Melges 24: Still the Gold Standard
Published on April 4th, 2017
The U.S. Melges 24 Class Association will be holding its 2017 National Championship on April 7-9 in Charleston, SC. Twenty-five teams anticipate relatively flat water conditions, plenty of breeze and current during the day and southern hopitality and camaraderie at night.
Designed by Reichel/Pugh in 1992, the Melges 24 still remains one of the premier sportboat classes. Olympian Dave Hughes, who was tactician on the 2016 Melges 24 World Champion team of Embarr, explains why.
Simply put, the Melges 24 is still the best sport-boat ever built. It was ahead of its time when introduced in the early 1990’s and it’s still the gold standard today. Challengers come and go, but we all tend to circle back to the Melges 24.
It’s fast, lively, feels great to drive, can handle the full range from calm and flat to big breeze and waves — all the things you look for in a class.
I’m encouraged by a recent wave of enthusiasm for the boat. Amateurs and pros are drawn to the qualities of boat, let alone the talent of the fleet. The last couple of Worlds Championships have chalked up big turn-outs and I hope to see that trend continue.
Boat set-up is what you make of it. The Melges 24 is fairly simple to rig and the fleet is always anxious to help new comers. Sure, you can go down the road of tweaking every item like the top teams, but rather standard equipment will do just fine — in fact, more than fine. Moreover, since the boat has so much history, the collective knowledge is open with all aspects of tunings, measurements, and the little “tricks” that every one-design has.
As for the team, the best are those who love sailing together. That is the honest reality. The boat can be hard and grueling at times, but also uniquely rewarding. You really must enjoy the partnership you have with the others on the boat.
The real decision for new teams is the question of sailing with four or five people. I’ve always sailed five and enjoy the extra challenge, but there are World Champion four-person teams, as well. In the end, it pays to be at or near the class weigh-limit, but when learning, don’t worry about this so much. Often, your average sailors fit well within one category or the other.
The biggest revolution of late is to sail the boat harder and dinghy-like. Our own Olympic experience has definitely informed our Melges sailing. We’ve all heard people talk about “sailing it like a dinghy,” but this style is a seriously good fit for the Melges 24.
For example, this allows for the downwinds to open up in a tactical sense. More modes equal more decision options — bow-up planing, lazy planing, ride waving, soaking. The Melges is spry and allows for all aspects of dynamic sailing.
The highlight of sailing the boat is that feeling when your team is truly in sync and clicking!