Rob Smith and team lead the Melges 24 European championship by four points

The opening day of the Melges 24 Europeans in Torbole, Lake Garda, produced two fantastic races in near perfect sailing conditions and glorious sunshine.

Race one started in around 8 knots with the right-hand side of the course paying up the first beat. Alba Batzill, helming for Vittorio Strosek, led into the first mark with Cedric Pouligny, Erik Arther, Rob Smith, helming for Paul Lovejoy and Nick Ide, and Favio Favini in the pack on his tail. Batzill held his lead into the first leeward mark but up the second beat Herman Horn Johannessen took off for the left cliff and came out with a generous lead. Johannessen held his lead for the rest of the race while the pack thrashed it out behind him, but at the line he was shocked to get no finish gun and subsequently discovered he was OCS. As a result Smith took first place with Batzill second, Pouligny third, Arther fourth and IMS world champion Favio Favini fifth.

Smith was delighted with their win as the team has never sailed together before, even to practise. Owner Paul Lovejoy has been away from sailing for 18 months following a major back operation, co-owner Nick Ide has only said twice in the last year and fourth man Chris Quentin has also been out of sailing for a prolonged period. “Today we were very very fortunate because we had a strategy, which for about 11 or 12 minutes looked horrible but then started to look good. You’ve got to sit there and look at everyone else thinking they look miles and miles ahead of you but then towards the end of the beat the strategy comes good and suddenly we were round the first buoy fourth in both races.” said Smith.

Race two saw an increase in the breeze to between 10 and 15 knots with regular shifts in both velocity and direction throughout the race. Some new faces found the front in this race with Laurent Pages, Silvio Santoni, helming for Gregor Stimpfle, and Andrea Racchelli troubling the scoring team for the first time. Flavio Favini and Rob Smith both showed great consistency and were up there from the off. With the breeze all over the place it was an exhausting race for tacticians, trimmers and helmsmen alike. Pages kept his cool to take first place with Star European champion and local boy Santoni second. Showing that a little bit of local knowledge goes a long way Lake Major’s Racchelli took third followed by Favini fourth and Smith fifth.

Going into day two Smith leads by four points from Pouligny with Santoni and Favini tied for third overall and Laurent Pages in fifth.

Provisional Results (after two races)

1st GBR405, Paul Lovejoy/Rob Smith 11.7pts

2nd FRA383, Cedric Pouligny 15.7pts

3rd equal ITA490, Silvio Santoni 18pts

3rd equal SUI483, Franco Rossini/Flavio Favini 18pts

5th FRA388, Laurent Pages 21pts

6th equal GER507, Vitorrio Strosek/Alba Batzill 30pts

6th equal ITA139, Preti Adriano/Ziliani Mario 30pts

8th ITA438, Andrea Rachelli 30.7pts

9th GBR437, Richard Thompson/Jamie Lee 35pts

10th NOR341, Erik Arther 45pts