Aussie Spithill and Italy's Luna Rossa Team are new Corum Melgese world champions

After six intense days of demanding racing in the 2005 Corum Melges 24 World Championship, James Spithill’s Italian Luna Rossa team held on to a diminished margin to take the top trophies with just an eight point margin.

If Spithill’s polished international crew represented the peak of professionalism, Gabriele Benussi’s Italian sailors Marrachech Express were almost entirely amateurs -as well as newcomers to the class – as they surprised everyone, including themselves, with a second place overall.

Between them, Spithill and Benussi forced into third place the seasoned veteran small boat champion Dave Ullman aboard his Pegasus 505. They left in their wakes a host of America’s Cup and Olympic caliber sailors including most of the past champions in the 12-year-old sport boat class.

In the Corinthian Division for non-professionals, Martin Kullman, sailing New Wave, barely squeezed ahead on points over Bruce Ayres, sailing Monsoon. Kullman finished the week 23rd overall after maintaining a 10th overall against some of the world’s top sailors earlier in the series. A Henderson 30 veteran, he only began racing Melges 24s this year, winning Melbourne Race Week in late October.

The third Corinthian was Germany’s Alba Batzill steering Courage X, just three points behind Ayres. Long-time Melges 24 Corinthian Mike Dow aboard Flying Toaster was fourth.

The fleet of 99 boats competing in the Corum Melges 24 Worlds encountered a variety of light wind conditions, with one day of gusty breezes touching 18 knots, as they raced on relatively flat tropical waters in the lee of John Pennekamp Reef, off Key Largo’s renowned Ocean Reef Club.

Spithill, the 26-year-old Australian skipper of Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge for the America’s Cup, was sailing with three other members of his America’s Cup crew, with additional help from 11-year-old Mac Agnese, their 80-pound “secret weapon” from Fort Lauderdale. There was only one Italian passport holder on the sleek white 24ft sportboat and that belonged to Manuel Modena, a 49er sailor from Italy’s Lake Garda. The other two crew members were American brothers Jonathan and Charlie McKee, from Seattle, Washington. Both McKees are double Olympic sailing medalists.

Over 600 sailors and guests accorded Spithill and his crew a prolonged standing ovation at the prizegiving dinner in Ocean Reef Club’s Town Hall as the Luna Rossa crew accepted their championship trophy.

Overall Results (after 11 races and one discard)

2. Gabriele Benussi, Marrachech Express, Trieste, Italy, (35)-1-3-2-4-9-7-10-15-24-1, 76

3. David Ullman, Pegasus505, Newport Beach, Calif., 6-(41)-7-1-5-3-28-11-1-1-30, 93

4. Morgan Reeser, Mfatic, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 2-8-1-17-20-8-11-16-12-7-(34), 102

5. Gabrio Zandona, Joe Fly, Como, Italy, 11-(35)-22-5-3-5-32-2-13-4-11, 108

6. François Brenac, Partner & Partners, La Rochelle, France, 22-14-18-3-11-11-(59)-19-4-5-4, 111

7. Brian Porter, Full Throttle, Winnetka, Ill., 26-2-11-4-7-18-47-3-8-12-(55), 138

8. Flavio Favini, Blu Moon, Germignaga, Italy, 24-37-2-21-10-28-(82)-8-5-3-3, 141

9. John Bertrand, Fusion M, Annapolis, Maryland, 9-15-(46)-22-22-4-36-5-3-2-28, 146

10. Nicola Celon, Ale Ali, Verona, Italy, 1-22-16-15-29-10-9-(66)-21-32-6, 161