Melges California Cup – Building a grassroots series

Published on April 27th, 2010

Building a grassroots series

(April 27, 2010) Soon after the Melges 24 was introduced to the sailboat market in 1993, local fleets dotted the western U.S. Hot racing was ripe, but over time as the class grew to its current elite status, local racing disappeared. Fast forward to 2010, where a three-event series has been organized to energize the region again: the Melges California Cup.

The first event is the Yachting Cup in San Diego (April 30-May 2), and with twelve boats entered, which is twelve more than in 2009, perhaps the magic is working. Andre Peixoto, one of the organizers, provides this report about the idea behind the series:

photoAs a Melges 24 owner (USA 300 Trezentos), I want to sail my boat as much as possible. With a sailing class’ success directly correlated to the involvement of its sailors — owners and crew alike — we began talking with Melges racers up and down the Coast. We found that, rather than the more common practice of dictating events, involving more sailors in the organization of events tended to make them more excited and invested in what was going on. Plus, they can be counted upon to have great ideas . . .

Last year, Chris Farkas (USA 222 practice girl) and I sat down to discuss how we could build a grassroots series of “Melges Race Weeks” along the Coast to burnish the class’ image and foster growth. With repeated feedback from our owner group suggesting that fewer, quality traveling events would be preferable to more, less focused events, we used four criteria to build the series: great venues, prestigious Clubs, existing marquee events, and most critically, the integral support of a local Melges owner for each.

In San Diego, we were fortunate to know John Downing (USA 686), who is doing a superb job in getting the Southern California boats engaged, along with Vince Brun of North Sails One Design, a two-time Melges 24 World Champion, who is giving a Tuning Clinic the day before to share his thoughts on current class developments, local knowledge, and the latest “go-fast” boat handling tricks to help level the playing field.

On Lake Tahoe, we have Dan Hauserman (USA 657 Personal Puff), who is a long-time, active San Francisco Bay and Tahoe owner, doing a phenomenal job making Lake Tahoe one of the premier one design sailing destinations on the West Coast. Tahoe is a magical place to sail with amazing scenery and challenging (warm) alpine conditions.

With national events shifting from coast to coast, year to year, there is often a large gap after them, with many teams selling their boats and buying into other classes, only to come back years later when major events return. With no dedicated, local series for a class to fill the interim, I don’t blame them.

The Melges California Cup was created to give an opportunity (and reason) for local teams, without the time or budget to travel across the United States, to grow and enjoy their programs, irrespective of where the Worlds or Nationals might be held in any given year. The emphasis is on the quality of competition, and equally the fun. To those ends, I believe we are seeing some success.


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