American Brian Porter on Full Throttle took fourth in the final race of the Sperry Top-Sider Melges 24 World Championship 2013 today to finally lay claim to the title he has been trying to win for many years.
Porter snatched victory by three points from 2013 Melges 24 European Champion Italian Flavio Favini at the helm of Franco Rossini’s Swiss entry Blu Moon who had led by a single point going into the final day.
Favini didn’t give in without a fight however, recovering from a fifteenth place first windward mark rounding to pull back to sixth at the finish – just two places away from snatching back overall victory.
A second place in today’s race for Denmark’s Kim Christensen on Soffe 2 elevated him from fourth overnight on to the podium into third place.
A win in the final race for American Bora Gulari on West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes – his second of the championship – moved him up one overall place to fourth. A tenth today for Nathan Wilmot on Conor Clarke’s Irish entry Embarr dropped him from third to fifth overall.
In the Corinthian Division (no professional sailors allowed) a seventh for American Don Jesberg on Viva was good enough to see him crowned 2013 Melges 24 Corinthian Champion by three points from second placed fellow American Loren Colahan on Lounge Act. A Corinthian race win today for Canadian Michael Bond on Recidivist earned him the final podium place.
The 2013 edition of the Melges 24 World Championship came down to a single ninth race decider on the final day after light winds resulted in just one of the two scheduled races being being sailed.
Winds were all but non-existent at the scheduled 1200 midday start time, but after waiting patiently for nearly two and a half hours, the race committee were finally able to set a start line in a fitful 5 – 6 knots of breeze. Eventually, after one general recall and a short delay to allow the breeze to settle properly, the fleet got away under an I and Z penalty flag combination.
All eyes were on the expected battle between Italy’s Flavio Favini at the helm of Franco Rossini’s Swiss entry Blu Moon who topped the leaderboard after eight races and second placed Brian Porter on Full Throttle from America, just one point behind. Third after eight races was Australian Nathan Wilmot helming Conor Clarke’s Irish entry Embarr was also very much within striking distance of the title.
Halfway up the first beat, Favini and Wilmot were in close company in the middle left of the course while Porter had tried his hand on the right hand side.
At the top mark it was the American who came out best, rounding in third behind Gulari in second and Italy’s Giovanni Pizzatti on Maidollis in first. Favini meanwhile had plenty of work to do, rounding in fifteenth place, two places ahead of Wilmot.
On the downwind leg Gulari slid past Pizzatti to round in first at the leeward gate and Porter followed the Italian around in third. Favini made the biggest gains however, passing nine boats on the run to round in sixth place.
Seeing that Porter had opted for the right hand side of the second beat, Favini chose the left leeward gate buoy to see what gains he could make on the left.
When the boats converged at the windward mark for the second time, Gulari had extended his lead and Porter had moved into second. Favini was still in sixth but had considerably reduced the gap to the leading two.
The breeze was a painfully light five to six knots on the final run, making life difficult for the leaders and giving the chasing pack a chance to steal a march.
Having rounded the windward mark in fourth Denmark’s Christensen decided to gybe early in a search for wind on the right of the course. By the bottom of the run his gamble had paid off and when he gybed back towards the finish he had sailed around the bows of Porter and Pizzatti into second and hot on the heels of leader Gulari.
At the finish, Gulari had held off the Danish crew to take the win, Pizzatti came home third, and Porter fourth.
Behind them, Favini was still in sixth but on a charge. Approaching the line the Italian all but rolled over the top of a group of tightly bunched boats and when this group gybed simultaneously for the finish, for a few moments it looked like the Swiss boat might sneak through to leeward at the left hand end of the line to snatch fifth and the championship.
In the end though he didn’t have enough momentum to carry him through and had to settle for seventh place in the race and second overall.
Back ashore afterwards and having had time to process his world championship victory, Porter was quick to pay tribute to the hard work of his crew Andy Burdick, Matt Woodworth and Federico Michetti.
Amazingly, for Full Throttle trimmer Michetti, sailing as part of the Full Throttle crew for the first time at a world championship, this was his fifth Melges 24 world title – a record unsurpassed by anyone and one that he confessed had not sunk in yet.
“I am still a little confused, trying to understand what has happened,” he said with a beaming smile. “It has been a great championship, made better by the fact that I sailed with some good friends. They have been unbelievable to sail with and I am I am so proud to be part of the Full Throttle crew.”
Porter himself said his first ever Melges 24 World Championship win felt all the sweeter given he had finished in second place on no less than three previous occasions.
“I have been trying to win this thing since the very first Melges 24 World Championship,” he said. “i have come pretty close, second three times, so this has been an elusive target for us.
“Today, that race was nerve-wracking, we had got into second and then lost a couple of boats and that made it close in the end,” Porter said. “But we have a great team and we have worked hard for this, so to win feels really good.”
Having taken so long to win it, Porter said he hoped to try to defend his title at the 2014 Melges 24 World Championship in Geelong, Australia at the end of January.
“I am working on that right now,” he said. “I would love to defend in Australia – it’s been a dream of mine to go to there and sail. I know so many great Australian sailors and I have competed against those guys a lot, so I would love to be there.”