The forecast gale never materialised yesterday at the Jacob's Creek Melges 24 European Championship in Helsinki and instead the crews completed two further races in near perfect conditions of glorious sunshine

The forecast gale never materialised yesterday at the Jacob’s Creek Melges 24 European Championship in Helsinki and instead the crews completed two further races in near perfect conditions of glorious sunshine with an offshore north-west to northerly breeze, which varied from 14-20 knots, over a moderate chop. Overnight leader Luca Santella, helming Joe Fly for Giovanni Maspero, put in a consistent performance to hold his lead while Jean Francoise Cruette pulled up to second with Luca Valerio third.

The fleet’s biggest problem yesterday was getting off the starting line with a total of four general recalls (two in each race). Race six eventually got underway with individual recalls, seven of which failed to return. The fleet was very close up the first beat with Valerio, helming Maurizio Abba’s Alina just popping out ahead at the windward mark closely followed by Antti Niiniranta in Marinel Patu, Kenneth Thelen in Suunto and Lars Horn Johannessen helming Siste Stein for Anders Stenhagen.

Behind them was a nightmare of boats approaching simultaneously from both lay lines, Giovanni Giordo in Sail is Fun slipped into fifth just in front of Kari Heikkila in Ari Blom’s Marinel Mastervolt but behind them the pack ended up in a total log jam with virtually everyone managing to make contact with at least one other boat. Despite eventually rounding well down in the 30s Favini sailed a most impressive race to pull back up to 14, Santoni was less fortunate and ended up pulling out of the race.

Another looser up the first beat was Jamie Lea, helming Richard Thompson’s Black Seal, We were approaching on port looking fine when we were forced back out to the left by Chiquita. The boats we were with before that all rounded top ten but we ended up down in the 40s and struggled to get back to 28th. By the first leeward mark Valerio had held his lead from Niiniranta and Thelen, the boats split with Valerio and Thelen taking the right gate and Niiniranta the left. At the second weather mark Valerio was hanging onto first whilst Thelen had taken second from Niiniranta. Christophe Barreu, helming Denis Infante’s Eurovoiles, had sailed two very smart legs to round fourth ahead of Heikkila, Francesco Bruni, helming Ale Ali 3 for Preti Adriano, Morgan Reeser, helming Partner & Partners for Philippe Ligot, and Santella. On the next lap Valerio stretched out an impressive lead whilst Thelen and Niiniranta continued to battle it out for second ahead of the pack. At the final weather mark it was Barrue in forth from Santella, Bruni, Heikkila, Reeser and Grogan. On the final lap Valerio just kept adding distance on the fleet whilst Thelen eventually got the better of Niiniranta. Grogan made some very smart moves in the closing stages to pull up to forth from Barrue with Andrea Racchelli in Altea coming from tenth to sixth.

Race seven saw more fun and games on the start line with the Race Committee eventually bringing in the black flag as a result of which five boats headed for an early bath including Grogan and Santella. Lea was particularly delighted with one of the general recall decisions as he found himself hooked by the bowsprit on the pin end boy after being shut out by Favini. Once underway it was Santella who got the best of the first beat from Favini, Jean Francois Cruette, helming Scutum for Cedric de Kervenoael, Egidio Babbi in Citta’ Di Cesena and Lea. A couple of smart gybes on the first run took Cruette into the lead from Santella and Favini whilst Lea pulled up for fourth in front of Racchelli. Up the second beat Cruette began to open up whilst Lea, Favini and Santella fought for second rounding in that order with Barrue fifth and Racchelli sixth. From here on in there was no stopping Cruette who took the race by over 30 seconds. Santella, Favini and Lea continued their fight for the second slot with Santella eventually leading Lea and Favini over the line. Barrue took fifth, Racchelli sixth and Thelen seventh.

Today the discard came into play leaving Santella with a seven-point lead from Barrue who moved up from tenth having dropped an OCS. Racchelli lies in third with Thelen fourth, Lea fifth and Reeser sixth. With three more races over two days ahead the regatta is still wide open so we’re looking forward to an exciting finish to the Jacob’s Creek Melges 24 European Championship.

Special thanks to event sponsors Jacob’s Creek, 3M and Scandic Hotels for their support of this event. Further information about the IMCA is available from Fiona Brown on Tel 44 7711 718470 or via e-mail