©2008 Carlo Borlenghi | B-Plan©2008 Carlo Borlenghi | B-Plan

Offshore Rules Preview: Melges 32 Fleet at 2010 Key West Race Week

7 January 2010

As published online at Offshore Rules - There are a number of reasons that predicting the podium places in advance of a Melges 32 regatta becomes harder and harder with each event. Firstly the sailors who have been in this class since its inception have developed the skills to sail these boats properly in all conditions. I recall a predominantly windy Key West Race Week just a couple of years ago, when only the top ten percent of the fleet were pushing the boats hard downwind; with the rest of us just trying to avoid too many capsizes. In contrast, at the Gold Cup in Fort Lauderdale last month, almost the entire fleet appeared confident enough to go flat out on the windy, big wave days. As a consequence of the fleet’s general step up in ability, there are now no easy places to be had. It is no longer enough to be able to simply get round the course without spinning out or trawling the chute; gaining places at the leeward mark requires some serious boathandling panache, as pretty much all the boats around you are able to pull off text-book-drops.

Whilst this improvement in technique is due in some large degree simply to the owner drivers and their crews clocking up the vital time on the water required to race these boats at one hundred percent, without a doubt another major contributing factor has been the influx of major-league professional sailors to the class. In most cases, the most well known of the three pros allowed under the class rules will fulfil the tactician role, but the other two ‘big-hitters’ will be normally involved in a much more hands-on-sheets way, helping to drive their ‘amateur’ crewmates up the boathandling learning curve. Almost all of the teams on the Melges 32 circuit now adopt a highly professional approach to their regatta preparation; arriving early for a couple of days of practice often with a coach in attendance to make sure they get the most out of their training time. What is perhaps most surprising about the Melges 32 class right now is the quality of some of the new teams who have joined the fleet over the last few months. In Fort Lauderdale many of the old guard of established winners appeared to struggle to achieve the consistency of some of the newer crews. For example eventual Gold Cup winner Rod Jabin on Ramrod and third placed Andy Lovell on Rougarou were both relative newcomers to Melges 32 racing.