Jeff Ecklund is 2006 Melges 32 National Champion
23 July 2006
NEWPORT, RI • Jeff Ecklund and his "STAR" crew are the 2006 Melges 32 National Champions! On board with Jeff is Harry Melges, III calling tactics, Hans Melges, Bill Wiggins, Jim Condon "Big Jim", Andy Labanauskas "Rooster" and former "Heart of America" America's Cup team member Bill Chamberlain. "We are all really happy to win the very first Melges 32 National Championship. Newport is a great place to sail. It's awesome." commented Ecklund.
The Melges 32 will not disappoint and the final day of the National Championship is proof. Until now the teams have enjoyed a wide range of conditions from big seas and monster swells, rain, fog, to 5-18 knots of breeze that produced downwind planning that will be spoken about for a long, long time. Every team on Saturday afternoon had smiles from ear-to-ear, which they proudly carried with them to the big evening party at the New York Yacht Club like badges of courage. The physical reinactments of the teams shifting their weight aft planning downwind was just part of sharing the experience and exhilerating performance of the Melges 32.
For Sunday's races, overcast skies and somewhat shifty conditions led to a brief race postponement. One hour later the Melges 32s jostled for position at the start under sunny skies and 5-8 knots of breeze. Ecklund and Kullman kept each other close, as if attempting to anticipate each others moves. Both with one goal in mind - no mistakes. Despite the nervousness, the fleet made a clean start. Ecklund jetted off to leeward, Kullman preferring the middle of the course. Half way to the weathermark, the race was abandoned due to a complete shift in the wind some 25-30 degrees. The fleet returned to the starting line.
The additional postponement lasted only a few minutes, resulting in resetting the course at 200 degrees, 1.5 mile legs, on a windward, leeward course. On the second start Ecklund got hung out to dry as he was forced to OCS at the committee boat. Ecklund quickly recovered and got back up to speed. The right side was definitely favored, Kullman in the lead. Ecklund, slowly but surely showed signs of catching up. Into the weathermark the fleet was tight with Kullman around first, then Joe Woods on "Red", Glenn Darden (helm) and Reese Hillard on "Hoss", then Ecklund. Kullman's team set the kite flawlessly, ditto for Darden and Woods. Ecklund's team struggled initially on the set but was quick to turn on the speed. He zipped past Woods and Darden, determined to take the lead from Kullman. Ecklund blasted down the course. Kullman jibed to the left while Ecklund stayed right - and it paid off big time. Ecklund rounded through the leeward gate in first, a few boat lengths ahead of Kullman. Rick Orchard on "Grins" slid into the second position just barely ahead of Kullman. Kullman took to weather, whilst both Ecklund and Orchard went left. In the end, Ecklund clinched the championship with two points to spare, Kullman finished in second, Woods in third, Orchard was fourth and Geoff Masters on "Melges Asia Pacific" in fifth.
- Jeff Ecklund, STAR; 1, 1, 3, 2, 1, 2, 4, 2, 1, 1 = 18
- Marty Kullman/Mike Carroll, New Wave; 3, 2, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 4, 2, 2 = 20
- Rick Orchard, Grins; 2, 4, 2, 4, 6, 3, 3, 1, 4, 4 = 33
- Geoff Masters, Melges Asia Pacific; 6, 3, 7, 3, 2, 8, 2, 5, 5, 5 = 46
- Joe Woods, Red; 5, 6, 5, 6, 4, 5, 5, 8, 3, 3 = 50
- Glenn Darden/Reese Hillard, Hoss; 4, 5, 6, 7, 5, 6.5, 3, 6, 3 = 54.5
- Doug Croker, Canvasback; 7, 7, 4, 10 OCS, 7, 4, 8, 7, 10 DNC, 10 DNC = 74
- Walter Kennedy, Savannah; 8, 9, 10 DNS, 5, 8, 6.5, 6, 8, 7 = 74.5
- John Cooper, Quick Fix; 9, 8, 10 DNF, 10 OCS, 9, 10 DNC, 10 DNC, 9, 7, 8 = 90
A very special thanks to everyone that has made these reports possible including the New York Yacht Club who put on a first-class event, title sponsor Rolex and members of the Rolex Media Center team, especially Dana Paxton. A special thanks to every competitor that traveled - for some, great distances especially Joe Woods and crew from the UK, as well as Geoff Masters on "Melges Asia Pacific" from the land down under - Australia. Without you this would not be possible. And last but not least, Doug Croker and the "Canvasback" team, who provided on the water access Saturday giving way to some amazing photos. A gallery will be posted online at www.melges32.com in the next couple of days.
Next stop for the Melges 32 is WFORC in fabulous Pensacola, Florida! We hope to see everyone there!
The Melges 32 will not disappoint and the final day of the National Championship is proof. The teams have enjoyed a wide range of conditions from big seas and monster swells, rain, fog, to 5-18 knots of breeze that produced downwind planning that will be spoken about for a long, long time. Every team on Saturday afternoon had smiles from ear-to-ear, which they proudly carried with them to the big evening party at the New York Yacht Club like badges of courage. The physical reinactments of the teams shifting their weight aft planning downwind was just part of sharing the experience and exhilerating performance of the Melges 32.
The Melges 32 is taking one design racing to the next level, so stay tuned to the official web site of the Melges 32 Class Association - www.melges32.com as daily reports, results and interviews will be posted. Also, visit Melges Performance Sailboats online at www.melges.com.
Rolex Watch U.S.A. has been the exclusive presenting sponsor of the NYYC events since 1994. Supporting sponsors of Race Week include Mount Gay Rum and Heineken USA. For more information, visit www.nyyc.org or contact the New York Yacht Club Sailing Office, Harbor Court, 5 Halidon Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island 02840; phone 401-845-9633; fax 401-846-3303; email email@example.com.