Thursday, September 10, 2009

Spectacular Day Of Melges 32 Racing Unfolds In San Francisco

PHOTO CREDIT: ©2009 JOY International Melges 32 Class Association
2009 U.S. National Championship

San Francisco, Calif. (September 10) - It just doesn't get much better than this. Moderate breeze, flat water, nice temps and some really competitive, high-powered one-design racing on San Francisco Bay, that is the 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series Melges 32 U.S. National Championship hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club. Five incredible teams hit the course to vie for yet another major regatta title. Leading the charge is Andy Lovell (New Orleans, La.) on USA-136 Rougarou.

Racing kicked off on time under beautiful conditions. Out of the gate with what appeared to be an almost immediate lead, Lovell was quick to tack to the right with Stephen Pugh (Sausalito, Calif.) on USA-158 Taboo alongside. On the left, but not for long was recently crowned North American Champion Don Jesberg (San Francisco, Calif.) on USA-162 Viva alongside of Philippe Kahn (San Francisco, Calif.) on USA-166 Pegasus 32 and fleet newcomer Pat Hughes (Davenport, Minn.) on USA-125 Melvin. Jesberg was quick to split to the right while Hughes and Kahn tried to figure out the city front. For first-time charterer Hughes, Melges 32 racing is far different than anything he has ever sailed before. "We had a lot of fun. It took the first race to get up to speed, but we were better in the second race." said Hughes with a huge smile. "I'm really used to sailing Scows and obviously this boat is a lot heavier with a lot more load on the tiller. Which means you have to hold it straight to go fast. I'm definitely looking forward to more tomorrow."

Lovell, with his brother, tactician Johnny made smart choices tactically ultimately delivering a super strong performance, managing to fend off Jesberg and Pugh upwind on numerous occasions during Race 1. The fleet raced the city side of the bay, up to the bridge and back again experiencing the challenges of current, breeze, fog and dynamics of racing around Alkatraz Island. There was never a dull moment.

Andrew Holdsworth, one of Jesberg's long-time crew members mentioned that today's racing was mentally, as well as physically challenging. It was obvious that Jesberg and Pugh were working overtime to keep up with Lovell as it was virtually a three-way fight for speed the entire race. Downwind, Pugh and Jesberg battled for position while Lovell seemed to stretch his lead.

The final downwind run to the finish left Lovell out front to take the win, followed by Pugh holding on for second and in third was Jesberg.

Race two was underway just after 1 p.m. with continued gorgeous conditions and breeze in the 10-15 wind speed range for the start. The Angel Island side of the bay set the stage as the fleet hugged the shore line tacking for position as they headed to the bridge once more for the mark. The cool air and fog rolled in as Lovell pulled ahead for the lead. Jesberg's determination was obvious as he rounded no more than two boat lengths behind, followed by Hughes. "We had a little more breeze in Race 2 and sailed up to the North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was just our conditions. We knew how to find the right current, get the right angle," commented Jesberg after racing. "It was great racing today, very tight. Those guys from New Orleans really know how to sail."

Downwind, Jesberg chased Lovell to the bottom, eventually taking over the lead and beating him across the finish line by only a couple of boat lengths. "Looks like the conditions for tomorrow are going to be similar to today, perhaps even a little lighter," said Jesberg. "We'd rather sail the medium air anyway."

Racing continues on Friday for the Melges 32 Class with two more races.

Full Results (After 2 Races)
1.) Andy Lovell, 1-2 = 3
2.) Don Jeserg, 3-1 = 4
3.) Stephen Pugh, 2-5 = 7
4.) Philippe Kahn, 5-3 = 8
5.) Pat Hughes, 4-4 = 8
6.) John Porter, 7-7 = 14

In addition to the Photo Gallery placed online by the International Melges 32 Class Association, the 45th running of the Rolex Big Boat Series boasts a great many media outlets to help you watch and enjoy this legendary event.