Brian Porter leads Melges 24 world championship after four races 10/5/07

Brian Porter and his team from America’s heartland have quietly moved into first place in the 2007 Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship, hosted by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club.

Francois Brenac, the opening day co-leader sailing Benjamin Cohen’s French entry, led the 58-boat fleet across the finish line in Wednesday’s second race but was disqualified for failing to re-start after an OCS. That misstep elevated Porter to the top as the only boat with all single-digit finishes: 3-5-3-6 for 17 points, eight ahead of defending champion Nicola Celon of Italy.

Dave Ullman posted his second consecutive win by a full minute in Wednesday’s first race but slipped to 11th in the second.

Porter’s tactician is Harry Melges III, who won the 2002 Melges 24 Worlds at Travemunde, Germany, and his brother John and Andy Burdick complete the crew. Commenting Porter said: “We’ve had three good starts so far, then a horrible start in the last race. But we got lucky when the wind came left. We started to go back to the right – 80 per cent of the time on a normal day at Santa Cruz that’s the place to be – and Harry saw some more wind on the left.”

Wednesday’s races were sailed in south-west winds of 5-14 knots with a ring of light fog around the course partially obscuring the shores of Monterey Bay. Each race had a general recall before getting under way under I-flags, plus a Z-flag calling for a 20 per cent penalty for starting early.

But Brenac took the worst hit. Apparently headed for his second win in two days, he heard no finishing horn as he crossed the line 28 seconds ahead of Stuart Simpson’s boat The Barbarians from the UK. Later, he was recorded as OCS at the start but failed to return, calling for disqualification and handing the victory to Simpson. In total nine boats started early but three, including Brenac, failed to return.

Samuel (Shark) Kahn, the 2003 champion, also bounced back with an 11 and a 9 after a similar double starting bobble Tuesday – a 29 and a 23. Meanwhile, Mark (Crusty) Christensen of Santa Cruz leads the four-boat Team Pegasus effort in third place.

Racing continues through Saturday. The only discard kicks in after the sixth race today (Thursday), which could scramble the upper echelon.

Results (After 4 of 10 races)

1. Brian Porter, Winnetka, Ill., 3-5-3-5, 16 points

2. Nicola Celon, Italy, 4-2-16-2, 24

3. Mark Christensen, Santa Cruz, Calif., 16-3-2-8, 29

4. 4. Dave Ullman, Santa Ana, Calif., 18-1-1-11, 31

5. Stuart Simpson, UK, 14-12-6-1, 33

6. John Pollard, UK, 8-6-10-12, 36

7. Bruce Ayres, Newport Beach, Calif., 1-7-17-16, 41

8. Othmar Mueller von Blumencron, Great Falls, Va., 6-9-23-4, 42

9. Andrea Racchelli, Italy, 13-10-4-15, 42

10. Eddy Eich, Germany, 10-18-14-7, 49