It was a close fight for first place in the dramatic final of the Melges 24 World Championship 4/9/06

The final day of the 2006 Melges 24 World Championship in Hyeres was full of drama.

Two races were sailed in an easterly wind of 5-8 knots and Bete, owned by Ezio Amadori of Italy, helmed by Nicola Celon and crewed by Manuel Giubellini, Ralmondo Tonelli and Alberto Bolzan, was lying in second place 11 points behind DRP Partner & Partners, owned by Frenchman Philippe Ligot and helmed by Francois Brenac with William Thomas, Christian Ponthieu and Thomas Allin crewing. Many assumed that the championship was all but sewn up by the French crew, but as the day unfolded it became clear this was not the case.

In the tenth race of the championship Celon got an excellent start and rounded the first mark in second place, just astern of the Swiss Poison Rouge team of Jean Marc Monnard. Behind them Brenac was tenth at the end of the first lap and moved up in to eighth on the second beat but could gain nothing more on the final run whilst the leaders held their positions. Big Ship-Marseille-Quantum, owned and helmed by Paul Maxime, finished third with Alina Helly Hansen, owned by Italy’s Maurizio Abba and helmed by Luca Valerio fourth.

So going into the final race DRP Partner & Partners/Brenac’s lead was narrowed to just five points and the tension among the spectator fleet increased, as it appeared the championship was far from over. With a weather mark at 105 degrees and 7-8 knots of wind the competitors came to the line with the majority favouring the centre or left hand end.

This time it was Brenac who looked to have control of the situation rounding the first mark seventh with Celon apparently buried down in the teens. Up ahead Switzerland’s Blu Moon, owned by Franco Rossini with Chris Rast at the helm, led the race with Tonu Toniste of Estonia in Lenny second and Gaetan Le Goic’s Cotes d’Armor An Port Blanc third. On the first run Brenac dropped a couple of places to eighth while Celon began his move up the fleet. Brenac came out of the gate on starboard but within a few boat lengths was looking for a lane to tack over through the inbound fleet. He obviously felt he’d spotted his moment but as he tacked, dirty air and congestion left him wallowing for what must have seemed a lifetime giving Celon the chance to escape. Celon now had victory in his grasp and sailed a classic final lap to take eleventh while Brenac finished 18th but with a protest flag flying. Chris Rast in Blu Moon went on to win the race from Gaetan Le Goic and Cote D’Armor An Port Blanc with Estonia’s Tonu Tonise third.

The drama continued ashore with DRP Partner & Partners lodging a Rule 2 Protest against ITA643 Bete, helmed by Celon, Eddy Eich’s GER582 No Woman No Cry, helmed by Alba Batzill and Andrea Racchelli’s ITA438 Altea. Apparently DRP Partner & Partners’ crew believed that they had been subjected to team racing. After hearing extensive evidence the International Jury, headed by Chairman Tony O’Gorman of Ireland, found no evidence and dismissed the protest.

At last Nicola Celon, helming ITA463 Bete, owned by Ezio Amadori, and crewed by Manuel Giubellini, Ralmondo Tonelli and Alberto Bolzan, was declared 2006 Melges 24 World Champion with Francois Brenac, helming for Philippe Ligot’s DRP Partner & Partners, in second place. A final race win and seventh in race ten was sufficient to move Chris Rast, helming Blu Moon for Franco Rossin from sixth overall to third which meant that Jean Marc Monnard’s Poizon Rouge finished fourth overall despite a win in race ten. Sandro Montefusco finished fifth in both races and fifth overall.

Meanwhile in the Corinthian division, only open to fully amateur crews, Cedric Kervanoael’s Encore, helmed by Jean Francois Cruette and crewed by Maxime Lebassou, Damien Deprat Lerale and Pierre Lafuste are crowned as Corinthian World Champions. The Encore crew are popular winners of this trophy having supported the Melges 24 fleet for many years. Gaetan Le Goic, sailing Cotes D’Armor An Port Blanc took second in the Corinthian Championship with Norway’s Geir Dahl Andersen aboard Lek third.