2018 Melges 24 Worlds Preview
Story by Alex Fox, photos by Tom Hawker
Major sailing championships may be commonplace in some of the better-known sailboat racing centres of the world – San Francisco, Kiel, Weymouth, Annapolis, Sydney, Lake Garda – but for a relatively small club on the southern tip of Vancouver Island,hosting a World championship isa pretty rare thing; especially when we’re talking about the preeminent sportboat class on the planet, the Melges 24! Welcome to a preview of the 2018 Melges 24 World Championships, to be hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club with an assist from C.F.S.A. Esquimalt.
Start line action from the 2014 Canadians. Bow 17 is 2nd place Midsummer, Bow 28 again winner Mikey, Author Alex Fox was skippering bow 12 Gravy. They finished 8th in 2014.
The Melges 24 still thrills after all this time…wow, twenty-five years young!This little hotrod was the brainchild of Americas Cup designers Reichel/Pugh and America3(cubed)-winning helmsman andlegendary sailor, Buddy Melges. Zenda Wisconsin, lake country, land of the scow, that’s the birthplace, andwhere MelgesBoatworks still produces these exotic little beauties to exacting standards and rigorous one-design specifications.Unlike anything before it, the Melges 24 is a single-purpose, light-weight, high-performance,racing machine. A simple yet highly tuneable carbon fibre rig, plus a large asymmetric spinnaker, flown from an extendable carbon sprit, make the Melges a technical/physical challenge and atake-your-breath-away kind of ride!
A huge part of this boat’s continuedpopularity and widespread appeal can be attributed to the strong and very well-organized Class Association. For any class newcomer, there’s readily available, up-to-date information on boat set upplus major sailmakers’ class gurus freely sharetuning guides and tips to helpjumpstart programs and remove much of the mystery. For those teams wanting to advance to the highest levels, there are no short cuts to success: It’s about doing your homework, your boat work, and putting in the hard practice milesto develop seamless, efficient, crew work!
The Victoria’s would be considered relatively new, seven years give or take, and modest in size with a dozen or so boats – yet a keener bunch would behard to find!Fleet members have travelled to major regattas including the Worlds in San Francisco and Miami, North American and National championships at the Columbia River Gorge,andCanadian and U.S.National Championships in Kelowna and Lake Geneva – not to mention hosting a very successful Canadians in 2014.
This Mikey, one of this year’s favorites, winning the 2014 Canadians also hosted by Royal Victoria Yacht Club. These are the conditions we’re hoping for again this year.
So, it made imminent senseto look at hosting more racing…another Canadians…a Worlds? Sure, why not?Chairing this 2018 Worlds is Terry Stamper, former Commodore of Royal Victoria, who got talked into this role by his two sons, Duncan and Tim, who – you guessed it – are both Melges 24 racers.
Terry and his team have worked extremely hard to bring fresh ideas and fresh sponsorship support to this year’s events. One of those sponsors, Victoria International Marina (VIM), is providing abrand spanking new facility location for moorage hosting and regatta social activities.VIM islocated in Victoria’s outer harbour, a short sail from the racing area, andit’s also inclose proximity to the downtown centre of Victoria, with all its many attractions. As I write this article, there’s still some work to be done attracting registrants, with just shy of 30 boats currently signed up. Running a major regatta like this takes a massive effort and the hope is that if you build it they will come (sorry, borrowed that one). Inquires have come in from all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe and hopes are high that the class and the sailors will jump at the invitation, make plans, and join rest of us Melges maniacs in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and one of the very best sailing venues. Of course, now everyone who reads this will surely want to come…we’ll make room.
On to what this is all about then, the racing!
As a warm up to the Worlds and as a standalone regatta, the Canadian Championships are first up;same venue, just prior to the main event. This should be a perfect opportunity for visiting teams to get in some practice and familiarize themselves with the areacurrents and wind conditions. Having raced a bunch on this body of water myself, I’ll tell you that it’s one of the best and most challenging regatta race tracks around. The best summertime scenario is for a westerly wind to start filling in from Race Rocks around mid-morning, then as the city heats up, athermal breeze builds to 20-something by noon – 15 will do of course, fingers crossed. The current is ever present in the race area, and competitors would be well advised to get out early, investigate the tide lines, and pay close attention to the texture of the water relative to speed over the ground – come on, it’ll be fun!
Next, the competitors, and my best prognostications as to who the oddsmakers might like. I’ll pick my top three favourites with absolutely no prejudice,based solely on what I’ve witnessed myself, and of course researched about the guys and gals registered so far. ThenI’ll pick three more to watch from the rest of the pack and finally,I’llhave a go at another three local dark horses that could turn a few heads. Don’t hate me guys, you’re all winners, let’s just have a bit of fun with this!How does seven-time National and 2013 Melges 24 World Champion sound? Sounds pretty good, we’d all agree, and that’s why I’m giving the nod of favourites to Brian Porter and crew onFull Throttle, direct from the motherland. They certainly mastered the currents of San Francisco Bay, so they won’t be rattled by the moving waters here. Next is Mikey, a northwest standout, having won everything in these here parts plus third at last year’sHelsinki Worlds, where they had Ross MacDonald on tactics. Kevin Welch, Ian Sloan, andwith Jason Rhodes at the helm, they should be top contenders having blitzed the Canadians three years running. Southern Californian Bruce Ayers and the Monsoonare next up, having been a top contender for many years. Their bridesmaid finish in Finland last year was notice served that they’ve got some unfinished business. Right, there you go, the pressure’s on, I somehow think these teams will revel in it.
These people are the organizing committee and key volunteers. Left to right:
Scott Davis, Scoring
Gord Galbraith, Co-owner of “Lekker” sponsored by Victoria International Marina
Mike Turner International Judge
Bill MacDonald, C.F.S.A. Esquimalt liason
Pamela Mae-Stamper, organizing committee
Duncan Stamper, Skipper “Goes to Eleven” and organizer
Judy Abel, Race committee
John Abel, Principle Race Officer
Deb Tolman, Regatta Sponsorship
Terry Stamper, Regatta Chair
I’m loath to call this next group the second tier, because there’s every chance that all three will be appearing close to the top of the results sheet. Michael Goldfarb is one of those names that keeps popping up on the first page of international regattas. With Mark Strube and David Brink onboardWar Canoe, this Seattle sailor should be comfortable enough at the venue to give the big three a run. I’m now a bit conflictedwith my next pick because I don’t want to put any undue pressure on this team. I also know how much preparation and practice they’ve been putting inand that they truly believe.Sunnyvale, the Wet Coast Sailing Team of Fraser McMillan, Keegan Moynihan, Keiran Horsburgh, Aidan Koster, and Harry Miller, is next. This Corinthian bunch of young guys are exceptional in a breeze and they know the waters well. Wouldn’t that be something?I would be amiss to ignore any entry crewed by Richard Clark, two-time Melges 24 World Champion, professional sailor extraordinaire, sailing technician, you get the idea. Richard will be helming Mikey Black (Team Mikey’s backup training boat)this go-round. Richards thinks this could be Melges Worlds number eight. Experience does count in this class, so watch out!
There’s a whole bunch of really good sailors in our local fleet set to welcome and take on the rest of the Melges World. Bob Britten, current fleet champion, has won everything from the T-Bird Internationals, to the Laser Masters, to the Fireball North Americans. A true master at reading the local currents and winds, I would not be at all surprised to see Bob and his crew on Full Circle right up there. Duncan Stamper, who’s playing a major role in the regatta planning, is a former Canadian National Team member in the 470 class. He and brother Tim were reserves on the Canadian Olympic sailing team back in the day and they remain as competitive as ever in the Melges fleet. Duncan and boat partner Mark Malleson have already competed in two Worlds with one of the oldest boats around,Goes to Eleven. Fast in a breeze, their experience should shine through. Brother Tim crews for Malcolm Smith and Gord Galbraith on Lekker, along with Tom Insley they form team VIM, with a brashly stated goal of shooting for top Corinthian team. Good on them and good luck, boys!
You know what? I could list another half dozen teams that could very well end up in the top ten, and that’s the essence of this class, no holding back, tight racing!Well, this has been fun, and I’m sure the racing will be intense. I wish the organizers and competitors the most perfect of conditions, and may the best teamsrise to the top. I hope this preview has nudged a few Melges sailors and maybe even a few others to consider coming along to Victoria at the end of May. Come a bit early and take in the 75th running of our other big race, Swiftsure.
Perhaps I’ll see you there!
For a full rundown on the 2018 Melges Canadians and World Championship regatta, including information on the venue, the sponsors, and the scheduled events, please visit: http://melges24worlds2018.rvyc.bc.ca/