The Italian team on Marrachech Express jump into lead at Corum Melges 24 World Championship at Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo

Consistency paid off for the Italian boat Marrachech Express which jumped into the points lead at the 2005 Corum Melges 24 World Championship at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo today after two races in fresh northerly breezes.

Steered by professional sailor Gabriele Benussi and a group of amateur sailors from Trieste, Marrachech Express confounded race watchers who had questioned whether the recently-formed team could handle the demanding, choppy conditions as comfortably as some of the well-honed, all-professional teams. Benussi and his three-crew had never sailed together until they came together in Key Largo for three days of practice before the event. They never faltered.

Benussi’s team had fared badly in the opening race of the series last Sunday when it posted a 35th place in the international talent-packed field of 99 boats. However, the Italians got the fleet’s attention with a first place in the second race of the day. They followed that up with a third and a second on Monday, followed by fourth and ninth place finishes today.

With six of the 12 scheduled races completed, all competitors are now able to discard their worst race placing, punching Marrachech Express up from her second overall yesterday to the lead on points today.

The discard also favoured sailmaker and pro sailor Dave Ullman from Newport Beach, Calif., who finished today’s racing with a fifth and a third for his Pegasus 505 and dropping a 41st place to jump from seventh place overall yesterday to second today.

The best performance of the day came from young Australian America’s Cup helmsman James Spithill who logged two masterful first places in today’s fresh breezes aboard his Luna Rossa, from Genoa, Italy, winning comfortably in the first and running away from the pack in the second.

Fort Lauderdale’s Morgan Reeser, a comfortable points’ leader going into today’s racing, could do no better than a 20th in the first race today.

That and a 17th place yesterday pulled his Mfatic emphatically back into fourth place, ten points behind Spithill.

Consistent performances are vital in a long series like this, featuring a big fleet and Brian Porter from Winnetka, Ill., illustrated the point by holding onto fourth place overall with his Full Throttle team.

Results (after six races and one discard)

1. Gabriele Benussi, Marrachech Express, Trieste, Italy, (35)-1-3-2-4-9, 19 points

2. David Ullman, USA-505, Newport Beach, Calif., 6-(41)-7-1-5-3, 22

3. James Spithill, Luna Rossa, Genoa, Italy, 5-12-(25)-7-1-1, 26

4. Morgan Reeser, Mfatic, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 2-8-1-17-(20)-8, 36

5. Brian Porter, Full Throttle, Winnetka, Ill., (26)-2-11-4-7-18, 42

6. Gabrio Zandona, Joe Fly, Como, Italy, 11-(35)-22-5-3-5, 46

7. John Pollard, Xcellent, Torquay, England, 17-7-5-12-15-(32), 56

8. François Brenac, Partner & Partners, La Rochelle, France, (22)-14-18-3-11-11, 57

9. Shark Kahn, Pegasus 492, San Francisco, Calif., 19-3-4-(48)-30-6, 62

10. Nicola Celon, Ale Ali, Verona, Italy, 1-22-16-15-(29)-10, 64