Shark Kahn, the 14-year-old sailor from Hawaii, is giving Harry Melges a good run for his money at the Melges worlds in San Francisco
After two more tough races at the Audi Melges 24 World Championship in San Francisco yesterday Harry Melges, helming for Jeff Ecklund, is still hanging onto his overall lead although 14-year-old Shark Kahn is giving him plenty to worry about and is now only three-points behind him. “It was a good day but we missed a few opportunities and I don’t think we were quite as fast. I think some of the others found some speed today so it was tough.” commented Harry Melges after yesterday.
Racing was delayed until midday to allow the breeze to build and the fleet started on the last of the flood tide with some individual recalls in 8-10 knots from 210 degrees. The right-hand end of the line was definitely favourite and the wind clocked about 15 degrees up the first beat. Shark Kahn led round the first mark from Bruce Ayres, Egidio Babbi and Kenneth Kaan. Behind them a number of boats misjudged the strength of tide and understood the mark. Benoit Charon just managed to shoot the mark for fifth but Kerry Poe, along with a number of others, was forced to bail out and was left battling for a way back in through the starboard tack wall.
By the first leeward mark Kahn had opened up a 30-second lead from the pack while Kaan had pulled up to second from Babbi. Paul Brotherton sailed a very smart run to come from the teens up to fourth while Ayres dropped to fifth in front of Harry Melges who’d also pulled up from the teens.
Kahn pulled out his lead to a minute and ten seconds on the second beat while Babbi moved up to second with Melges third, Kaan fourth, Brotherton fifth and Ayres sixth. Kahn covered to the finish while behind him Melges got past Babbi as Kahn and Ayres held fourth and fifth respectively with Brotherton sixth.
By race four the wind was up to 14-16 knots and the tide had turned bringing up the chop. The fleet got underway at the second attempt and again they like the right-hand end of the line. Kahn yet again got the measure of the first beat and this time it was Luca Santella, helming Giovani Maspero’s Joe Fly Team, who was hot on his heels at the weather mark with Ayres third, Melges fourth, Hubert Guy fifth, Doug Weitz sixth and Sheldon Ecklunk seventh. Brian Porter rounded eighth but having pushed his way in was forced to do a turn on the spreader leg and dropped back to 13th.
Santella and Kahn had a humdinger of a battle down the first run with Santella just in the lead by the bottom mark. Both of them opted for the right gate with Melges following in at the head of the pack. First to opt for the left was Dave Ullman who’d come from tenth to fourth down the run. Weitz had pulled up to fifth with Porter sixth, Rob Greenhalgh seventh and Brotherton ninth.
Up the second beat Santella opened up 30-seconds on Kahn while Porter moved up to third. Melges had a poor beat and dropped back to 10th leaving Weitz in fourth, Greenhalgh fifth, Ullman sixth and Ayres seventh.
The final round saw no change in the top three but Melges showed that he might be down but he sure wasn’t out and managed to pull back up to fourth with Ullman fifth and Weitz sixth. Greenhalgh had to be content with seventh from Ayres.
Overall Harry Melges, Shark Kahn and Luca Santella remain in the top three slots, while Brian Porter has moved up to fourth. After racing Porter’s crew member Vince Brun, who already holds two Melges 24 world titles as helmsman, commented on his new role as trimmer: “I’m really enjoying the sailing but it’s very hard work to be trimming instead of helming. I think I’m getting to old!”
A disappointing 17, 13 scoreline was still enough to leave Philippe Kahn, father of the Shark, in fourth place with Ullman sixth, Greenhalgh seventh, Babbi eighth and Ayres ninth. Local boy Seadon Wijsen rounds out the top ten.
With his 1, 2 score line Shark Kahn, the teenage surprise from Hawaii, was definitely the day’s most consistent performer. After racing Shark acknowledged that his crew of Richard Clark (Illbruck Volvo Race, three times Canadian Olympic Finn representative), Mark Christensen (multiple Volvo race veteran), Brian Hutchenson (Melges 24 sailing guru) and Brian Lee (Shark’s 20 year old cousin) are playing a vital role in his success at this event. Commenting after the day’s racing Shark said: “In the past eight months we’ve done about 60 days sailing. We’ve done a lot of smaller regattas, we did San Diego Regatta, a lot of regattas up here, two on the Berkeley Circle and four on the City front and we’ve done a lot of training in Hawaii with Dave Ullman and my dad.”
With good weather forecast today the 68-strong fleet from ten nations is looking forward to two more good races. Ten races total are scheduled with the championship closing on Friday.