Healthy Corinthian Contingent for Melges 24 Worlds

Published on November 27th, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
The Melges 24 class has ridden a remarkable rollercoaster. It was a breakthrough design in the 90s, and quickly established local, national, and international competition. I witnessed the emergence in California, which soon attracted the best in the sport. I got in early, winning the 1993 Pacific Coast Championship and finished second in US Nationals.

But soon enough, the strain of professional sailors collapsed many of the local fleets, leaving the best racing to those that would travel. However, after the 2009 Annapolis Worlds (51 boats) was cold and miserable, and the 2011 Corpus Christi Worlds (32 boats) was a gut-busting pain-fest, North American numbers were in decline prior to the 2013 San Francisco Worlds.

Boats sold at discounted rates, quickly picked up by those who had long admired the versatile sportboat. Because despite a struggling class administration at the time, the Melges 24 was, and is, still a great boat. And on the strength of the boat, the second coming of the Melges 24 class in North America is now in full swing.

The quantity and quality of amateur teams provides strength to a class. At 2013 Melges 24 Worlds, 20 of the 59 teams qualified for amateur status, with the Corinthian title winner finishing 21st overall. When the 2016 Miami Worlds get underway on November 29, 35 of the 74 teams are vying for the title. This is a nice bump, and I am betting the top Corinthian team will be closer to the podium too.

The amateur and professional crews will race together as one fleet for the overall Melges 24 World Championship, with the points for the Corinthian division (which bans Group 3 sailors) also being scored separately towards the 2016 Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship title.

Tõnu Tõniste (EST), finishing sixth overall at the 95 boat 2015 Denmark Worlds, took the Corinthian title. While Tõniste is not your average amateur, having competed in four consecutive Olympics in the men’s 470 class, winning silver (1988) and bronze (1992), he will certainly be among the favorites in Miami.

“The first Melges 24 came to Estonia in 1997 and my brother Toomas and I went for a ride,” shared Tõniste. “The boat was a complete novelty but immediately looked to be an amazing one design.”

While a good boat can make for an enduring class, the quality of the class members are critical too. “With the Melges 24 class I particularly like the people, the boat and the competition,” shared Duncan Stamper (CAN). “Generally the people are a fun loving friendly group and are always there to share advice or offer a helping hand. I have been particularly impressed with the culture of sharing knowledge and getting newcomers up to speed.”

Class health also benefits when the family is involved. “We are a family team of four plus our friend Alex Murray,” notes Kevin Nixon (AUS). “My daughter Bonnie lives in the US and we live in Australia, so as a team we only practice a few days before each regatta and maybe three or four times at home without her. We do a couple of regattas per year and that seems to work fine as we are always looking forward to the next one, and never get sick of sailing. Less is sometimes more.”

Racing at the Melges 24 World Championship will be November 29 to December 3.

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Contributors: Silvia Gallegati and Piret Salmistu

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