How to Get On a Melges 24 Worlds Podium

How to Get On a Melges 24 Worlds Podium

The Anacortes-based Melges 24 MiKEY, skippered by Kevin Welch, finished an amazing third in the open fleet Melges 24 Worlds in Helsinki, Finland July 28-August 4. Ian Sloan gives us insights into the event and what it takes to race at that level. 

I would say the primary key to success was time in the boat. We shipped our boat to Sweden in April, and sailed the Nordic Championship in Marstrand in June. We sailed six days in Marstrand and came in 4th in that event. It’s an amazing place to sail: windy and quite big seas, and it was very good preparation for the Worlds in Helsinki.

In late June we joined a group of Victoria boats for a two day training session in the Royal Roads area, the venue of the 2018 Worlds. This was a great two days of sailing where we tested a couple of new sails and got to sail on the racecourse of the 2018 Worlds.

Then in July we sailed the North American Championship in the Gorge, one of our favorite places to sail. While the conditions in the Gorge are unlike anyplace else, it is a perfect place for heavy air training. We enjoyed fantastic sailing conditions with another 6 days of sailing. During this event we continued to learn and develop our rig tune and sail setup.

You’d think that after sailing the Melges 24 for eight years we would have it figured out but it’s amazing that nothing is ever set in stone and we continue to learn more and more about getting the boat tuned and balanced correctly. We won the North American Championship beating out some great local teams. It’s really exciting to see the level of sailing here in the PNW continue to improve in all the teams. I always say, it’s not about what level you are currently at, but rather about improvement every time you sail. That’s what keeps teams going.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

More photos here. Results here.

Two days after returning home from the Gorge we flew to Helsinki to prepare for the Worlds. In Helsinki we enjoyed five days of training prior to the start of racing. We used a couple things we learned at the Gorge to further fine tune our rig setup (of course a different boat and nothing is ever as simple as just “making it the same”!) Again, what we’ve figured out is that setting these boats up is always a moving target, and there are no hard rules how it should be done. There is always something more to get. So, in the two weeks leading into racing we had sailed 11 days. There is nothing more important than time in the boat!

I would say the other primary keys to our success were:

1) No big numbers! It was a primary goal to not have any “shockers” during the event. This is so important in big fleets. We achieved this goal, finishing the event with the best throwout of the regatta, a 19th.

2) Speed. We work tirelessly to constantly improve our speed. Speed makes the tacticians job much easier. There are always gains to be made, and our team has been extremely fastidious about pulling every ounce of boatspeed out of the boat.

3) Never, ever, give up or think you can’t make back a deficit. We were in some extremely difficult positions during the Worlds. The racecourse was very volatile a few days of the regatta, and it was very easy to get frustrated with a poor position or rough shift. We managed to keep our heads screwed on straight and keep fighting till the end, which is a primary reason we didn’t have any really poor finishes (see #1 above).

4) Preparation. We spend an inordinate amount of time going over our boat and our equipment. This resulted in no mechanical or equipment failures, which will end your regatta very quickly. Lucky Dog, a very strong US team, broke not one but TWO jib halyards on day 2 of the regatta and thus they had no chance of a top finish.

5) Dedication. Our team, led by owner Kevin Welch, is extremely dedicated to success. There is never a time we don’t think about how we can improve and how to work towards that end. We are so lucky to have someone as dedicated as Kevin to making this happen. He has provided unwavering support for our team for many years. It was very nice to see his dedication and everyone’s hard work pay off with a podium finish at the Worlds!

Our crew consisted of Kevin Welch, Jason Rhodes, Ross Macdonald, Serena Vilage,Ian Sloan and Jeff Madrigali (coach)

Looking ahead we have the Canadian Nationals in Toronto in September. Then our local PSSC in Seattle in October. In November we will start our winter season in Florida and some longer training sessions down there in the warmer climate… All this is in preparation for the 2018 World Championship in Victoria BC in June next year!

Thanks, Ian, for sharing the story of the Melges 24 Worlds. Once again, it’s great to see PNW sailors “out there” doing well and bringing those lessons home to the rest of us. Ian Sloan owns Anacortes Rigging and Yacht Services.

Melges 24 Worlds Wrapup

The Melges 24 Worlds finished as they started, with great conditions and a really, really competitive fleet. Winner Embarr was from Ireland, though there wasn’t much of the Irish luck involved in their win. The crew were professional in their approach and prepped on site in Miami. Embarr was consistently at or near the top, which is always key to winning a major championship. More on that below in Ian Sloan’s comments. The winner in the Corinthian (aka amateur) division was Taki II from Italy.

Our Northwest sailors sailed well and no doubt will bring lots of lessons learned back with them. West Marine Rigging (aka Airforce 1), skippered by Bora Gulari with our own Jonathan McKee called tactics, ended up fifth. The last race’s black flag disqualification and additional 75 points must have been painful, but no doubt the team was going for it in the last race.

Correction! We forgot at least one PNW pro in the Melges 24 Worlds, Matt Pistay aboard 7th place Blind Squirrel (pictured here). Alert reader and proud dad Bob Pistay pointed it out. If there are any other PNW sailors (pro or otherwise) I missed, let me know and I’ll make amends. Again, if you have some tales to tell, or pix to share, please do!

Kevin Welch and the supercharged crew on MiKEY ended 16th (more on that below), Mike Goldfarb on Blue Moon with the Brink father and son combination on board were 28th, Duncan Stamper’s Goes to Eleven was 39th and the Arntson’s Nikita finished 65th.

While to some of us it seems like yesterday that the Melges 24 revolutionized the small one design keelboat world, the class can actually be considered mature and even threatened by newer designs. But this year’s Worlds prove that it’s still the forum of choice for professional, high octane one design sailing. And with the Worlds headed our way in 2018, the future of the class on the Salish Sea seems bright.

And now for the report from Ian Sloan and the MiKEY crew. To be able to come back from a DNF and finish 16th shows a lot of resiliency. Kudos. By the way, if any of you other M-24 sailors back from Miami are recovered enough to share some of your experiences with PNW sailors, send them to me and I’ll post them.

Ian Sloan:

The MiKEY team had its ups and downs at the 2016 Melges 24 Worlds. The best moment was winning race 1 on day two. We had a hard fought battle in the top 4 group, but managed to edge out the other teams on the final run to the finish. The worst moment would come that same day in race 3 when we got tangled with the pin end boat anchor rode, and damaged our keel fin. We retired from that race to assess and repair the damage back at the dock.

Overall the level of competition at this event was incredible. The best boats put a premium on starting well, out of traffic, and maintaining good lanes on the first beat.

MiKEY

If you could keep in the top ten or twelve boats around the weather mark, racing became more straightforward. If you were caught back in the twenties (or higher), it was incredibly difficult to find a way through to the top group. The winners, Embarr, have some great interviews on what made them successful, and its very interesting to hear their strategy. Their basic recipe for success was clear lanes, proper rig tune, and downwind boathandling/mode changes. They put in more time than just about anyone else, and it showed. They truly deserved the win.

The conditions put a premium on downwind speed and boathandling. Unfortunately, our team hadn’t sailed together much and we struggled downwind in the swell and chop. Upwind we could be as fast as anyone on the course, but the sea conditions made it difficult to maintain all the time. With 75 boats on the line, starting was also very important. The PRO would drop the middle boat in the three boat line back one to three boatlengths every start. I’m not sure why, but it incentivized starting at one end or the other, and often the traffic was very heavy at the ends. It became apparent that giving up some line bias in favor of a more clear starting area could reap rewards.

Miami truly delivered with the conditions. Temps were 10 degrees or so above average the whole week, which meant most folks were sporting shorts and tees the entire event. Some of our Canadian friends didn’t wear a shirt the whole week! Winds were almost always raceable. Thursday, day 3, saw only one race in somewhat unsettled conditions, but besides that it was planing or near planing conditions the entire time.

The next event for MiKEY is Key West Race Week, and after that Nationals in Charleston. Worlds are in Helsinki in 2017 and then in 2018 Worlds are right here in our home waters of Victoria BC! If you have ever thought about getting into the most exciting one design sportboat in the world, there is no better time than now!”

Ian’s shop is Anacortes Rigging in, you guessed it, Anacortes. If you’d like help getting up to speed with equipment or service, give them a call.

Ed note: Thanks, Ian, for providing the reports!

Here is a selection of day 4 photos from the Melges media crew. Gives a pretty good sense of the closeness and intensity.

Pacific Northwest Racers Romp at Melges 24 Worlds

Pacific Northwest Racers Romp at Melges 24 Worlds

While most of us are here “enjoying” the cool damp and bracing ourselves for the holidays, a lucky few are in Miami throwing up rooster tails off their Melges 24 rides in the World Championships. Ian Sloan of Anacortes Rigging and Yacht Services is one of the lucky ones, sailing on Kevin Welch’s Mikey, and we’re lucky enough to have caught up with him mid-regatta. Mikey has, shall we say, a stacked crew with owner Welch joined by Sloan, Jeff Madrigali, Ross Macdonald and Serena Vilage with Jason Rhodes as the coach. Here’s what Sloan had to say after racing Thursday:

The regatta has been stellar so far. These are really fantastic conditions and it’s amazing competition. The first two days were pretty windy and very big, choppy waves. Today was light moderate with smaller but still choppy leftover seas. We have struggled a bit with starts and downwind speed in these larger waves. When we’re hooked in we’re fast but just can’t seem to be hooked in enough of the time. A little mistake costs four or five boats at a time in this fleet. The number of different boats with first place finishes is evidence of that.

“We trained down here for four days prior to thanksgiving. It was a good bit of sailing but we never got really windy conditions during our training session.

“One thing is for sure, these boats reward good sailing and there is always room to get faster!”

Mikey isn’t the only Northwest Melges. Krak Arntson and his crew are there with Nikita, and Mike Goldfarb is driving Blue Moon hard with Mark Brink and his son David in the crew. Canadian Duncan Stamper is mid-fleet with Goes to Eleven. Pro sailor Matt Pistay is on Blind Squirrel. In third overall is Bora Gulari’s Air Force 1 with none other than Seattle’s all-pro Jonathan McKee calling tactics.

This Worlds marks a bit of a resurgence in the class, and exactly half the fleet (37/74 boats) are considered professionally crewed.  The top Corinthian boat, by the way, is in 13th place overall. It’s also interesting to note how international the fleet is with boats from China, Norway, the Netherlands, Greece and others. Currently an Irish boat is in first while an Italian boat lies second.

Mikey is in 19th, Blue Moon in 27th, Goes to Eleven in 39th and Nikita in 63rd. Results can be found here.

We plan on hearing from Ian Sloan again, and I hope to hear from other PNWers in the fleet as well. There will surely be lots of stories, and none will be of cold, damp or holiday shopping.

Here’s just a sampling of photos, all of which can be seen at the Melges 24 Worlds website.