The 2004 Melges 24 World came to a spectacular close today with a final race in perfect sailing conditions. Frenchman Sebastien Col and his P&P crew of owner Phillip Ligot, tactician Christian Ponthieu, Thomas Allin and William Thomas, took second in race ten, beating overnight leader Maurizio Abba of Italy by sufficient places to win the World Championship. Abba’s ninth place secured him second overall whilst Flavio Favini, helming Blu Moon for Switzerland’s Franco Rossini, took third with Stuart Rix, helming Gill for Englishman Quentin Strauss, fourth and Norway’s Eivind Melleby fifth. 2003 World Champion Shark Kahn, who turned 15 the week before the championship, had a mixed regatta but finished in sixth overall just ahead of Luca Santella, helming Joe Fly for Giovanni Maspero.

In the Corinthian World Championship, for amateur helms and crews, the title goes for a record third time to Finland’s Kenneth Thelen, sailing with Henrik Thelen, Jolle Blassar and Jari Bremer. Thelen dominated the Corinthian division this week and finished 14th overall in the open championship.

The final race was without doubt the most exciting of the regatta with the wind at last filling in at 15-16 knots from the North East. The fleet got away at the third attempt with only Jakob Gustafsson being black-flagged. In the pre-start Col and Abba jostled for position at the centre of the line. Abba got the best start whilst Col was forced to tack off early and take transoms out to the right. The shift gods were obviously smiling on Col today and by halfway up the beat it was clear he was well ahead of his rival.

At the first weather mark Rob Smith, helming for Stuart Simpson, took the lead for the first time in the championship, closely followed by Carolina Toll who was also putting in her first appearance at the front of the fleet along with Christoff Nielsen. Shark Kahn rounded fourth from Zanchi Guilio, Jean Francois Cruette, helming for Cedric de Kervenael and Michael Schineis in seventh. Col slotted into eighth whilst Abba rounded fourteenth.

With Col needing a five-boat lead to win the Championship he was looking good but there was a lot of racing still to come. On the first run Smith held his lead as Shark Kahn pulled up into second and Cruette into third and Toll dropped to fourth just ahead of Col who had gained 4 places. Abba meanwhile lost out on the first run and rounded in the low teens.

The second beat was a French benefit and Cruette led Col at the weather mark from Shark Kahn and Smith. There was then a gap back to the pack led by Toll, Nielson and Guilio and where Abba had worked hard to pull himself back up to ninth. The early gybe definitely paid down the second run and Col and Shark Kahn took full advantage of this to round the second leeward mark first and second and start what was to become a spectacular duel to the finish. Behind them Smith and Cruette were battling equally hard for third with Toll and the pack chasing them.

On the last beat Col and Shark Kahn had the spectators on the edges of their seats as they traded tacks every few seconds. At the same time as watching a thrilling dog fight all eyes were also on Abba as he did his utmost to pull back to within five places of Col. At the finish it was outgoing World Champion Shark Kahn who took the gun just ahead of Col with Smith third, Cruette fourth and Toll fifth. Abba had to settle for ninth and second overall in the championship.

Phillip Ligot’s P&P Team with helm Sebastien Col have been strong supporters of the Melges 24 Class since its arrival in Europe and they are popular and deserving winners. The 81-boat fleet has had some outstanding sailing, some outrageous partying and some excellent fun. The week also demonstrated that the Melges 24 is a boat for all ages with the youngest competitor being the 12 year old Philipp Schineis, sailing for Austria with his father Michael, and the oldest being over 70.

Thanks must go to the MSS who have hosted the championship, the Swedish Melges 24 Class and all the volunteers and supporters who worked so hard to make this event possible.

The 2005 Melges 24 World Championship will take place at The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, USA from 12-16 December 2005.