Spithill continues Luna Rossa domination of Corum Melges 24 world championship series

The Not-so-Italian Luna Rossa sailing team captained by Australia’s James Spithill continued its domination of the 2005 Corum Melges 24 World Championship at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo today, despite two first-to-finish guns claimed by rival Pegasus 505 sailed by Newport Beach’s David Ullman.

With two races remaining in tomorrow’s final of the six-day series Spithill’s Italian entry from the Yacht Club d’Italiano in Genoa, Italy, enjoys a 20-point advantage over second-placed Ullman.

The two lead boats turned in blistering performances in the opening race today in a 16-18-knot south-easterly breeze that chopped up the shallow water north of John Pennekamp Reef into two to three-foot waves.

Ullman, the engaging sailmaker whose list of championship victories fills pages, has never won a Melges 24 championship. Now the third boat in the Pegasus Team of father-and-son Philippe and Shark Kahn from San Francisco, the time Ullman has invested in sail development and tuning for the team was apparent in today’s racing.

Pegasus 505 broke clear of the 99-boat fleet on the first weather leg as several collisions and gear breakdowns took their toll. Spithill, the helmsman for Genoa’s Luna Rossa America’s Cup challengers was pushing hard behind Ullman but could never get within striking distance of the Californian boat.

Ullman finished the first race one and a half minutes ahead of Spithill and two and a half minutes ahead John Bertrand at the helm of Fusion M.

Conditions moderated in the second race to five to eight knots of breeze and small choppy waves. Ullman and Spithill were four or five places back at the first weather mark but the next time around were back in their now-standard one-two position with Ullman 30 seconds in front.

Disaster struck for Spithill before the last downwind run as the top of his billowing white spinnaker exploded right after hoisting. The Luna Rossa crew struggled to retrieve the sail and hoist another, as boat after boat sped by. Quick crew work saw a new sail up and drawing to keep Spithill in the top group of seven boats.

Ullman won again, lifting him from yesterday’s third overall placing but still 20 points behind Spithill who finished the last race in sixth place. Bertrand had another good race to add a second place to his record for the week.

Results (after ten races with one discard)

1. James Spithill, Luna Rossa, Genoa, Italy, 5-12-(25)-7-1-1-8-1-2-6, 43 points

2. David Ullman, Pegasus505, Newport Beach, Calif., 6-(41)-7-1-5-3-28-11-1-1, 63

3. Gabriele Benussi, Marrachech Express, Trieste, Italy, 35)-1-3-2-4-9-7-10-15-24, 75

4. Morgan Reeser, Mfatic, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 2-8-1-17-(20)-8-11-16-12-7, 82

5. Brian Porter, Full Throttle, Winnetka, Ill., 26-2-11-4-7-18-(47)-3-8-12, 91

6. Gabrio Zandona, Joe Fly, Como, Italy, 11-(35)-22-5-3-5-32-2-13-4, 97

7. François Brenac, Partner & Partners, La Rochelle, France, 22-14-18-3-11-11-(59)-19-4-5, 107

8. Shark Kahn, Pegasus 492, San Francisco, Calif., 19-3-4-(48)-30-6-5-9-26-11, 113

9. John Bertrand, Fusion M, Annapolis, Maryland, 9-15-(46)-22-22-4-36-5-3-2, 118

10. Flavio Favini, Blu Moon, Germignaga, Italy, 24-37-2-21-10-28-(82)-8-5-3, 138