Bora Gulari: Will Fourth Time Be a Charm?
Published on November 19th, 2016
The 2016 Melges 24 World Championship on November 29 to December 3 has attracted 92 entrants to compete on the ocean course in Miami, FL. Will this year be American Bora Gulari’s turn at the title? Duncan Stamper, International Melges 24 Class Association Vice Chair Americas, provides this report…
The Melges 24 stalwart is a two time Moth World Champion (2009, 2013) and 2009 Rolex Yachtsman of the year. Bora has been close to winning past Melges 24 World Championships on three occasions: 4th in 2013, 3rd in 2014, and another 3rd at the 95 boat Danish Worlds held in 2015. This must be his best chance, having recently just won the Line Honors US Melges 24 Championship at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in October.
With no practice and seemingly throwing a team together at the last minute, Bora and his team aboard West Marine Rigging won the regatta keeping Conor Clarke’s Embarr at bay. Maybe he is just match fit after spending the last year campaigning a Nacra 17 for the Olympics.
Born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1975, and fittingly named after the north-easterly katabatic winds of the eastern Mediterranean, Bora was destined to be a sailor. His parents were both keen 505 sailors and introduced Bora to sailing at a very early age. The Gulari family immigrated to the USA in 1978 and settled first in Stony Brook, New York before moving on to Detroit, Michigan.
Bora continued his sailing at Bay View Yacht Club until he went away to study aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan. He maintained his sailing while at university and following graduation launched a campaign for the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 49er class. Bora’s next big foray in sailing was in the Moth class where he quickly mastered flying on foils and soared to the top of the international leaderboard winning the 2009 Moth World Championship on the renowned Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (site of the 2017 Melges 24 North Americans).
He continued his success in the Moth fleet and was able to repeat winning a world title again in 2013 on Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Bora again set his sights back on the Olympics and spent the years leading up to Rio honing his skills on the Nacra 17. This time around Bora and crew Louisa Chafee were successful in securing a spot on the 2016 US Olympic Sailing Team.
When was your first experience with Melges 24? How did you first get involved with the class?
Bora: My first time sailing a Melges 24 was probably in around 2005 sailing with Chuck Holzman from Detroit and I think I’ve pretty much done every single Worlds since Key Largo (2005) except Santa Cruz (2007).
What do you like about the Melges 24 class in particular?
Bora: It’s a rewarding boat to sail, good comradery and competition in the fleet, and just a great boat… the fleet’s good, the boat’s good, what else can you ask for?
You are known to enjoy all facets of sailboat racing… big boat long distance, development class, strict one-design, Olympic classes, windsurfing, foiling. Do you have a favourite or is variety the spice of life for you?
Bora: I think it’s good to just do a little bit of everything. It kind of makes you a complete sailor.
At the recent Melges 24 US Champs, it appeared like you threw a team together and arrived at the last minute. You appeared relaxed and you won. Is this a better way for you to do it?
Bora: It was just the nature of that regatta. We kind of threw a new team together and we had some lucky breaks, and we sailed well and grew as a group as the regatta went on and it kind of came to us luckily. And believe it or not I’m doing the same thing again. We have a kind of thrown together crew for the worlds. There are parts of the team that I’ve sailed with before but we’ve not sailed together as a whole team and we’re just going to see how it all shakes out.
Who are your crew for the worlds and how did you come together as a team?
Bora: Jonathan McKee is my tactician, Norman Berge is my bow guy, Charlie Smythe is my spinnaker trimmer and Kyle Navin is assistant bow. They’re all just people that were available and friends of mine. I’ve sailed with Jonathan in the past quite a bit and on the Melges 24 he’s been my tactician since the San Francisco Worlds (2013). I was introduced to Kyle at the E Scow Blue Chip event. He’s actually one of Brian Porter’s normal crew during the summer time. Norman has been on and off the boat numerous times and he’s always a great crew member. And then Charlie is definitely a great spinnaker trimmer. He got second at the Melges 20 Worlds and this is going to be our first chance to sail together. It was just kind of the people that were around that worked out for me.
Are you excited for the racing venue? Have you raced in Miami much on the outside?
Bora: Oh I’ve raced not a whole but a fair amount on the outside. I think it’s good to hopefully go sailing in a little bit more challenging conditions. The Melges 24 is a very capable boat and just to be able to go do it in some proper conditions will be nice. We’ve had a fair amount of flat water big championships recently so it will be good to play in the waves.
You have a couple of world titles under your belt amongst your many other successes. What is most important to you in your regatta preparation prior to a major event?
Bora: I don’t really think that we’re putting as much energy in… or we’re probably not as prepared as some of the other teams but really just going out there having fun. It’s going to be a great event and a great place to sail so I want to really help support the class and kind of go do that. We’re not really doing a lot of preparation.
Congratulations on your recent signing with Quantum Racing for the 2017 52 Super Series season. This is an exciting development in your sailing career! What are you looking forward to the most working with this team who are currently performing at the top of their game?
Bora: Exactly that, I’m just looking forward to getting to sail with the best Grand Prix team around in my mind and learning from them. I’m just honoured to be part of the whole gig.
Now that you have won the Moth Worlds twice, been to the Olympics and can hopefully win the Melges 24 Worlds, what else do you see in store for the future? The Nacra 17 has recently gone full foiling for the next Olympics in Tokyo. Do you have your sights set on the road to the 2020 Games?
Bora: Ah yeah, I’m definitely going to be carrying on with the Nacra… it will be good.
Could the Super Foiler Grand Prix be in the future for you? What do you think of the Super Foiler project? Is it something you would consider, following in the footsteps of the McKee Brothers?
Bora: Yeah, it’s very intriguing and I’m interested. I’ve been in contact with a couple of the guys associated and if there’s time and the schedule works out I would of course love to take part in that event. It looks pretty exciting.
Another big race underway, we’re over a week into the Vendee Globe. Does this kind of marathon ocean racing interest you? Do you see this ever in your future?
Bora: I definitely enjoy the ocean racing. I don’t know if I’m quite tough enough to go around the world by myself but those guys are definitely pretty strong and good sailors. Yeah I like ocean racing, I follow the Vendee quite religiously and I almost went for around the world on the Volvo Ocean Race versus tying up the America’s Cup thing last time around. Who knows what the future will bring but my main focus is to do the Olympic catamaran sailing.
Are you following the current race? If so, are you rooting for a particular boat/skipper? Hugo Boss’s Alex Thompson is currently in the lead charging down the South Atlantic. Do you think this is his time to finally beat the French at their own game?
Bora: He’s definitely going well. It’s such a challenging race I think they’re all going to have to admit there’s a little bit of luck in ultimate success. They are now having appendages that stick out the sides so hopefully no one hits anything or has any major issues and we’ll see how it shakes out.
What’s in the name ‘Air Force One’, is it a throw back to you time studying aerospace engineering? Is it a name you use for all your boats?
Bora: I’ve pretty much put the Air Force roundel on all the boats that I’ve owned. It goes back to sailing Moths in Australia where I was rooming with my good friend Simon Payne. The Melges was the biggest boat that I owned so I figured it was kind of just a joke on the whole deal. But yeah, I just always put the US Air Force roundel on all my boats to show my pride in the States.
Racing at the Melges 24 World Championship will be November 29 to December 3.
Source: Melges 24 class