First Time’s A Charm

First Time’s A Charm

For the many teams spending a week or more preparing for the 2009 Audi Melges 32 World Championship in Porto Cervo, it’s go time.  The ten race series pits some of the best sailors in the world against one another as well as the fluky winds on tap for the first part of this first-ever M32 Worlds.  The crew lists are a who’s who of Grand Prix sailing, from America’s Cup to Olympics to Match Race Tour to Volvo Ocean Race, and many of those top rock stars will be stuck in the middle of the fleet, ground down by tough conditions and the ruthless battle that is top-level one design sailing; and of course, we’ll be there to cover every start, every mark rounding, and every finish.  Our On-The-Water video coverage is unlikely to see live streaming action from the course, but the delays are short and we’ll keep you clued in via forum posts until you can check videos and pictures out. And we’ve got a great bonus in our OTW "Cocktail Hour," a fully live, hour-long talk show with some of the biggest players in sailing.  Today’s little practice run of our talk show went off relatively smoothly with PRO Peter Reggio, Audi event organizer Stefano Bareggi and Offshore Rules editor Justin Chisholm, and you can see their take on the favorites for the race, the hardest part of organizing this kind of event, the details of start line management, and much more right here in our Cocktail Hour archives.  You can also check out video of the entire practice race and pics of previous practices here in the pre-worlds thread.

Our picks for the regatta would be a lot easier if the forecast was nicer, but instead of Sardinia’s famous Northwesterly ‘Mistral’, the fleet is going to face unsettled Easterlies with plenty of rain and unreliable breeze.  This will put a premium on tactical genius, bold moves, and the ability to get off the line in lumpy conditions against some of the world’s best.  Pre-event favorite Pieter Taselaar on Bliksem won’t get the kind of breeze that he’s shown such mastery in during his victories in Miami and Italy, and while gold medalist tactician Nathan Wilmot will certainly keep him near the money spots, he’ll have to work a hell of a lot harder for it than he might if the Mistral came to play.  So we’ve got Bliksem in third for the event.  For second place we think Calvi Network’s Carlo Alberini is a safe bet,  fresh off an overall victory of the 2009 Audi Sailing Series, with the hot Gabriele Benussi calling the shots.  And for the overall championship, we simply cannot bet against the Federico Michetti-built Team 92, helmed by Mumm 30 World Champ Claudio Recchi, who easily won some of the early 20+ boat events in his first M32 (Team 93 is his second) and has Flavio Favini on main and Jonathan McKee on tactics to help his bid to become the first M32 World Champ.

But the dark horses are not so dark, with 15 boats easily in contention to win races – something you don’t see in many classes at this level.  Vincenzo Onorato (with long time tactician Ado Stead on Mascalzone Latino), and Giovanni Maspero (with the stellar Francesco Bruni on Joe Fly) are two of the most skilled owner-drivers on Earth, and these are there home waters, fickle as they might be this week.  Maspero turned some heads today with a blow-out victory of the practice race, though he was even further over the line than the rest of the OCS fleet during the rainy start.  Uka Uka Racing may not be the exact same team as the M24 World Championship squad, but Armando Giuletta can drive the boat hard, while M24 Champ Rufo Bressani can keep him moving fast and towards the target.  Anthony Kotoun and Steve Liebel are getting Geoff Perini on Shakedown around the track very quickly, while the New York kids on Argo not only have the hottest chicks in the fleet (see ‘Lost In Translation" below), they have some major wheels in helmsman Jason Carroll as well as one of the best bowman on the planet.  It’s hard to be hotter than Ray Davies right now, fresh off his dominating Medcup victory, and Matrix is a wildcard, easily able to put together some solid races.  Stu Simpson’s Barbarians, Filippo Pacinotti’s Brantolo, and Joe Woods’ Red can also easily win races – and if they come early enough, any one of these teams could vie for the podium.

As we sit in the bar writing this report, there are plenty of top sailors still milling about despite the importance of getting a good start to the regatta.  The vibe here has been like that; fun, relaxed, and lacking the snobbery and over-serious attitudes associated with other Grand Prix classes, though the level of competition is clearly as high as almost any regatta there is  –  whoever wins this one will surely deserve it.

You can check out crew lists here, an official entry list here, and of course you can follow all the action tomorrow in the Day 1 thread on On-The-Water Anarchy, as well as another live streaming episode of Cocktail Hour on Justin.TV after the racing.   In just a few hours, it all begins, so strap on your helmet and let’s go watch some racing.

And please support the sponsors who help support this great coverage and Class – Melges Europe, Melges Performance Sailboats and the International Melges 32 Class.  And our long time supporter and offical apparel provider Tom Carruthers at Point Loma Outfitting, who’s already thinking of fun prizes and discounts to reward our audience for being a part of OTW Anarchy.