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Melges 20 Keel Shots from Charleston Race Week Monday, April 12, 2010

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In decent, but not huge, breeze on Friday, at least one Melges 20 looked more like a Laser than it’s bigger cousin the Melges 24.  Notice the crew guy goes over the rail and steps on the keel to right the boat!

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These screenshots came from 1 minute 12 seconds into Sailing Anarchy’s highlight reel from Day 1 of Charleston Race Week 2010.  To see the full video click here, it’s pretty cool.

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Mossman settles for 9th Overall at US Nationals Monday, June 15, 2009

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Local Melges 24 racer Guy Mossman, slipped a little on Sunday in San Fransisco Bay, taking a 9, 12 and 13 to finish the regatta.  Overall he placed 9th (out of 21) against excellent competition.  Finishing 9th in a US Nationals Championship is a great result.  Congratulations to Guy.

Guy Mossman in 5th Place at M24 Nationals Saturday, June 13, 2009

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After the first day of racing, Guy Mossman is sitting in 5th place (out of 21) at the M24 National Championship in San Fransisco, CA.  See the full story on the U.S. Melges 24 Class Association website.

Melges 24 USA 700 Blog Monday, June 8, 2009

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David O’Rielly is blogging about his experiences racing and practicing on Melges 24 USA 700.  David owns Hull 700 with his brother Russ and sister Alana.  They are all excellent sailors.

Viper Demo Sails on Tuesday Thursday, May 7, 2009

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Several people have expressed interest in a test sail on a Viper.  The factory rep is going to be at Carolina YC on the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, May 12 giving demo sails.  If there’s enough demand, he may open up a session on Wednesday night as well.

If you’re interested, please let me know so we can schedule a test sail for you.  If you know someone else that would be interested, please pass along this email and have them get in touch with me.  Email me or call me at ReggieFairchild@gmail.com or 843-259-1717.

Melges 20 Review Monday, April 20, 2009

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The Melges 24 is the undisputed champion of the sportboats.  Ever since Shark Kahn won the Worlds in 2003 with a new more aggressive style, the Melges 24 seems to have accelerated.  The boat attracts both serious club racers and the World’s finest sailors, including folks like Terry Hutchinson and his allstar crew.  Competing at this level takes a serious commitment of time and money as well as sailing and organizational skills.  Crews now regularly “hang” on the hiking lines for the 1+ mile upwind legs.  When the breeze is on, it exhilarating but painful.  People talk about not being able to walk right for days after a major regatta.  Hutchinson Sports hiking pads and lines help allot, but it’s still tough.

On this back drop, three boats have rushed to the foreground of the 20-foot sportboat market.   The each argue that they are more fun at less cost and with less effort than the Melges 24.  They are:

1) Viper 640, now made by Rondar and with 29 boats racing at Charleston Race Week.  The “all-in” price around $30,000.

2) Laser SB3, a huge hit in Europe, but so far slow to catch on in the U.S.  They had 6 boats and Charleston Race Week.  Given the slow start, it appears that the SB3 is dead in the USA.  Around $37,000 all in.

3) Audi Melges 20, the newest entry, with 6 boats at Charleston Race Week.  Supposedly 4 more containers of the boats are on their way to the U.S. right now.  All-in around $50,000.  Fleet prices might bring that down to $45,000.

Note: My all-in price is everything you would need to trailer the boat from regatta to regatta and race it at the highest level.  On the Melges 24 that would include 2 dock boxes on the trailer, tapered sheets, new sails, etc.  For the Melges 24 that’s about $63,000 right now.

Both the Viper and the Melges 20 are attractive to me because I’m trying to find a boat that I can race at a very high level nationally and have lots of fun in with my family in club races.  The M24 has become a crew killer.  I don’t mind asking a 20 or 30 year old to voluntarily leave everything on the course.  But I don’t want my 13 year old to do that.  I want her to love the sport, not wonder why sailing is fun.

I got the opportunity to sail a Melges 20 twice during Charleston Race Week — once on Wednesday for a casual demo ride around 5:30 p.m. in 8 or 9 knots of breeze.  During the last race on Sunday, my friend Mark Marenakos graciously turned the helm over to me and I race with Katie, Justin Walling, and Anthony, the factory rep. from New England.  We recovered from nearly DFL to take the bullet in 12-14 knots of breeze.  We put ourselves back in striking distance on the second upwind leg and ripped downwind in several nice puffs to scoot across the line first.

You race the boat with 3 or 4 people or on an evening date you could easily sail with two.  There is no class weight limit.  Kiss weigh-ins and starving yourself before regattas goodbye.

The Melges 20 is a simpler Melges 24 — no backstay, no traveler, no tapered sheets, an over the boom vang, hiking with your legs facing in and your back resting on a comfortable Hutchinson Sports-style hiking line.  The rig is trickier looking than the 24.  It has two sets of spreaders and fore and aft tracks on the deck that let you adjust the rig tension on the fly.  There are also rake adjustments on the spreaders.  Guys smarter than me will figure out the ideal rake for all conditions and write tuning guides.  I’m not sure how the rig will work in the long haul since we didn’t make any adjustments.  The rumor is that Melges tested the 20 in San Fransisco with the Pegasus guys and then chopped two feet off the mast.  Perhaps with the shorter mast, they should have simplified the rig and lowered the price.  With the boat in production it’s probably too late for that.

At Charleston Race Week, the SB3s and Melges 20s started together, but were scored separately.  Over the 3 days, the boats seemed remarkably close in speed.  Each class taking turns with the line honors.  The Viper turned out to be faster.  Generally starting 5 minutes later, the top Vipers were sailing up to the back of the Melges / SB3 pack.

Having raced a Melges 24 for 5 years and having 4 crew members on the Melges 20, I was surprised by how little there was for me to do.  All I did was hold the tiller — no mainsheet, no traveler, no backstay.  Anthony adjusted the main, letting it out 6 inches in the puffs to keep us low and fast at the right angle of heal, instead of high and slow.  I understand that on boats with 3 crew members, the skipper holds the mainsheet.  I think that would improve my sense of feel for the boat’s groove.  The option of doing it either way will be great for training new skippers like my new teenager.

The helm is super balanced.  There isn’t much  if any weather helm.  Mostly that’s great, but it does reduce the sense of feel.

The hiking stick takes a little getting used to.  It wants to hang up on the mainsheet either in front of or behind you.  You learn to tack leading with the hiking stick similar to the way college sailors race 420s.  In breeze, the boat likes a pretty quick tack.

Off the breeze, the sailing style is very similar to the 24, but without the same sense of power.  It seemed like the short water length meant we were up and down a little more than on the 24.  The goal was to stay on a plane while sailing as low as possible.  People who are new to sportboat racing will find it exciting and stable.  We watched numerous Viper spin outs, but never felt out of control on the 20.  My chute trimmer Justin Walling weighs about 165 pounds.  He isn’t big enough to hold the spinnaker on a 24 in heavy breeze.  He had a blast trimming on the 20.

I hope to try a Viper soon, perhaps in Savannah next month.  The people I talked to said, the Viper is very wet, both upwind and downwind and requires allot of athleticism like a Laser.  Mike Krantz said the team that hikes the Viper the hardest and works the boat the most is the one that’s going to win.  By the end of the weekend, he was tired of doing crunches.  Whereas on the Melges 20, it was more about positioning on the race course, speed and good crew work.

My biggest concern about the Melges 20 is the price. I know several people who requested their deposits back when the price was announced.  Even if you can afford it, you have to wonder how many other people can.  With any one design boat, the more there are of them, the funner the racing is.

If I ran Melges, I would do everything possible to get the price under $40,000.  At $50,000, Rondar’s brag that you can get almost two Vipers for the price of one Melges 20 almost rings true.  The excessive price is going to stunt the boat’s market penetration at this critical early stage and let the Viper class get stronger.

Monday Morning Quarterback Monday, April 20, 2009

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I’m feeling pretty good about my predictions for Charleston Race Week.  The boats I listed in the top 8 all finished in the top 12 (out of 30) in pretty much the order I predicted.  John Hamilton doesn’t count since he wasn’t able to race. The surprises were:

Steve Kopf / Michael Miller finished in the top 5.  I would have picked them for the top 10.  All that practice and racing is paying off.

John Pollard a many time UK National Champ showed up to race Party Girl from Norway.  If I’d known he was coming, I would have had him in the top 5.  He finished 4th.

Peter Lane finished in front of Kristen Lane.  I chatted briefly with Peter.  He gave all the credit for their program to Kristen, saying it’s her competitive drive that got them out on the M24 circuit with awesome crew.

Everyone I talked to had a great Race Week.  We can’t wait to see everyone back in Charleston next year.

If you want to have a one design fleet in the harbor, you need to get a bunch of your friends to register and race.  Race Week is only going to have room for the strongest classes, like the Melges 24 and Viper 640, and the great to entries like the Melges 20.

Simon Strauss and Pre-Regatta Predictions Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Melges 24 racer Simon Strauss from Larchmont Yacht Club in Connecticut would have a shot at the podium but for the broken jib halyard he suffered in Race 4 on Friday.  The rest of his regatta has been an up and down affair, mostly up.  He has a 2-1-5-7 as well as a 15 and 20 plus the DNF from the broken jib halyard.  If you replace the DNF (32 points) with a 7, his worst good finish, then you shave 25 points off his score.  Simon would have 25 points overall and be sitting in 4th overall instead of his current 9th.  He would be just 5 points out of first place.

In my pre-regatta predications, I guessed that Simon would finish 3rd overall, behind Nixon and Campbell, but in front of Kolius.  But for the broken headstay, those predictions look remarkably on target.  If I’d known that John Pollard was helming Party Girl, I would have put them high in my original prediction.  John has had a number of top finishes both in the U.S. and Europe, especially in his home country.  It also appears that I didn’t rate Steve Kopf and Michael Miller highly enough.  They’re currently in 5th overall.

Let the racing begin and let’s see where the chips fall told.  Look for a dog fight between Nixon and Campbell at the front of the pack.

Only 3 DSQs so far in Race Week Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Across all of Race Week through the end of Saturday, there have only been 3 DSQ (Disqualifications). That’s very few with over 175 boats racing in 7 to 8 races each.

Anyone have a theory on whey that is?

Here are some possibilities…

  • The new rules are easier to understand and follow (unlikely)
  • People are taking their penalties on the water (I’ve seen some of that)
  • People are retiring after the fact (RAF) (the scoreboard lists a few)
  • People are excited the awesome parties and don’t want to stand around waiting for a protest hearing (Ding, ding, ding, this seems like the winner)

I would love to see US Sailing reduce on the water penalties to a single turn (some times called a 360). Several classes, including Melges 24s often make this change in the instructions. The idea is to get people to say, “oops, I was wrong. The penalty isn’t too bad, I’ll take it rather than worry about getting thrown out.”

Under the current 2-turn penalty system, racers often fight any protest in the hope that the protesting team will get fatigued and drop the protest or be unable to prove their case in the protest room. This runs counter to the Corinthian spirit of the sport. If you foul someone, by rule, you’re suppose to take a penalty or retire from the race.

Instituting a less painful penalty system would increase compliance. And that’s good for camaraderie.

Melges 24 vs. Viper Redo Friday, April 17, 2009

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The M24 seemed to loose the heat for the most boats participating in Charleston Race Week. Not so fast. On Day 1, 30 Melges 24s actually raced vs. only 29 for the Viper class.