All Engines Firing for Melges 24 at Sperry Charleston Race Week
Thursday, April 12, 2018 4:06 PM
There is absolutely no better way to usher in Spring than sending it on Charleston Harbor at Sperry Charleston Race Week, and for 31 Melges 24 teams who have traveled from virtually every corner of the U.S. and beyond, that is exactly what they are planning to do this weekend as they prepare to enjoy three days of world-class racing and phenomenal shoreside activities.
"Charleston is the perfect combination of great racing, great venue and great event organization. It is always so much fun," says die-hard Melges 24 Bad Idea (USA-717) owner Scot Zimmerman who has attended Sperry Race Week for the last three years in a row. "What makes this year super exciting is that several teams have traveled from the Midwest, so the competition should be incredible. We are really looking forward to racing in Charleston."
In the open division all eyes will be on California's Bruce Ayres at the helm of Monsoon (USA-851), a three-time, consecutive Melges 24 Charleston Champion. To say that Ayres is warmed up and ready to go in 2018 is an understatement. Thus far, he has managed to conquer every Melges 24 event on the calendar, and now has Charleston in the crosshairs.
Several other teams are rip rarin' to go such as 2013 Melges 24 World Champion Brian Porter on Full Throttle (USA-849), Canada's Richard Reid on Zingara (CAN-853), Michael Goldfarb's War Canoe (USA-825) and John Brown will be breaking in a brand new Blind Squirrel (USA-856) Melges 24.
A little more than half of the fleet has qualified for the feisty, determined yet highly-motivated, all-amatuer division. From the likes of 2017 U.S. Corinthian National Champion KC Shannon sailing Shaka (USA-801), to George Haynie's Firewater (USA-687), Patrick Finnick's AKA... (USA-292), Brent McKenzie's EX-KAHN (USA-575) and Laura Grondin's Dark Energy (USA-850), this division always puts on a show, an inner-fleet rivalry that is as intense as any open division - with a whole lot of fun and bragging rights mixed in.
"We've been coming to Charleston for 11 years now. The breeze is great, and you can't argue about the parties - they are pretty good... and generous too," said Corinthian Tony Stanley, the helm of Hermes (USA-610). "Charleston is by far the best regatta on the East Coast, if not in the country. We finished up third Corinthian at St. Pete's back in February, so we are looking to build on that momentum and improve in Charleston."
Stanley comes from a flock of Melges 24s that call Georgia's Lake Lanier home-away-from-Zenda. The local fleet includes a minimum of 14 boats, and they race together regularly on Wednesday nights which helps keep the competitive standard at a highpoint, and sets-up a nice environment for boat owners to help each other with improving how they sail.
In typical, aspiring Melges 24 fashion, formidable youth teams are abound in the lowcountry. The U.S. Melges 24 Class Association (USMCA) is thrilled to welcome fleet newcomer Patrick Croke from Bedford, New York and his daughter Brigette at the helm of Crazy Train (USA-155). Like many, she grew up sailing and has recently taken up driving her dad's Melges 24 after graduating from Roger Williams University, relegating him to being permanent rail meat.
A direct product of the Mudratz program, Melges 24 Opportunity (USA-43) is appropriately named and headed up by helmsman Zach Champney. He and his very young team have pulled this regatta together on their own with no scheduled coaching or plans, which is exactly what the organizers and supporters of this great youth initiative like to see happening. The oldest member of the team is 18 and a senior in high school while the rest of the team is made up of sophomores and freshmen.
U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SENSATION
Post-Charleston, the wheels keep on turning for the Melges 24 Class in North America with a complete array of events moving through the deep South into the Midwest, then spanning the country reaching the West Coast as the International Class ramps up for the Canadian National Championship on June 2-3 just in advance of the 2018 World Championship in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
As the Spring transitions into Summer, the Melges 24 will be a featured act at many of the nation's best racing venues including the New York Yacht Club One-Design Regatta in Newport, Rhode Island. The StFYC Aldo Regatta, hosted by the prestigious St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California will serve as the perfect warm-up/tune-up to the U.S. National Championship hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club on September 7-9. Teams get the biggest bang for the buck by staying a few days longer to race the impeccable Rolex Big Boat Series on September 12-16. A complete list of 2018 U.S. Melges 24 events can be found online at usmelges24.com.