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Afternoon Delight At The Melges 17 Nationals, Dow Takes The Lead

28 August 2009

After a 90 minute on-shore postponement, the Melges 17 fleet went back on the water for a third race this late afternoon. A little more breeze, a longer race course and big shift on the first run were the characteristics of this afternoons racing. 

There was now enough wind for both skipper and crew to be on the high side and hiking out at times too. The 1.5 mile windward leg spread the fleet out pretty quick as the fleet split evenly left and right up the first beat of the race. Mary Anne Ward was leading at the top mark once again after sailing a fantastic leg. Mike Dow, Jim Hilgard and Lesa Gutenkunst were right there along with MC Midwinter Champion Rob Terry. (Rob is addicted to Melges Racing – he has an E, MC and Melges 17).

Down the first run the breeze shifted 60 degrees to the left forcing the PRO to rapidly adjust marks. The wind increased up to 11 mph so speeds were ramped up. The RC got the course set and the competitor adjusted their sail controls to handle increased velocity. At the top end of the beat Rob Terry and Mary Anne Ward exchanged tacks while Coye Harrett, Mike Dow and Lesa Gutenkunst fought their way to the front of the race.

At the top mark Ward was winning with Rob Terry just 20 yards dead astern. Harrett, Dow and Gutenkunst were 75 yards back but the race was not over. On this final run the leaders became lifted 20 degrees and their wind velocity went down. A bad combo. Gutenkunst and Dow jibed before they entered that zone and you could tell right away that they were going to be a major factor as the race progressed. As the boats separated you could not help but notice the “turned down” angles Dow and Gutenkunst were sailing. When they finally did jibe it was evident that these two boats had made big gains. Ward tried to jibe later and consolidate a bit but it was too late. Dow and Gutenkunst had made a big move and they sailed around the leaders.

At the finish Mike and Stephanie Dow won in style giving high fives. They were totally psyched about the days racing! They should be - they are winning the regatta after three races. Lesa and John Gutenkunst finished second in the race, Terry third and Ward dropped to fourth. 

The two race winner Sean Fidler battled back to get a seventh. Right now the regatta is tight between Mike Dow, Sean Fidler and Mary Anne Ward.

Good breeze is the forecast for tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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