Reeser steals march on Corum Melges world championship fleet

“It was like driving head-on into oncoming traffic!” With those words Fort Lauderdale’s Morgan Reeser described his starting line tactics as he drove Neil Sullivan’s Mfatic into a commanding lead on the second day of the 2005 Corum Melges 24 World Championship at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.

Reeser and Sullivan, who hails from Annapolis, Maryland, led on points after the first day of racing. They consolidated their lead with a first place in the first race today, never far from the lead in the ten-mile race inside the reef off North Key Largo. The second race in cool sparkling and sunny conditions with a puffy 10-knot breeze saw Mfatic trapped in the middle of the starting line with nowhere to go.

“We were trapped,” Reeser recalled. “The only thing to do was go over on the port tack before the starting gun sounded and sail against the oncoming boats, all of which had right of way over us. We ducked and dodged through 40 boats, just like driving head-on into oncoming traffic. It was kinda exciting.”

The tactic worked and Reeser found a space in the 99-boat fleet where his wind wasn’t blocked by competing boats. He finished high up in the talent-packed international fleet, posting a 17th place, which was good enough to give him a 13-point cushion over the Italian boat Marrachech Express which finished the day in second place on points.

America versus Europe was the theme at the top of the fleet with US boats taking six of the first ten places and the Europeans filling the other four. Marrachech Express, sailed by Gabriele Benussi, from Trieste, Italy, was the most improved performer of the day, racking up a third and a second place to add to the first place she posted yesterday and finish second overall. The 35th place they took in the first race of the series means the Italians must wait until Tuesday – day three of the six-day series – before they can take the overall lead.

Second equal with Benussi was John Pollard from Torquay, England. One of the strongest performers in the British contingent, Pollard and his seasoned crew have been coming to the fore over the last 12 to 15 months. He served notice on the international fleet last year with a first place in a Melges 24 series in Annapolis, Maryland.

Brian Porter from Winnetka, Ill, a perennially successful and consistent racer in the Melges 24 Class, posted an 11th and a fourth finish today to move his Full Throttle team up from his eighth place to a fourth place after the first four races.

America’s Cup sailors filled the fifth and sixth overall places. Young Australian America’s Cup skipper James Spithill, who is the current world match racing champion, drove his Luna Rossa into fifth place overall, despite a 25th place finish in the first race of the day. Spithill, who now calls Genoa, Italy, his home, has named his Melges 24 Luna Rossa after the Italian America’s Cup syndicate he now sails with.

The world’s three-time America’s Cup champion Russell Coutts, from New Zealand, is also racing in the Corum series in Key Largo, forsaking his customary place at the helm to handle tactics for San Francisco’s Philippe Kahn who is driving his Pegasus 575. Coutts made the right calls and Kahn showed a steady hand on the tiller to post a fifth and a 12th to finish sixth.

Results (after four races)

1. Morgan Reeser, Mfatic, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 2-8-1-17, 28 points

2 equal. Gabriele Benussi, Marrachech Express, Trieste, Italy, 35-1-3-2, 41

2 equal. John Pollard, Xcellent, Torquay, England, 17-7-5-12, 41

4. Brian Porter, Full Throttle, Winnetka, Ill., 26-2-11-4, 43

5. James Spithill, Luna Rossa, Genoa, Italy, 5-12-25-7, 49

6. Philippe Kahn, Pegasus 575, San Francisco, Calif., 10-6-21-13, 50

7 equal. David Ullman, USA-505, Newport Beach, Calif., 6-40-7-1, 54

7 equal. Nicola Celon, Ale Ali, Verona, Italy, 1-22-16-15, 54

9. François Brenac, Partner & Partners, La Rochelle, France, 22-14-18-3,57

10. Martin Kullman, New Wave, St. Petersburg, Fla., 18-11-32-9, 70