Mike Holt and Rob Woelfel have rocketed to the top of the leaderboard of the SAP 505 World Championship after winning a breezy race in Kiel, Germany, today. They sit just two points ahead of their training partners, the British duo of Andy Smith and Tim Needham who pushed the Americans all the way around the windy and wavy race course.
After losing two days of racing earlier in the week to gale-force winds, the championship has now been compressed to a four-day regatta, and with four races down and just three to go, the top of the leaderboard is starting to take shape.
Holt is sitting pretty at the top, although the British-born resident of Santa Cruz, California, is not counting his chickens yet. “That was a great day, we love that stuff, but I’ve led the Worlds a few times before and not yet won it,” he said. “We’re feeling good, sailing really well together, but there’s plenty of good teams still with a great chance.”
Holt has now won two of the four races and will be relishing the prospect of more strong winds for the concluding two days of the championship. Tomorrow looks slightly lighter but still a full-power day, with the breeze increasing for a thrilling conclusion on Friday.
Smith and Needham are showing some real pace too. “Fell out of the boat just at start time,” said Needham. “Just about kept the boat from capsizing, and managed to get back in and getting going again, sailing out on port behind the rest of the fleet. When we had passed behind the last boat on the right, we kept on going to the layline and tacked. We got to the top mark in 2nd place, which was pretty mad.”
The five-time World Champion Wolfgang Hunger with his crew Julien Kleiner have been making hard work of the first windward legs, but have been using their legendary downwind speed to get back into contention. In both races they managed to find a way through the traffic to record two 3rd places. “If we could start better, it would be good,” admitted Hunger. “And we are not that fast until the breeze is really strong. We hope the wind will stay strong and maybe we can be as fast as Mike Holt.”
Another team that showed great climbing speed today were the young Aussies, Pete Nicholas and Luke Payne. The pathfinder for the first race of the day was the 2008 World Champion Ian Pinnell sailing with experienced American crew Dave Shelton. They led the fleet out to the right-hand side of the course and showed the way round for the first lap and a half. But the Aussies saw a dark cloud on the right side of the second windward leg and made a beeline for it. “Luke spotted the cloud,” said Nicholas, “and we got into good pressure which got us close to the lead.” Superior boatspeed down the fast reaches saw the Aussies overhaul the Brits and hold the lead to the finish, with Pinnell getting the better of Hunger on the final run.
The leaders going into today’s racing were Morten Bogacki and Lars Dehne. It looked set to be another very solid outing for the German team until they capsized during one of their final tacks to the finish. This dropped them out of the top 10 to 33rd place, a score they will be hoping to discard as soon as more races come into play. Their other scores are 1,2,5, so they remain a strong bet for the world title. The most consistent Germans so far have been last year’s Worlds runners up, Stefan Bohm and Gerald Roos. Although they haven’t won any races, they have yet to finish outside the top six in any race and now sit in 3rd place overall, 6 points in front of Hunger and Kleiner in 4th overall.
Two races are scheduled for Thursday, with the first race due to start at 12pm local time, and a live broadcast of all the action. The SAP 5O5 World Championship concludes on August 22nd.
– Andy Rice