2008 EAST COAST CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE: Skippers and Crews Find More Challenges on the Chesapeake

2008 EAST COAST CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE: Skippers and Crews Find More Challenges on the Chesapeake ©2008 John Payne Photography Related topics:

27 April 2008

As published by Tony Bessinger, Sailing World • Conditions looked good at the start of racing on Day 2 of the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, but the wind once again grew fickle and died, leaving racers on all four course with more challenging conditions. Most courses got at least two races off, despite some big shifts and the dying breeze.

Mike Carroll, owner of the Melges 32 New Wave, managed to have some good finishes despite the light conditions, and is standing in first overall, one point ahead of Joe Woods' Red.

"We had a great day," said Carroll. "We got a first and a third, and we've been able to move into first place overall. It'll be an interesting day tomorrow, Red, which is from Great Britain has improved over the last 18 months incredibly; they're at the top of the fleet and they're highly competitive. It was very light and shifty today, but we're blessed to have some excellent talent on the boat. Scott Nixon is sailing with us and he's from this area, so that's a big help, but the other boats have been here practicing for a couple of days and we've got four or five boats that are just very strong and have high-talent teams, but it's a great venue for us.

"Marty Kullman, my co-owner and helmsman of the boat is doing an excellent job with these very light conditions we have a light-displacement boat, but it's still nerve wracking when you split from the fleet and decide which side of the course to go to. We tried to stay with Red, by-and-large, but we started out the day three points behind and you're never going to win by following, so we separated a couple of times and it paid off big time for us. The fleet's become very high-profile, we've gained some sailors from the Farr 40 fleet, we've got some pretty serious teams out there. It's a high level of competition. We're looking for the heavier conditions actually, we were nervous about a third race today because it had become very light and we felt it was turning into a bit of a crap shoot in terms of which side to go to, and we think it's a more sportsmanlike race if it's consistent and strong winds. We generally do well in breeze, the crew weight on the boat is at max, so we should be able to hold our own in the heavier air."

Harry Melges is sailing with Jeff Ecklund's Melges 32 Star. "It's going OK," said Melges, "we've had our moments, it's been very tight racing with short courses and a lot of competitive boats. We're all having a good time. When we asked about the strength of the class, Melges said. "It's rewarding, it's been fun to see new people getting into the class and guys like Jim Schwartz (Moneypenny) getting into the class and doing really well and getting better all the time and getting really hard to beat.

"We've sold close to 85-90 Melges 32s so far, a lot of boats in Europe. The Audi circuit in Italy starts this May on Lake Garda, and they'll have 15 boats for the first regatta there. Every month throughout the summer they'll have a regatta, and I think the class will grow throughout the summer over there. The U.K. fleet is gaining momentum, and there'll be three boats in Australia soon, we're staring to see growth down there."

When we asked how it was to sail the Melges 32 in these challenging conditions, Melges said: "The Melges 32 powers up pretty quickly, so they're pretty nice to sail even in five knots of breeze. Downwind they're great, upwind, everybody's on the rail or hiking out most of the time. Rarely do you ever move everyone off the rail. It's a powered-up boat, which is what you want, but it's pretty manageable even when it's windy. As people get comfortable on the boats they learn that it's really fun to sail in a breeze. It's definitely manageable, and downwind it's pretty awesome all the time, just good fun."

The next new boat from Melges is the Melges 20. "We're all pretty excited about that, and we're seeing a lot of interest in the boat. We hope to sail the first one in June and do some testing in some windy venues for a month or so, shake it out a little bit, and start delivering some boats in September."