© Guido Trobetta | B-Plan© Guido Trobetta | B-Plan

Audi Melges 20 Event Done, Melges 32 Race Week and Star Bacardi Cup to go in Miami

22 February 2010

As published by Campbell Sailing

The February/March calendar filled up quicker than I anticipated after two weeks overseas and a week at Miami OCR in January. This past weekend I went back to Miami to sail with some Minnesota A-Scow sailors in the second of the Audi Melges 20 series held in Miami this winter. The weather pattern didn’t leave us with a ton of breeze, but just enough to get a nice five race regatta in with 14 new boats on the line. The event was the first regatta in the boat for me as well as skipper Joel Ronning, so the learning curve was steep, but the boats were still very fun to sail.

The keels on the 20 are similarly skinny as the Melges 24 or 32. It really makes for interesting sailing when compared to the Star. The Star has a lot of momentum and tracks very well, where the high aspect keels on the 20, 24, and 32 go sideways often, especially when down-speed. Having attachment on the foils is paramount in any racing sailboat, but it was especially the case in the 20 this weekend. We managed to have great starts relative the rest of the fleet in large part because we hardly ever furled the jib in the pre-starts. The common play for the Melges 24 is to get up to the line on your final approach and furl your jib to hold position. The majority of the Melges 20 fleet employed the same tactic, but regretted it as soon as they tried to go jib-out and accelerate. The boats that carried speed through the entire pre-start were often punching out after the gun. Compounding their problems, the boats with bad starts would then have to do a downspeed tack to clear their air. The high aspect jib and flat mains, while fast once up to speed, really don’t add a lot of power to the M20’s setup making any downspeed maneuver extremely difficult. Tacking through 100+ degrees didn’t make things any easier.

The big conclusion from the weekend is that in many ways, the light-weight, high-aspect, modern Melges 20 should be handled much the same as the heavy, low-aspect, venerable Star in light air. Momentum and therefore flow attachment on the foils is king. Making maneuvers should be well thought out and practiced in a long, slow, deliberate turn for best success. I can’t wait to race the new boats in 15-20 knots.

Tomorrow I’m headed to California for a speaking event at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, then I’m home for a few days before heading back to Miami for the Acura Miami Race Week on the Melges 32 Ninkasi immediately followed by Bacardi Sailing Week in the Starboat.