Mamma Aiuto team leads Melges 32 Worlds

Published on December 3rd, 2014

Miami, FL (December 3, 2014) – The opening day of the Melges 32 World Championship completed two races, with winds in the teens sufficient enough in race one to retire past World Champ William Douglas with an epic broach. The early leader is Naofumi Kamei (JPN) and his Mamma Aiuto team with a 4-2, closely followed by defending champ Jason Carroll (USA) whose Argo team posted a 7-1. Racing continues daily to Dec. 7 with 10 races scheduled. ResultsPhotos by Carlo Borlenghi

Update from class media…
There’s an old saying in racing: You can’t win a World Championship on the first day of the regatta, but you can certainly lose it. And for more than half of the talented 17-boat Melges 32 World Championship fleet, the points spread is almost unimportant.

“We’re looking at the top 9 boats separated by just 9 points after two races,” explained Race Officer Anderson Reggio, leader of the Coconut Grove-based Race Committee that braved steep choppy seas and 15-20 knots of breeze to set the race course for the ultra-high performance Melges 32 racers. In contrast to those nine boats, the bottom half of the fleet finds itself with an uphill climb in the quest for a podium finish on Sunday.

Race 1 saw slightly less breeze than the nuclear conditions at the Pre-Worlds, with teams struggling just before the start to pick the right headsail and rig tension for the puffy course, and with just seconds to the start, Pierre Casiraghi aboard Robertissima staked his claim for the pin end of the starting line. Casarighi made it stick, leading out to the left, while 23 year-old Dalton DeVos (Holland, Michigan) and his Delta team stuggled with an average start, flushed out to the right of the course.

Dalton’s team found breeze and shift on their side, working their way back to the middle with a solid lead over the fleet; meanwhile, Robertissima played the shifts to reach the windward mark in third, sandwiched by two Japanese skippers. As DeVos raced down to the gate at speeds nearing 20 knots, Casarighi jumped into second place, splitting with Delta on the second beat. Meanwhile, the always-competitive Richard Goransson aboard Inga From Sweden reveled in the lumpy waves, grinding his way toward the front of the fleet after a mid-line start.

The young Michigander rounded the final mark just a boatlength ahead of the Monaco team, and the battle was on. “I really didn’t know how close they’d gotten – I’m generally too busy steering and trying to pick my way through the waves to really look around much,” said DeVos. “When we finally gybed and I saw them in front of us, I realized our lead had disappeared.”

DeVos wasn’t phased at all despite coming so close to the race win. “Second place is plenty to be happy with in this fleet,” he said, adding that the conditions were ‘pretty much perfect for these boats. Ripping through big waves, big breeze, and warm water are what they were created for!’

Picture-perfect conditions continued through a short break, and the aggression these teams are known for bubbled to the surface during the start of Race 2. With the entire team pushing the starting line with 10 seconds to go, there was no way Reggio and his team would see an ‘all clear’ start like Race 1, and four boats – including Race 1 winner Robertissima – were called ‘OCS’, returning to the start line to clear themselves.

With a long 2 mile beat, boatspeed and navigating the bigger waves efficiently was key, and it was reigning World Champion Jason Carroll’s Argo coming from the middle left with a three boatlength lead at the top mark. The New York-based racer – a competitor in every Melges 32 Worlds ever held – turned three boatlengths into some 3000 feet at the finish, beating second place Naofumi Kamei (Japan) over the line by over 2 minutes – an unheard of margin in Melges 32 championship racing.

“We were feeling pretty good about a hard-fought seventh in race 1, but that second race really was amazing for us,” said Carroll, who credited his crew with the victory. “That’s not going to happen too many times at this level of sailboat racing, and these guys earned every inch of it with their hiking and intensity right to the line.”

Multiple world champion helm Deneen Demourkas (Santa Barbara, California) showed her downwind form in Race 2, constantly passing boats on the runs to take third place for team Groovederci.

After sailing a mistake free Race 1 and collecting a 4th place, Japan’s Naofumi Kamei and his mostly Spanish team aboard Mamma Auito! showed good speed and smarts to take the second spot in Race 2 behind Carroll. Kamei’s 6 points is good enough for the overall Championship lead, and while Mama Aiuto’s Manu Weiller (Mallorca, Spain) said he was a little surprised to be leading after Day 1, he knew his team was ready for the Worlds.

“We progressed a lot and we felt strong going into this regatta,” said Weiller, who admitted that Mama Aiuto! wasn’t the fastest boat in the fleet today, but that was OK. “The crew had clean maneuvers, our skipper stayed calm, and we had a good day,” he said. “This Championship has barely begun.”

Two past World Champions – Dougie Douglass (Goombay Smash) and John Kilroy, Jr. (Samba Pa Ti) found themselves on the back foot after just two races: Douglass suffered a knockdown on the first downwind leg of the day, damaging a spinnaker and retiring from the race, while Kilroy was disqualified for a rules infringement at the chaotic top mark of Race 2.

With day one in the books, the motto for many teams it to ‘keep grinding’. There are four more long days ahead with plenty of opportunities for teams to rise or drop in the standings. The forecast remains similar for the coming days – a forecast that’s almost impossibly good for Melges 32 racing – and you’re invited to watch.

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