2013 Melges 17 Inland Championship: Pewaukee, Wisconsin, July 20-21

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23 July 2013

Article courtesy of Harry Melges III - Pewaukee Yacht Club, once again, hosted a great Melges 17 Inland Champs. I'm always amazed by the the great job all of the club member volunteers do to make us all feel welcomed. They are always so generous to put forth such great spreads for lunches and dinner, not to mention all the fun times at the PYC bar!

We woke up on Saturday morning to a somewhat sketchy forecast and light, shifty wind. The race committee sent the fleet out and started a race in what appeared to be a decent enough NW breeze. After two laps, the breeze faded and the race was called off and the fleet was sent in for lunch.

Just as lunch finished up, the breeze started to look more promising for the afternoon racing and the fleet headed out for some fun. Half way out to the race course, the breeze suddenly shifted to the east and came in with some force pumping up to 18, maybe more in the puffs. The RC did an awesome job by getting three long races in and setting the stage for some incredible racing.

While the team of Harry's were able to sneak out 3 victories on Saturday, the racing was much closer than the score sheet will attest. A different boat was winning at every first mark, and many place changes were occurring. RJ Porter and his crew, Vincent Porter, were really tough and in contention to win every race. There were also many others that were frequently at the head of the fleet; Debbie and Jim Gluek, Hans Joe Melges and his dad Hans, Kyle Navin and his dad Dave, Griffin Rolander and his crew Mac Six, Lesa and John Gutenkunst, Ben Biwer, Andy Colombe, Chris Katzfey, and the list goes on. I am sure I've missed a few.

We had some incredible rides on Saturday, some of the best I have ever had on a Melges 17. What really impressed me was the quality of the racing and how great so many of the young guns are at sailing these rockets. There are a lot of young drivers out there with fathers crewing or friends crewing, and it's amazing to me how well they sail these boats. It's non doubt that these kids will be the future champions of the Inland, and beyond! The Melges 17 is a technical boat that rewards good driving and good boat handling. To see these young guns duking it out with the adults is pretty cool.

Our set up for Saturday varied depending on the breeze. We were anywhere from base to plus 8 full turns on the intermediates, plus 4 full turns on the lowers, and plus 4 full turns on the diamonds. Tightening up really seemed to help us when the breeze was up. We weigh in at 270 total pounds so we struggled upwind in the big breeze at times against the heavier teams who were charging upwind. We moved the jib lead aft two holes from base and worked the vang in the puffs to free up the boat. Also easing the jib is key to prevent the main from turning inside out in the puffs. The light weight paid off downwind as we were flying on the runs. Leeward board up just a bit, outhaul loose, vang on the loose side, main out so upper telltales were flying, jib out and on the soft side and sailing with a nice constant angle of heel feeling powered up but not fully hiking and we were rippin!

On Sunday we woke up to chillier weather, and a nice Southeast breeze. Two races were sailed in a dying, shifty breeze. Patience and boat speed were the keys to the day. There were some big shifts, so waiting to see how those set up was pretty key, and then being able to take advantage of them. Down wind was where the biggest gains could be made. We found ourselves rounding the first mark around 7th, well behind RJ and Vincent who were the boat we needed to beat to win the event. Our strategy for the day was to start well and then stay close to Full Throttle. We did not do the first one well so we struggled to hang on to RJ on the beat. On the run we stuck with the strategy and slowly passed some boats and at the bottom mark we were able to just sneak inside RJ to round in first. We stuck to them like glue the rest of the race to squeeze out a narrow victory and put a little more cushion in our lead.

The final race was another fun one with many boats duking it out on the first beat. Heidi Schweda lead at the first mark with the Harry's in second, and Griffin Rolander in third followed by RJ and Debbie. The run got squirrely with the breeze doing some strange things. Harry was able to round the leeward gate in first with a tight grouping just behind. The next beat was a race to the right and the rich got richer with the Harry's going on to win the fifth race and the title.

This is still the most fun sailing I do, with my kid on a Melges 17. It doesn't get any better than that!

Our set up on Sunday was base all day, both the rig tension and the jib leads. Some of the heavier teams eased off the shrouds a bit to loosen the rig and power up a bit.

A big thank you to the PYC for a great weekend and especially Mark DeGuire and his RC staff for doing a great job running some awesome races!

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