Bruce Ayres has taken a three-point lead at Key West Week

It was a day of exciting racing and mixed fortunes for the Melges 24 fleet at Key West yesterday. The large, high quality fleet and tricky conditions have resulted in some surprise upsets with most of the top names now counting at least one poor result. Bruce Ayres is very much the exception to this rule and is the only person with all top ten results.

The first race, number three in the series, started on time in around 8 knots from the north-east with only a small chop. The fleet got away cleanly at the first attempt with the majority opting for the right hand end. It was Bruce Ayres who led round the first mark with Kristian Nergaard, Argyle Campbell, Philippe Kahn and Jamie Lea hot on his heels. Down the first run Nergaard and Ayres were neck and neck with Nergaard just getting the advantage at the mark. The lead pair had opened up a small margin over third placed Campbell with Lea overtaking Kahn for fourth.

Up the second beat Nergaard opened up his advantage nicely but behind him Campbell and Ayres were locked in a full on battle culminating in a gybing duel to the finish which Campbell won by less than a boat length. Lea hung onto fourth whilst Keith Musto took on Kahn for fifth place in yet another excellent gybing match which Musto just managed to win.

The wind had dropped slightly for the fourth race. Amongst the small number of individual recalls was Jamie Lea who found himself returning across the line for the second time in the regatta. Up the first beat it was very much a case of picking the shifts up the right hand side and Britain’s Stuart Rix, helming for Quentin Strauss, was the man who picked them best rounding just ahead of Brian Porter at the first mark. Musto slotted into third just ahead of overnight leader Alec Cutler, helming for John Sherlock (please note we incorrectly stated that Kate Mullin was helming this boat in yesterday’s report – our apologies to all concerned for this error), with Campbell fifth and Doug Clark, helming for Paula Zubrzycki, sixth.

Down the run the top three held their places with Campbell getting by Cutler to take fourth at the leeward mark. Rix and Porter both took the right hand side up the second beat whilst Musto opted for the left in what was to be a blinding move enabling him to take the lead by the second windward mark ahead of Rix, Campbell and Porter. Places were changing with every tack and gybe and by the final leeward mark Musto was just ahead with Campbell second and Rix third. Maspero Giovanni’s brand-new Melges 24 team with Luca Santella at the helm had suddenly found their feet in the boat and worked their way up from ninth to fifth ahead of Porter and Morgan Larsen, Flavio Favini, helming for Franco Rossini, and Cutler. It was wide open up the last beat with Larsen sailing like a man possessed to win the race with yards to spare. Behind him Musto and Santella fought all the way to the finish with Musto getting second on the line by inches. Campbell took fourth ahead of Rix, Porter and Favini.

In the overall standings Ayres now has a three-point lead over Favini with Campbell in third, Cutler fourth and Larson fifth. “We had a really great day but its a long regatta and with the discard being used for the first time this year it’s still completely open.” commented Ayres on the dock.