Photo: Photos by ToddPhoto: Photos by Todd

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: GORDY COLE

1 August 2006

01 AUGUST 2006 It's no surprise that Gordy Cole on his Melges 30 completely retrofitted, now a full fledged one design Melges 32 sportboat "Ballistic" won "Boat of the Week" at the sensational 2006 Whidbey Island Race Week held in Seattle, Washington. Gordy took some time out with the Melges 32 Class Association team to tell us more about the exciting racing, his diversified crew, and last but not least - all the fun he had!

M32CA: First and foremost, congratulations on winning "Boat of the Week" at Whidbey Island Race Week. Did you expect such an award? Tell me a little about your sailing background, where you grew-up, what you learned to sail on and in comparison to other classes of boats you have sailed over the years, how does the boat measure up?

GC: We had a pretty competitive class. A Farr 40, six ID-35's, the other Melges 30/32 and a couple other 40-footers. All the areas good sailors and sailmakers were in the class. (Example: John Buchan, a multiple TP 52 owner was driving a ID-35 with his sailmaker.) We thought the flat water and light-to-medium winds might give us an edge. Foremost in our minds was winning the class. Winning the boat of the week award was the iceing on the cake!

We were tied with another boat that sailed in a different class for having the lowest scores for the regatta. However, we had a larger winning time margin over our competiters, race in and race out. The other boat in the running for boat of the week was a Melges 24! Pretty impressive when you relize that there were only two Melges 32s and two Melges 24s in a 100 boat regatta!

My sailing background... 62+ years old, born/raised in Seattle area, been sailing 30 years. Before sailing, I built and raced inboard hydroplanes powered with auto engines. Crashing at 120 mph had trouble written all over it, and after getting tired of visiting me in the hospital my wife suggested sailing as a safer hobby. Never sailed in small boats, self-taught sailing in our first boat a Cal 30-1, then on to Santa Cruz 33, and then 17 years ago I bought our current boat, a Santa Cruz 50. Chartered a Santa Cruz 70 with a group for six-months. Mostly sailed off-shore, racing and cruising. Raced my 50 in Big Boat Series in San Francisco, Mexorc, etc. Three years ago our beloved 50 was t-boned on a Wednesday nite race. $125k and 8 months later, the boat is perfect and my wife said to go get a buoy-racer so the 50 can remain perfect!

M32CA: You mentioned that you sailed WIRW with 8 including two women and your 12-year old granddaughter. Tell me who's who and what positions did they play on the boat? Have they sailed with you before?

GC: My nephew, Herb Cole, and I have sailed a few regattas together in my SC50. We get along great and he is a talented driver and a great project organizer. He drove a TP52 at the recent Worlds in Fla. He is a long-time Melges 24 owner and when I said I wanted to get a smaller race boat he said to look at the Melges 32. Then he went to Key West a year ago and sailed a ID-35 against the then new Melges 32. That was it.. he called from the regatta and said to go on -line and find a used Melges 30, quick, before the word gets out on the success of the Melges 32. So I found one right near our Seattle home (Annapolis, MD!) and spent the winter/spring converting it into a Melges 32 w/ lots of coaching form Harry Melges at Melges Performance Sailboats.

The crew for Whidbey Island Race Week included Brian Huse with North Sails called tactics. My nephew Herb Cole drove, while 12 year-old granddaughter Alexis Aird ran the pole and stuffed the chute on douses. Joe Wildermann trimmed the jib/chute, Cris Tutmark, rigger did bow, Katie Beltran and Karen Clark did mast/pit and I wrote the checks! Actually, I trimmed main at the start/roundings and tackline, etc. We also had guest apperances from big boat sailers Fritz Lanzinger on "Genuine Risk" and Eric Benson famous for sailing Farr 40s and the Star boats. So we had a good crew too.

M32CA: Considering the long distance racing format at WIRW, tell me how your Melges 30, retrofitted to a Melges 32 experience compares and contrasts with the usual windward / leeward racing. Can you give me some notable instances and how did the competition measure up? Did the Melges 32 meet your expectations in the speed and ease of boat handling departments?

GC: Actually the course format was multiple windward/leeward. Legs were 1-1/2 to 3 miles each, with races beings 8-18 miles in length. You were always surrounded by boats in your class and smaller/slower boats that were in same area but perhaps sailing to a shorter mark. Lots of traffic. We bought the boat a year ago, back in February, and sailed it as a Melges 30 for half-a-dozen races. It was fast, but complicated. We face planted once when the new weather runner got pinned under the main during a jibe in 20kts, etc. In light air it seemed a little sticky. Those issues are gone NOW! What a difference. The boat is so simply rigged and is fully powered-up in 8kts of breeze! It is a great boat and so-o-o-o much fun! Heck we are going just about as fast as our SC 50 and having alot more fun for a ton less money... a factor when your retired! The starting area is fun when you are sailing against 40-footers and you can spin the Melges 32 on a dime and get up to speed so quickly.

M32CA: Do you and your crew have any favorite features and details about the boat?

GC: The outboard will be really cool when I get the time to finish the installation. Right now, we have the hatch open so we can operate the throttle/shifter. The crew comment that came up over and over - "Thanks so-o-o much Gordy for NOT buying a J-105!! You saved thousands and we are going twice as fast!" Actually, I'm not sure why they said that, because I'm not a J-boat fan.

M32CA: On the downwind runs, are there any speed records we can mention? What was the general crew reaction?

GC: No speed records at WIRW. Pretty lite winds. About ten-to-eleven knots was our boat speed tops. We had better winds in practice the day before the regatta, easily hitting the low fourteens. We did a beer can race here in Seattle last Wednesday nite and had some nice rides in the thirteens on a couple downwind legs, beating Farr 39 boat-for-boat. Sure easier to jibe at thirteen knots as a Melges 32 than a Melges 30! Saving some photo film for higher speeds later.

M32CA: Looking ahead to more M32 racing, what is your next major event? Anything on tap yet for '07?

GC: With the win at WIRW, we qualified for the local Grand Prix Regatta, held in late fall. For now we are just doing fun racing week nites, and taking everyone that calls out for a ride. We have done some thinking about Key West in '07... time will tell if the checkbook will allow it.

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