Melges 24: Participation Pendulum Swinging Back

Published on August 6th, 2015

When the U.S. Melges 24 class was launched in the early nineties, it grew quickly. The sport boat niche was wide open, the Melges name was solid, and local dealers helped get fleets established. It was a great boat that provided fun racing, and the U.S. class drew in all comers.

But over time, some teams just got too good. The best sailors were attracted to the class, and specialized sailing skills were increasing quickly. The prevalence of aggressive hiking limited who could crew on the boat. Soon, the competitiveness within the class exceeded the ability of most people to keep up with it.

The fleet level in the U.S. began disappearing, with events soon requiring a long drive. Professional crew were needed to excel. Overall participation in the country suffered.

But interest appears to be returning. More than twenty-years after its introduction, the Melges 24 remains a great design, and with affordable boats on the used market, the pendulum is swinging back.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with Rob Britts, President of the U.S. Melges 24 Class Association, for an update…

Is the class on an upswing?

Yes, the class is on an upswing here in the US and just to the north we have a very active Canadian Class Association developing. Moreover, we have new class associations in South America and Asia/Pacific and the class is really on fire in Europe at the moment.

The class seems to be in a born-again phase, where the amount of pro teams have dropped and the amateurs are getting back in. Is this a fair assessment?

Yes, the class has seen a new influx of owners buying up older boats in the US over the last several years. Moreover, Melges Boat Works is currently building new Melges 24s as well for both existing owners and new owners alike. However, the class still has a very passionate core of loyal owners who have been with the class for quite some time

Are there any class initiatives helping to build participation?

Here in the US we have put a focus on rebuilding strong district schedules that keep things fun and simple and actively engage the fleet to make sure everyone is getting the most of their M24 and having a fun time.

Compared to the past couple years, the 2015 US Nationals has both overall growth and a strong Corinthian division (58% of the total). Is this related?

Yes, Manfred Schmiedl, our West Coast District Governor, has done a tremendous job at organizing and promoting this event for the US Melges 24 Class. It will be an epic event for everyone involved.

With the 2015 Nationals at the reliably windy Cascade Locks in Oregon, how critical is a good venue in overall class growth?

The US Nationals is a very critical component of class growth. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the boat. Additionally, the schedule leading up to the Miami 2016 Worlds is equally important with our 2016 US Nationals located at Lake Geneva (WI) with the completion of the new Buddy Melges Sailing Center.

Does having the 2016 Worlds in the U.S. create interest?

Yes, it’s creating tremendous buzz at the moment. The US Class and the International Class are very excited for this event next year. The event organizers have done a tremendous job thus far, with a tune up event already on the schedule for this November so competitors can get a first glance at the racing venue for next year.

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