Without any doubt the excitement and anticipation surrounding the 2015 Audi Melges 20 World Championship hosted by The San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC) will reach a boiling point on Wednesday, 30 September and be set on a high-simmer for four days of fun, fast and competitive racing on San Francisco Bay, complemented by great on-shore post-racing parties and activities.
Over the course of the last few days, teams have been practicing and tuning non-stop. Smiles are from ear-to-ear every time they return to the dock. When the forecast has called for a light 18-22 knots, instead they have encountered some seriously fresh, bigger breeze – classic conditions that hopefully will stick around all week.
‘We’ve had three spectacular days of sailing out on the bay, and my cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much,’ said Canadian Rhonda Joyce sailing Grinning Streak, the one and only helmswoman in the fleet. ‘It was all about getting out there and being around other boats and just going as fast as we possibly could. At one point we hit 17.6 knots, which is faster than I’ve gone before. We feel really good right now. We were smoking teams, it just felt so good to go so fast!’
The entry list is a brilliant ‘A-List’ as many of yachting’s very best and brightest athletes from all over the world will go head-to-head in the coming days. Nine nations are represented – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Monaco, Russia and the United States. Naturally, with the event being held on U.S. soil, America brings the largest fleet of competitors, followed by Japan.
Set within one of the most scenic, yet dynamic places to race in the U.S.A., the field of competing teams in San Francisco, California is impressive, which means the fight for the World Championship title will be anything but easy.
Newly crowned Audi Sailing Series and European Champion Dario Levi on Fremito D’Arja, reigning/defending World Champion John Kilroy Jr. on Samba Pa Ti, and double-U.S. National Champion Jason Michas on Midnight Blue and are in attendance.
Levi, just three weeks ago announced his participation in the aftermath of winning the 2015 Euros and overall season title. ‘The sailing here is so beautiful, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, and the view, we are really enjoying the bay. It’s just so beautiful,’ commented Niccolo Bianchi, tactician for Levi. ‘We are a little concerned about having enough weight on the boat, because the breeze can be so heavy here. This is the first time for Dario sailing on the bay, but he loves to drive the boat and very happy to be here. It is definitely different than sailing in Italy, this is for sure.’
A number of other teams also have winning potential and power like 2014 Audi Sailing Series Champion Guido Miani on Out of Reach, 2014 U.S. National Champion Cesar Gomes Neto on Portobello, 2013 Melges 20 World Champion John Taylor on Ninkasi, 2013 Melges 24 World Champion Brian Porter on Shimmer, current Melges 32 World Champion Alessandro Rombelli on STIG and 2015 North American Ranking leader Richard Davies on Section 16. Every one of these teams are all well-equipped and ready for some of the toughest competition they have ever faced in their Audi Melges 20.
And then, there are the hometown favorites such as Tom Kassberg’s Flygfisk, Daniel Thielman’s Kuai, Sid Gorham’s Funner, Skip Shapiro’s Makaira, Bob Hayward’s Manatea 20, and Drew Freides on Pacific Yankee. These teams maintain a strength all their own as they anticipate serving up some serious speed backed by local-based knowledge and loads of bay racing experience working in their favor.
Of course, all eyes will be on the lookout (most especially his fellow competitors) for the youthful, seemingly unfearful and aspiring,12-year old, 2015 Audi Melges 20 Pacific Coast Champion Liam Kilroy on Wildman.
In addition to the main World Championship competition, a strong, seven-piece fleet of amateur talent will battle for the prestigious title of Corinthian World Champion. Double Corinthian U.S. National Champion Paul Currie on Wild Deuces is expected to do well in this division, while Germany’s Florian Rixner on Mojito races for the first time in the U.S.A. Russia’s Oleg Evdokimenko aboard Kotyara faired well during the 2014 Worlds on Lake Garda, surely he will be back in action in San Francisco. Jay Golison’s Midlife Crisis and John Murphy’s Solas, along with two Japanese entries – Naoki Hirakawa on Swift Magic and Yosuke Watabe on SP1 have qualified for all-amateur division status.
New kids on the block
At every World Championship the Class welcomes and embraces new friends. This year, the red carpet is rolled out for Michael Illbruck’s Pinta and Justin Smart’s Yeah Baby. The IAM20CA is also proud to welcome its very first entry from Australia at a major national Championship – Guido Belgiorno-Nettis will sail his famous Transfusion entry.
by Joy Dunigan