Challenging conditions to open Melges 20 US Nationals

Published on April 17th, 2015

Charleston, SC (April 17, 2015) – Opening day at the 2015 U.S. National Championship held in conjunction with Sperry Charleston Race Week (CRW) granted the Audi Melges 20 fleet three nice races with a stab at a fourth. Under overcast skies and light rain teams went racing in 8-10 knots of breeze that fluctuated throughout the day due to the passing weather front. Blend tricky breeze with Charleston’s impressive current and you’ve got a perfect recipe for some very challenging yacht racing.

The first race of the day started on time with a light drizzle and defending U.S. National Champion Cesar Gomes Neto on Portobello wasting no time getting ahead of the game. Gomes Neto, defending Charleston Champion Jason Michas on Midnight Blue, Richard Davies’ Section 16 and Mike Keefe’s Flannel punched the line for a fast start approaching the top mark in a fierce battle for position. At the first weathermark Gomes Neto charged around in first, ahead of Tom Kassberg’s Flygfisk, Wes Whitmyer’s Slingshot, Davies and Bob Hughes’ Heartbreaker. After a lap around the track, both Davies and Keefe made big gains upwind proving that speed was critical. Gomes Neto maintained the lead to take the win, Davies placed second and Keefe was third. Kassberg finished in fourth and Bruce Golison’s Midlife Crisis rounded out the top five.

The rain finally let up for Race Two and everything seemed to come together for fleet newcomer Brian Porter racing on Full Throttle. Porter played the shifts just right to lead the fleet around the buoys with Michas snapping at his heels the entire way. Kassberg kept up the pace in third, followed by Drew Weirda’s Peshmerga. Gomes held in to finish fourth with Whitmyer in fifth.

By this time, the breeze was really starting to show signs of diminishing which was what most forecasts had predicted. It was getting pretty late in the afternoon when the Race Committee (RC) reset the line and sent the fleet racing shortly thereafter with Golison and Michas in a tight fight for first. Michas won the mark but Golison was not about to let him get away. Downwind Golison’s boat speed mixed with some fresh pressure gave him the overall lead at the gate. Michas slid into second with Porter in third, Gomes Neto in fourth and Whitmyer in fifth. Upwind Golison kept it in high gear extending his lead ever so slightly, with Porter now making a move on Michas in second. With Porter and Michas locking horns for second and third, Golison made getting the win look easy.

“This is only our second regatta and we are still trying to learn,” said Golison who is sailing with his long-time Etchell’s tactician Richard Clarke and younger brother Jay. “We got a great start and just tried to do our best. For us right now, everything is baby steps so, we got our first win in, and a first success is important.” Not too bad for a guy who has been the PRO for the Audi Melges 20 Class at its highly successful Miami Winter Series for more than five years!

Although only four boats are competing for the Corinthian title, the racing is pretty tight with Canada’s Paul Currie on Wild Deuces leading. Another new face in the fleet – Robbie Wilkins on Vamoose is only one point behind.

With Saturday’s weather forecasts calling for marginal conditions, the RC was willing to attempt another race. Race Four started out well, but as the race progressed, literally the breeze vanished. It wasn’t long before the RC realized that abandonment was the only solution.

Day One Standings (Top 10 of 22; 3 Races)
1.) Cesar Gomes Neto, Portobello; 1-4-4 = 9
2.) Bruce Golison, Midlife Crisis; 5-6-1 = 12
3.) Jason Michas, Midnight Blue; 8-2-3 = 13
4.) Brian Porter, Full Throttle; 11-1-2 = 14
5.) Tom Kassberg, Flygfisk; 4-3-8 = 15
6.) Wes Whitmyer, Slingshot; 7-5-5 = 17
7.) Richard Davies, Section 16; 2-14-6 = 22
8.) Mike Keefe, Flannel; 3-15-7 = 25
9.) Paul Reilly, Red Sky Sailing Team; 10-7-14 = 31
10.) Drew Weirda, Peshmerga; 6-18-11 = 35

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