little big men – m32 worlds preview

little big men – m32 worlds preview

We’ve gotta give some applause to Luca Lalli and the boys on B-Lin, who stormed to a win and a new watch at the Melges 32 Pre-Worlds (at BBS) last weekend in San Francisco.  Lalli’s just 26 years old, and his crew is possibly the youngest in the 27-boat fleet, but to underestimate them is dangerous, as they proved both during the Audi Melges 32 Sailing Series, which Lalli won.

Going into tomorrow’s Worlds, Lalli and team now get the distinction of being about equal on odds with Pieter Taselaar’s (Bliksem) for the Championship.  That doesn’t mean we’re counting out the rest – we’ve said for ages that Kilroy (Samba) has a real shot at this one if his pros can keep his temper reined in, Class early adopter Jeff Ecklund (Star) seems to have the old vibe back now that Kostecki’s out of the picture, and Leenabarca, Full Throttle, and Red all will be in the thick of it. 

But we still think this is going to be a two-horse race:  The slick expat Dutchman dripping with attitude and loaded down with rum-swilling aussies against the wholesome young kid with the hungry but driven handlers and a crew of crisp, disciplined Mediterranean boys.  It’ll be a battle for the ages – especially if the breeze shows more than it did during an anticlimactic BBS.  So who’ll win?

Taselaar is about as cool a customer as there is, and Jeremy "Troll" Wilmot has shown time and time again that he’s got skills beyond his years, along with an awesome crew to back them up – most of whom were aboard for the 2009 Worlds victory. 18′ skiff helm Cocko is back at it, as are Pauly "I’m the spinnaker uppy/downy guy" Atkins, Alex Clegg, and of course Willem Creature Van Waay.   But B-Lin has some of 2010’s hottest sailors on his side, and it may not be the time to bet against them:  Lorenzo "Rufo" Bressani just took his second Melges 24 World title as driver in an 80-boat fleet in Estonia, and the old guys on the other boats don’t have anything like his finesse on a modern sportboat (sorry, Russell), nor his rapport with young owner Lalli  The second prong of Lalli’s trident is Flavio Favini – the elder statesman on this young team and the one who keeps the team calm and focused when the hotheads get out of hand, which is a danger.

But the guy that should make everyone else nervous is our old friend Federico Michetti.  He’s the gentle soul who seems so quiet and humble – yet he’s behind the biggest successes in the racing world right now as the head of Melges Europe.  Michetti constantly downplays his sailing ability, yet he is the only human being on the planet who’s won three Melges 24 World Championships.  Michetti built this team from scratch – much like the Uka Uka Racing Team he won two of his three M24 Worlds with – and his obsessive, almost military precision and devotion to detail is something rare in any sport.

So here’s our pick:  If the wind blows the way it usually does, look for B-Lin and Bliksem to be neck and neck for the entire regatta.  If it nukes, Bliksem will take it.  If it’s ‘usual conditions’, it’s B-Lin.  If it’s light, B-Lin, Star and Red will all be ahead of Bliksem, with Goombay Smash, Ramrod, and Viva mixing it up.  And there are a half dozen more who might be on the podium too – in truth, this is the healthiest big boat fleet on the water right now, and it should be a hoot to watch.  Keep your eye on the M32 site for a host of options on following it. Crew list is here, BBS results are here, and add your own ‘top three’ to the ‘who’s gonna win?’ thread for a chance to win a t-shirt from the event.

Here’s a Paige Brooks interview with young Luca, after his BBS victory.