Melges 24 Teams Roll Into Town For Sheehy Lexus Of Annapolis World Championship
24 October 2009
Annapolis, MD, USA - 24 October 2009 - There is no shortage of top teams competing to claim the top spot at the forthcoming Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis Melges 24 World Championship and as the fleet begins to assemble here in Annapolis, Justin Chisholm caught up with a few key players to gauge the mood and find out about their individual preparation for the regatta.
Undoubtedly amongst those considered as likely contenders for the title will be the potent combination of serial one-design champion helm Bill Hardesty and double Melges 24 World Champion Vince Brun (1998, 1999) who will be sailing together aboard USA 553 Event's Closing/Atlantis. Hardesty himself is no stranger to Melges 24 World Championship success, having been part of Dave Ullman's 2007 title winning crew in Santa Cruz. In addition, the Brun/Hardesty combo have a Melges 24 World Championship pedigree of their own, as Hardesty explains. "Vince and I sailed together a great deal ten years ago leading up to him steering us to victory in the 1999 Melges 24 Worlds in Long Beach. Now the roles are reversed, with me steering and Vince calling tactics. This year we sailed in this configuration at the three-regatta Etchells Jaguar Series in Miami, where our primary focus was developing our communication and mutual understanding. It is this and the level of intensity that I believe we both bring to the Melges 24 program."
When assembling the rest of the crew for this campaign Hardesty's dual strategy appears to have been to surround himself with both talent and familiar faces. "We have trimmer Matt Cassidy who I have sailed for six or seven years now. Dave Hughes and I have sailed Etchells a lot back in San Diego and I know that his unwavering focus will be a huge asset in keeping the team headed in the right direction. Last but not least we have Sarah Callahan who sails pretty much full time and lives on a 'zero budget, will sail for food' kind of attitude. She and I sailed the 2008 J22 worlds and there is no doubt she will keep the crew hiking hard."
With such a strong team around him it is no surprise that Hardesty is looking forward keenly to the challenge ahead in Annapolis, but he is clearly also in no doubt about the level of international competition they will be facing. "The beauty of the Melges 24 is that the level is always high. When you look at the potential top players, there is clearly a local favorite in Terry Hutchinson, but also I think the Italians are going to be a real threat. Uka Uka Racing as an example are the defending World Champions and have won nearly every regatta they have raced, including the recent European Championship." Taking all these factors into consideration, the goal Hardesty set for himself and the 'Ask Vince' crew is a simple one. "We are aiming to be a player on the last day of the regatta. Specifically, we need to be fast to make that happen. Annapolis can be a tricky place to race so we will need to be on our game tactically, but there's nothing like good speed to help get you out of trouble."
No Melges 24 World Championship would be complete without the presence of brothers Brian and John Porter. In Annapolis the talented siblings will be racing as ever aboard their USA 749 Full Throttle, along with regular crewmembers Harry Melges and Andy Burdick. This team is always a force to be reckoned with and come to this event as the reigning U.S. National Champions, but according to Andy Burdick they have done little competitive Melges 24 sailing together since that victory in June. "The Nationals in San Francisco was the last time all four of us raced together, but we have been working hard to get some quality practice time in leading up to the Worlds." Burdick says the Full Throttle crew always have just one goal and that is to sail to the best of their ability. "If we do this, we will be happy with any position in the fleet. The hardest thing to deal with is when you know you haven't sailed to your ability and have to settle for an inferior result." Burdick appears ambivalent about the wide range of conditions likely to be on offer in Annapolis. "The Full Throttle crew always hopes for breeze, but if there is some light air in Annapolis that may be good for us too as it may mix things up and might make the regatta a bit more interesting results-wise. You have to be able to sail well in everything to win, but if we had a choice we would take wind – and of course plenty of warm sunshine."
Owner-driver Simon Strauss and his hard working crew aboard USA 757 Simplicity look to be one of the best prepared teams in town, having put together a comprehensive training schedule leading up to the World Championship. Strauss explains "The Simplicity crew consists of Bora Gulari as tactician, Genny Tulloch on bow, spinnaker trimmer Willem Van Waay, Jane deLashmutt on traveller, and me as helm. Together we have sailed several major Melges 24 regattas together this year as well as both of the pre-Worlds tune-up regattas. During the championship itself we will be sharing the expertise of coach Ed Adams with two other top boats.’"
Despite having to face up against some of the biggest names in sailing at this event, Strauss and his crew remain un-phased by the challenge. "Some people are intimidated by the level of sailors at a Melges 24 Worlds, but for us, it's always exciting to share the racecourse with the cream of the crop. We particularly enjoy racing against the top Europeans so we're glad to see the Joe Fly, Uka Uka Racing, and Blu Moon squads back in town. Without a doubt their presence raises the level of everyone around them. Most of the world's best are registered for this one and the level of even a mid-pack team is extremely high in this fleet so we expect every spot in the top twenty will be incredibly hard fought."
Strauss sums up his crew's collective approach to the World Championship like this "We hope we have put in the time and effort to get ourselves in the top ten this year and I personally believe we could even get break into the top five; but only if we sail error free for the entire week. Every member of the Simplicity crew wants to win as well as have fun; so we'll focus on starting well, sailing fast and keeping a smile on our faces."
Registration is underway and will conclude on Sunday 25 October, there will be Pre-Worlds racing on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 October and the Championship will run from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 October with up to twelve races scheduled. For the live from the race course blog, daily reports and results plesae visit the Event Web Site. Please note that the Sailing Instructions and Entry List are now available online.
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