ben Glass, Alameda, Calif., Monterey Peninsula YC, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-7-DNF/8-5-4-7-4-5-4, 44.
6. West Marine, Peter Barton/Martin Borrett/Ian Turnbull, United Kingdom, Royal Lymington YC, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-5-4-6-DNF/8-4-DNF/8-DNS/8-DNS/8, 51.
7. Skiff Sailing Foundation White, Chad Freitas/Dan Malpas/Matt Noble, San Francisco, St. Francis YC, (DNF/8)-4-6-(DNF/8)-7-DNF/8-6-5-DNF/8-DNF/8, 52.
Complete results and photos: www.stfyc.com (click successively on Regatta Information … 2006 Racing Calendar … August)
by Rich Roberts
St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco
Aug. 21, 2006
Bring on the big breeze for the 18 skiffs on the Bay
SAN FRANCISCO—Last year’s top three finishers have returned to San Francisco Bay for the fifth windy, wet and wild 18′ Skiff International Regatta Tuesday through Saturday.
Skippers of those three-man crews range in age from 2005 winner Howard Hamlin, 53, of Long Beach, Calif. and runner-up John Winning, 54, of Australia to Samuel (Shark) Kahn, 17, the latter a clear exception in the tightly knit class dominated by veterans.
This is one of the class’s three major events each year, along with the JJ Giltinan World Trophy Championship in Sydney and the European champion held last June on Lake Garda in Italy. Hamlin, with crew Mike Martin and Trent Barnabas, dominated the latter event with first place in 8 of 11 races and didn’t need to sail the next two. They were fifth in the Giltinan in February.
They’ll be challenged by Winning, Kahn and four other entries, including a team from the United Kingdom’s Royal Lymington Yacht Club led by Peter Burton, with Martin Borrett and Ian Turnbull as crew. Only Borrett has sailed here before, in International 14 regattas in 1989 and 1997.
“It’s spectacular,” he said. “We had a little taste of it [in practice] yesterday but it was only 15 knots.”
Twenty-plus is likely and the reason why the 18s—in any breeze the fastest monohulls on the planet—have given up using their taller masts here.
“We don’t need the big rig here,” said Hamlin. “Everyone’s used it once—and got smashed.”
Martin said, “At Garda we used only the big rigs. At Sydney we use the big rigs about 5 out of 7 days.”
Borrett said, “When we talked yesterday at breakfast I told Pete that we’re tying the big rig to the trailer and it’s not moving this week.”
Nevertheless, they’re here sailing 18s because, Borrett said, “we’re addicted to speed.”
The schedule calls for 10 races over five days starting at 1 p.m., twice around a 1 ½-mile windward-leeward course set for ideal spectator viewing from just inside the Golden Gate Bridge past the Crissy Field staging area and the host St. Francis Yacht Club. The exception will be a later start Friday followed by the annual Bridge to Bridge race when the 18s will mix it up with kite boards and windsurfers.
The British trio has borrowed Hamlin’s extra boat but has been sailing 18s for three years. Barton, 38, won the European Grand Prix series in 2005 and finished fifth in the European Championships won by Hamlin’s team this summer.
Hamlin and Martin also are on individual rolls. Sailing with other crew, Hamlin was second in the 505 Worlds last month and won the International 14 U.S. Nationals at Long Beach a week ago.
Martin won the 505 North Americans in 20-25 knots here last week with seven wins in 11 races.
ENTRIES (10 races, 2 discards):
DeLonghi, Grant Rollerson/Simon Nearn/Dan Wilsdon, Sydney, Australian 18 Footers League.
Pegasus Black, Samuel (Shark) Kahn/Cameron MacDonald/Paul Allen, Honolulu, Waikiki YC.
Pegasus White, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Trent Barnabas, Long Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor YC.
Skiff Sailing Foundation Blue, Patrick Whitmarsh/Kevin Richards/Ben Glass, Alameda, Calif., Monterey Peninsula YC.
Skiff Sailing Foundation White, Chad Freitas/Dan Malpas/Matt Noble, San Francisco, St. Francis YC.
West Marine, Peter Barton/Martin Barrett/Ian Turnbull, United Kingdom, Royal Lymington YC.
Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/’Geoff Bauchop, Sydney, Aust., Australian 18 Footers League.
Complete results and photos: www.stfyc.com (click successively on Regatta Information … 2005 Racing Calendar … August)
cell (310) 766-6547
17 October 2003 – Fourteen year old Samuel “Shark” Kahn sailed into the record books today becoming the youngest person ever to win a Melges 24 World title and probably the youngest open international class world champion as well.
Today’s final race proved to be a real nail biter. Firstly the sea breeze was late arriving putting John Craig’s Race Committee under pressure to get a race in before the 2pm cut off. By 1.30pm there was just enough wind from 295 degrees and after two recalls they started on the third attempt with just minutes to spare.
On all three starts Kahn and second placed Harry Melges, helming for Jeff Ecklund, were match racing for position. Although he got the better of the deal in the first two Melges was bested by Kahn on the third. At the weather mark Kahn was fifth behind Sebastien Col, helming P&P for Phillipe Ligot, John Bertrand, Argyle Campbell and Dietrich Scheder. Melges eventually rounded fourteenth and took the only choice open by breaking away from the fleet. With the sea breeze building and backing like crazy it was a step that didn’t pay and by the leeward mark he was in sixteenth. Despite a fair bit of place changing Kahn had held fifth behind Col, Olivier Ponthiu, Campbell and Brian Porter.
By now the wind had backed 65 degrees putting the second weather mark at 230. Again Melges broke away from the fleet hoping for a miracle but only gained a single place, meanwhile Campbell had a lousy beat and Kahn moved up into fourth. On the final run the leading four of Col, Ponthiu, Porter and Kahn began to open out from the pack and again Melges broke away, but ended up back in sixteenth as a result. At the leeward mark Ponthiu opted for the right whilst the rest went left giving Kahn his opportunity to pull up into third. Melges too went right but it was a desperate measure which dropped him right down to 21st, his worst result of the regatta.
Kahn seems a little bemused by his success and the enormity of his achivement, but is keen to pay tribute to his crew of Team Captain Mark “Crusty” Christensen, Tactician Richard Clarke, Spinnaker/Jib trimmer Brian Hutchinson and Bow Brian Lee, Shark’s 20 year old cousin who is also his 29er crew. “I’m kind of overwhelmed and really don’t know what to think at the moment. I really didn’t expect this. My crew were fantastic and on the starts today it was Mark Christensen who really helped me get the better start.” commented Kahn after racing. Asked about the future he confirmed “I’ve got some more 29er sailing coming up and I’m going to be doing the 505 Worlds and the Melges Nationals which are both in Santa Cruz and long term I’m aiming to do a 49er Olympic campaign.”
Kahn had the advantage of sailing with three of the World’s top professional sailors, but in a fleet of this calibre, which includes more Olympic, America’s Cup, one-design, Volvo and big-boat champions than you can shake the proverbial stick at, this alone is not enough. Since making his Melges 24 helming debut at Key West Race Week 2003 Kahn has spent more than 60 days out on the water learning his craft in the Melges 24, many of them on San Francisco Bay. He’s also campaigning a 29er with his 20 year old cousin Brian Lee, the fifth member of his Melges 24 crew, adding still further to the time he puts in on the water. Along side Shark’s personal development he also has the full support of his father – a big advantage when your father is Philippe Kahn, the softwear mogul, and you get access to all the facilities of his mighty Pegasus yacht racing organisation.
A disappointed Harry Melges was graceful in defeat – “Shark and his boys did an awsome job and really deserved the title, but I’m beginning to feel a little old! It’s been a great regatta and San Francisco and the St Francis Yacht Club have given us near perfect conditions and racing.”
In the overall standings Kahn took the regatta by nine points from Melges with Brian Porter third, Luca Santella with Giovani Maspero’s Joe Fly team fourth and Sebastian Col and Phillipe Ligot’s P&P fifth. The winner of the Corinthian World Championship title, for the first amateur crew, and sixth overall was Egidio Babbi.
16 October 2003 – If you’d told us six days ago that a fourteen year old kid would have Harry Melges on the ropes going into the final day of the Audi Melges 24 World Championship in San Francisco we’d have politely laughed you out of court. Today we have egg on our faces and Shark Kahn and his Pegasus 1 crew of Richard Clarke, Mark Christensen, Brian Hutchenson and Brian Lee have Harry Melges, Jeff Ecklund, Hans Melges and Steve Inman well and truly worried.
Today’s two races brought thrills and spills as Melges and Kahn both found themselves down in the cheap seats for a change. After yesterday’s shifts the wind was rock steady at 225 and racing got underway at lunch time in 6 knots, which increased to around 16 knots by the end of race eight.
The first start was fraught and Harry Melges ended up wallowing in the third row as the fleet, and his main rival, sped off up the beat. After a first mark rounding at 29th Melges spent the race playing catch up to eventually finish 11th. Kahn meanwhile was once again showing that he is not to be trifled with and took second place on the first lap behind Paul Brotherton, helming for Ian Cleaver. By the second windward mark Kahn had the lead and eventually won by nearly two minutes. Brotherton duelled with Kerry Poe for second as Brian Porter, Flavio Favini, helming for Franco Rossini, Egidio Babbi and Sebastian Col made heavy work out of fourth, eventually crossing the finish line in that order within seconds.
In race eight it was Kahn’s turn to find himself out in the cold. Having put in a respectable beat he looked set for a top ten first rounding as he approached on port. Unfortunately the starboard layline was full to bursting and couldn’t find a slot until the low 20s. If his older and more experienced rivals hoped this would leave the youngster dazed and confused they were to be sadly disappointed and Kahn simply dug in and worked his tail off, finally finishing sixteeth. Up ahead Melges was fairing only a little better, his first mark rounding of tenth seemed solid enough and with his legendary speed the spectators fully expected him to storm his way to the front. By the second windward mark he was up to seventh but he lost again on the second run and found himself back in tenth, eventually just pipping Sebastian Col on the finish line for eight. At the front of the fleet reigning Melges 24 European Champion Luca Santella, helming Giovani Maspero’s Joe Fly Team, took the tape for only the second time this regatta winning the race by a over a minute. Brian Porter eventually took second after some fun and games with Dave Ullman. Don Jesberg was fourth while Sheldon Ecklund and local hero Seadon Wijsen struggled over fifth with Ecklund finally getting it. Rob Greenhalgh, helming for Paul Lovejoy, came in seventh just ahead of Melges.
Going into the final day Shark Kahn now leads on 17 points with Harry Melges just one point behind him. Brian Porter (42 points) and Luca Santella (47 points) are set for an equally tight battle for third place. Since Cedric Pouligny and Morgan Reeser swopped helm/tactician roles the P&P Team have seen an significant improvement in their fortunes and they are now lying fifth overall (65 points) ahead of Egidio Babbi (71 points), Rob Greenhalgh (72 points), Dave Ullman (74 points), Paul Brotherton (78 points) and Jamie Lea (84 points).
The leaders were not the only ones to have an eventful day. The most serious incident was a leeward mark collision in race eight between Keith Grzelak and Denise Surtees which left Grzelak with a large hole in the port quarter and Surtees with a broken pole. Fortunately Grzelak’s crew were able to stuff the hole with a sail bag and keep the boat fully heeled to starboard for the tow home. Martin Wedge was the other high profile casualty when he lost his rig in race eight and found himself forming an interesting obstruction on the second down wind leg. Fortunately the St Francis Yacht Club safety team swung into immediate action in both cases escorting everyone safely to the dock.
Two final races are schedule for tomorrow, although the fact that racing is already postponed until noon and no races can be started after two pm will make for a tight programme.
15 October 2003 – Harry Melges showed blistering speed on day three at the Audi Melges 24 World Championships in San Francisco to take two further bullets. Although very happy with his result Melges by no means had it all his own way and today’s racing was fast, furious and incredibly close. Melges’ nearest rival for the Championship, fourteen year old Shark Kahn, kept up an incredibly consistent performance posting a third and second leaving him trailing by just five points after six of the ten scheduled races.
Conditions on the Berkley Circle were the most testing so far with a shifting wind which built from 12 to 20 knots as the day wore on. The start of race five was initially delayed as a front went through and the wind flipped back and forward through 20+ degrees. After a general recall the fleet got going with some individual recalls at the second try. The right hand end of the line was favoured with the main players opting for right of centre up the first beat.
Britain’s Jamie Lea, helming Richard Thompson’s Black Seal Team, troubled the front of the fleet for the first time this week rounding just ahead of Melges, Argyle Campbell, Don Jesberg, Stuart Rix, helming Team Gill for Simon & Quentin Struass, Shark Kahn and Dave Ullman. The front of the fleet was incredibly closely packed and with the flood tide pushing them away from the mark a number of boats found themselves having to take a second go at it or doing turns for infringements as they barged their way in.
As the leaders took off down the run Melges was the first to gybe away whilst Lea held on starboard into the corner. At the leeward mark Melges was ahead by a whisker and took the left mark whilst Lea went for the right. Jesberg slotted in third ahead of Phillipe Ligot’s P&P Racing, being helmed today by Le Defi America’s Cup mainsail trimmer Sebastian Col, who had swopped places with Morgan Reeser. Shark Kahn was fifth and Rob Greenhalgh sixth. Col and Greenhalgh had sailed impressive runs to move up from eighth and ninth respectively.
The wind had gone left forcing the committee to relay the weather mark for the second beat. Harry Melges had great speed and opened up his lead to 40 seconds by the end of the leg. Shark and Lea were neck and neck with Shark just getting the advantage as they rounded. Jesberg led the rest of the pack off down the run followed by Col, Ullman, Tom Freytag and Rix. Although Melges was out on his own Shark, Jesberg, Lea and Ligot grouped up and were changing places constantly down the run. At the leward mark Lea just got in front of Jesberg from Shark and Col with all four boats rounding overlapped.
On the final beat the leading pack went hard right and the spectators were on the edges of their seats to see who would wind up second. At the line it was Col who followed Melges in head of Shark, Lea and Jesberg. Sheldon Ecklund had moved up to sixth with Brian Porter seventh.
The unstable breeze meant a long wait for race six by which time the tide had turned and the chop was building. The wind had settled at 18 to 20 knots from 205 degrees and the fleet got away first time with a few recalls. Again the smart money seemed to like the right and this time it was Col who led at the first mark from Melges. Behind them Shark Kahn was just able to sail over Argyle Campbell to take third with Lea fifth and Greenhalgh sixth. As they took off down the run Melges and Shark gybed early and split from the fleet but at the leeward mark the top five places remained the same whilst Philippe Kahn pulled into sixth infront of Olivier Ponthieu and Greenhalgh.
On the second beat Melges just sailed right past Col who could do nothing but watch him go by. Shark held onto his third place as Greenhalgh made a couple of smart moves to take fourth from Lea, Campbell, Freytag and Philippe Kahn. On the second run Shark was the only boat to gybe off and gained as a result. Col had a minor broach half was down loosing several seconds. At the leeward mark it was Melges by 25 seconds from Shark. Behind them Col, Greenhalgh, Lea and Campbell rounded together and set up for a thrilling dog fight to the finish. Melges crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of Shark with Col eventually pipping Greenhalgh for third with Lea fifth.
With six races completed the discard now comes into play and whilst the top four positions haven’t changed there is now a significant points gap between Harry Melges (6 points), Shark Kahn (11 points) and the rest of the fleet. Third placed Luca Santella, helming Giovani Maspero’s Joe Fly Team, scored a somewhat lacklustre 13, 9 today leaving him on 32 points while Brian Porter’s 7, 10 gives him 36 points and fourth overall. Rob Greenhalgh moves up from seventh to fifth (39 points), P&P went from sixteenth to sixth (49 points), Dave Ullman dropped a place to seventh (51 points) and Jamie Lea came up from eighteen to equal eighth with Philippe Kahn (53 points). Stuart Rix came from fifteenth to tenth (58 points).
With four more races to go it’s still wide open between Harry Melges and Shark Kahn and third to fifth are only separated by seven points so we can expect plenty more fun out of this championship.
14 October 2003 – After two more tough races at the Audi Melges 24 World Championships in San Francisco Harry Melges, helming for Jeff Ecklund, is still hanging onto his overall lead although fourteen year old Shark Kahn is giving him plenty to worry about and is now only 3 points behind him. “It was a good day but we missed a few opportunities and I don’t think we were quite as fast. I think some of the others found some speed today so it was tough.” commented Harry Melges after racing.
Racing was delayed until midday to allow the breeze to build and the fleet started on the last of the flood tide with some individual recalls in 8-10 knots from 210 degrees. The right hand end of the line was definitely favourite and the wind clocked about 15 degrees up the first beat. Shark Kahn lead round the first mark from Bruce Ayres, Egidio Babbi and Kenneth Kaan. Behind them a number of boats misjudged the strength of tide and understood the mark. Benoit Charon just managed to shoot the mark for fifth but Kerry Poe, along with a number of others, was forced to bail out and was left battling for a way back in through the starboard tack wall.
By the first leeward mark Shark had opened up a 30 second lead from the pack whilst Kaan had pulled up to second from Babbi. Paul Brotherton sailed a very smart run to come from the teens up to fourth whilst Ayres dropped to fifth in front of Harry Melges who’d also pulled up from the teens.
Shark pulled out his lead to a minute and ten seconds on the second beat whilst Babbi moved up to second with Melges third, Kaan fourth, Brotherton fifth and Ayres sixth. Shark covered to the finish whilst behind him Melges got past Babbi as Kahn and Ayres held fourth and fifth respectively with Brotherton sixth.
By race four the wind was up to 14-16 knots and the tide had turned bringing up the chop. The fleet got underway at the second attempt and again they like the right hand end of the line. Shark Kahn yet again got the measure of the first beat and this time it was Luca Santella, helming Giovani Maspero’s Joe Fly Team, who was hot on his heels at the weather mark with Ayres third, Melges fourth, Hubert Guy fifth, Doug Weitz sixth and Sheldon Ecklunk seventh. Brian Porter rounded eighth but having forced his way in was forced to do a turn on the spreader leg and dropped back to thirteenth.
Santella and Shark Kahn had a humdinger of a battle down the first run with Santella just in the lead by the bottom mark. Both of them opted for the right gate with Melges following in at the head of the pack. First to opt for the left was Dave Ullman who’d come from tenth to fourth down the run. Weitz had pulled up to fifth with Porter sixth, Rob Greenhalgh seventh and Brotherton ninth.
Up the second beat Santella opened up 30 seconds on Shark while Porter moved up to third. Melges had a lousy beat and dropped back to tenth leaving Weitz in fourth, Greenhalgh fifth, Ullman sixth and Ayres seventh.
The final lap saw no change in the top three but Melges showed that he might be down but he sure wasn’t out and managed to pull back up to fourth with Ullman fifth and Weitz sixth. Greenhalgh had to be content with seventh from Ayres.
Overall Harry Melges, Shark Kahn and Luca Santella remain in the top three slots, while Brian Porter has moved up to fourth. After racing Porter’s crew member Vince Brun, who already holds two Melges 24 World titles as helmsman, commented on his new role as trimmer “I’m really enjoying the sailing but it’s very hard work to be trimming instead of helming. I think I’m getting to old!”
A disapointing 17, 13 score line was still enough to leave Philippe Kahn, father of the fourteen year old Shark, in fourth place with Ullman sixth, Greenhalgh seventh, Babbi eighth and Ayres ninth. Local boy Seadon Wijsen rounds out the top ten.
With his 1, 2 score line Shark Kahn, the teenage surprise from Hawaii, was definitely today’s most consistent performer. After racing Shark acknowledged that his crew of Richard Clark (Illbruck Volvo Race, three times Canadian Olympic Finn representative), Mark Christensen (multiple Volvo race veteran), Brian Hutchenson (Melges 24 sailing guru) and Brian Lee (Shark’s 20 year old cousin) are playing a vital role in his success at this event along with a huge amount of practise. “In the past 8 months we’ve done about 60 days sailing. We’ve done a lot of smaller regattas, we did San Diego Regatta, a lot of regattas up here, two on the Berkeley Circle and four on the City front and we’ve done a lot of training in Hawaii with Dave Ullman and my Dad.” said Shark, who also paid tribute to his Dad’s support of his campaign. “I’m just really lucky to be able to do this because of my Dad who offered me the opportunity and I just want to keep doing it.”
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.