Close racing at Star Europeans and IMS Offshore worlds update 10/8/06

Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube’s amazing run of consecutive race wins came to an end today at Rolex Baltic Week’s Star European championship with New Zealand’s Hamish Pepper/Carl Williams and US Americans Andrew Horton/Brad Nichol respectively scoring bullets in races four and five of this championship.

Under an overcast sky and in generally lighter winds than the first two days of Rolex Baltic Week, conditions on the Bay of Lübeck remained shifty in the extreme. “The breeze for these first five races has been extremely shifty and it can be hero to zero really quickly. It was extremely demanding,” warned Pepper, a former Laser sailor who left the Italian Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team America’s Cup team at the beginning of the year to kick off his Olympic campaign in the Star.

Pepper and Williams started two thirds of the way down the line towards the pin and were able to stay up with the leaders after they tacked on the first left-hand shift. Leaders at this point and first around the weather mark were German two times World Champion Alexander Hagen and crew Sebastian Munck. Pepper and Williams played the shifts well going up the first beat rounding the top mark fourth but it was only on the second run and penultimate leg that the Kiwi duo were able to pin out their German rivals, moving into the lead 200 m before the bottom mark.

Posting a sixth place in the second race today and with their discount kicking in today, Pepper and Williams have moved up to fourth place overall after five races. Given the variable conditions Pepper said: “Once you get ahead it is a lot easier to sail the right way – the leaders got richer.”

On the second race current leaders in the ISAF Star rankings, George Szabo and Eric Monroe from the USA were first to the top mark. Horton and Nichol started mid-line and sailed a first leg that involved tacking up the middle of the course, playing the shifts as they came. “It is a crazy place – it is shifting 30 degrees back and forth on every beat and every run. There hasn’t been one stable leg for the whole regatta,” Horton said, agreed with Pepper about the conditions. They were third to the top mark behind Szabo/Monroe and Italian duo Francesco Bruni and Gilberto Nobili. On the first run both American teams gybed away and pulled into the lead, but then the right side of the run started to pay. Fortunately some bottom gate mark tactics and a wind shift put them into the lead.

“We reached to the bottom right hand mark and gave up about half our lead, got around that first and right as we got there it went another 15-20 degrees left, so we tacked onto port and that gave us a lot of breathing room.” They defended well on the second beat and managed to make their break on the second run. However it was not over. On the final beat they found themselves on the wrong side of a big right hand shift that saw their lead threatened. However it came good in the end allowing Horton and Nichol to win by a comfortable 20 boat lengths ahead of the consistent Italian duo Diego Negri and Lugi Viale and Germans Robert Stanjek and Frithjof Kleen.

With five races sailed and one discard now counting, Marks Mendelblatt and Straube remain comfortably in the lead discounting their disappointing 17th place in the first race on Wednesday. Brazilian triple Olympic Laser medallist Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada also had a disappointing first race finishing 27th.

“In the first race I believed I had to go to the left but there was a big shift to the right,” admitted Scheidt. “So we were really deep on that race but managed to catch up a few boats.” In the second race their position was looking more promising having at one stage moved up to second. “But we didn’t play the shifts very well on the last beat and we ended up ninth,” continued Scheidt. “It was probably the hardest day so far in the regatta, but there is still a long way and we are going to fight to the end. In a fleet like this it is very hard not to have bad moments so we have to keep positive. There are still three races to go. We are here to improve our Star sailing – that is the most important for us.”

While a lay day for the Star European championship at Rolex Baltic Week was scheduled for Thursday the race organisers will now hold one race at 1300 local time due to very light weather forecast for Friday.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning the 49 boats competing in Rolex Baltic Week’s IMS Offshore World Championships divided in two divisions arrived back in Neustadt’s ancora Marina. The offshore race on a course zigzagging around the Bay of Lübeck in fact comprised two races, for Division One the first was around 30 miles the second around 86 miles.

Scoring a third and a first place in Division One in these races, Russian Sergey Shevtsov’s Grand Soleil 42R Yugtranzit has leapt into the lead ahead of the Swedish Sinergia 40 Data Communication of Ralf Aspholm. Yugtranzit made her mark on the first mile long beat yesterday and never looked back. “We were quite a long way away from the rest of the boats as we headed left along the shore and that is where the wind came from like we were expecting, the wind was building from the clouds,” explained Shevtsov. At the time they were trailing a group of bigger boats led by Bernd Kriegel’s Judel Vrolijk 49 Unique, the highest rating boat competing.

Contrary to the forecast that was indicating the wind would decreasing and shift west, instead the wind yesterday evening built to around 20-23 knots and veered to the northwest. The Russian team enjoyed the building conditions. “We came here to win,” continued Shevtsov. “We pushed very hard. The entire race was with the wind and we were holding on to all our competitors, checking on them and controlling them, not allowing them to get an advantage on us.”

The competitors benefited on this overnight race from a full moon, but this did not help Matthias Müller von Blumencron’s IMX-40 Moonshine who missed one unlit mark and wasted five valuable minutes sailing back to find it. They are currently laying third overall.

For Norwegian Carl Edward Jansen’s 2 obnoxious, a potential line honours contender, the race didn’t go so well. After an average start they blew up their vital all purpose spinnaker. “We rounded the weather mark and another Norwegian boat luffed us and we hit him with the spinnaker and it was destroyed,” recounted trimmer Christian Nerø. “We could have used that spinnaker for a long while. And we lost more because we were a little bit frustrated for about half an hour after that.” They finished the first race 24th out of 26 but thankfully pulled up in the second race. “We sailed a lot better but we couldn’t see the other boats so we didn’t really know. We had Unique just in front of us,” continued Nerö. “I think we are better on the windward-leeward races rather than the long races.”

In Division 2 the German yacht Froschkönig skippered by Detlef Amlong won both legs and leads the Dehler 29 Cala Ventinove of Uwe Wenzel and the X-362 Static Electric of Heiko Päsler.

While a lay day for the Star European championship at Rolex Baltic Week was scheduled for Thursday the race organisers will now hold one race at 13:00 local time due to very light weather forecast for Friday. Three races are scheduled for the IMS Offshore World Championships starting earlier than scheduled now at 9:30 in the morning.

This year’s event is the third ever Rolex Baltic Week. It is the only Rolex-sponsored sailing regatta in Germany and the Baltic Sea.

Results (day 3)

Star European Championship (after five races)

1. Mark Mendelblatt/Mark Strube (USA) 10 points
2. Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (Brasil) 25
3. Andrew Horton/Brad Nichol (USA) 27
4. Hamish Pepper/Carl Williams (New Zealand) 27
5. Diego Negri/Lugi Viale (Italia) 29
6. Xavier Rohart/Pascal Rambeau (France) 31
7. Hans Spitzauer/Christian Nehammer (Austria) 33
8. Matthias Miller/Manuel Voigt (Germany) 39
9. Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Dominik Zycki (Poland) 44
10. Robert Stanjek/Frithjof Kleen (Germany) 45
11. Marc Pickel/Ingo Borkowski (Germany) 46

IMS Offshore World Championship

Division 1

1 RUS Yugtranzit – Shevtsov, Sergey (Grand Soleil 42R – 578,8) 3 1 5,63
2 SWE Data Communication – Aspholm, Ralf (Sinergia 40 – 588,7) 4 2 9,00
3 GER Moonshine – Müller von Blumencron, Matthias (IMX-40 594,4) 2 7 13,50
4 GER Transit Express – Ancker, Tetje (Luffe 43 – 599,9) 5 6 16,50
5 FIN Aminoff & Weissenber – Nieminen, Jukka (IMX 38 618,3) 1 12 19,13
6 NOR Ocean Warrior – Valeur, Sverre N. (IMX 40 – 599,5) 10 4 21,00

Division 2

1 GER Froschkönig – Amlong, Detlef (Optima 101/106 – 703,9) 1 1 2,25
2 GER Cala Ventinove – Wenzel, Uwe (DEHLER 29 SPIQUEST – 701,3) 2 3 7,50
3 GER Static Electric – Päsler, Heiko (X-362 SPORT 647,4) 4 2 9,00
4 GER No Limits – Christensen, Sven (X-332 665,7) 3 5 12,00
5 GER Patent3 – Klinghardt, Jürgen (X-332 SPORT 653,0) 5 4 13,50
6 GER Chinook – Friedrichsen, Johann (X-332 663,6) 6 7 19,50