Girl Power on the Melges IC37

Published on June 18th, 2019

The inaugural year of Melges IC37 one-design racing got underway in earnest as 17 teams gathered for the 165th edition of the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta on June 14-16 in Newport, RI. With everyone sorting out this new class which features strict rules in support of Corinthian sailors, Hillary Noble reports after doing bow on Das Blau Max:

Going into the weekend, I had no idea what to expect. With a new crew and new fleet, there were bound to be unplanned obstacles that we’d encounter, but I was so unbelievably excited to share my first racing experience with this crew!

Our team had 11 total crew members – three were males and eight were females, one of which was under 16 years of age. The Melges IC37 Class Rules require mixed-gender crews, which meant every team had at least two women on board this weekend, and most teams had more. But we were the only team with such a vast female majority.

It made for an enjoyable and refreshing experience, particularly so as each crew member brought a particular set of skills to the program, making it a positive learning experience for all of us. As our main goals were to be safe, have fun, figure out the boat, and learn together, we accomplished all of the above.

Although the forecast was looking to be a sporty and challenging weekend for our team, we didn’t let it get the best of us. We were there to give it our all and come away from our experience as better sailors, together.

Friday was the Around-the-Island Race, where we headed South upwind rounding the bottom of Jamestown, RI, where conditions were wet and wild as we sailed out of Narragansett Bay. Surrounded by boats of all sizes made things exciting, watching all the crews moving about the boats, working hard to keep the throttle down, and maintain control.

Turning the corner around the southern tip of the island gave us a great show, watching the faster boats peel down like freight trains, and the groans of the winches as the grinders eased off. We rounded and got our bearings for the leeward mark. At first, we were at a beam reach, so we had a late hoist, but once the kite was up and we were in the pressure, the fun really began.

Shotty puffs came down in streaks, which made it challenging for our female trimmers, but they did an excellent job communicating with each other to keep the wheels rolling. We hit 18.8 knots, and that was an absolute thrill! We may have had a few wipeouts, [talk about a rush!], but I can’t say it wasn’t fun!

After we cleared the Jamestown Bridge, we could see the leeward mark, and it was fast approaching. Our female tactician was great at communicating the game plan with the crew, and we set up for a squaggle-down to get the kite in.

With the retriever line, it is all about angle off the wind and timing. Our female pit crew did a fantastic job watching us at the bow before we pulled the kite around to windward, making it as easy as possible in the 20+ knots. Our squirrel was our 16-year-old local rockstar Colette Fortenberry. She had a great attitude and was excited to help any way she could.

After the rounding, it was an uphill race under the Newport Pell Bridge to the finish off of Fort Adams. The rest of the weekend was much of the same, but with windward-leeward drag races which was great practice for our crew work.

Overcoming obstacles as a team, celebrating those little moments of glory—I think that’s what the Melges IC37 class was made for…teamwork. We witnessed Corinthian sailing at its finest – making new friends and learning to be better sailors. The IC37 is truly a boat for anyone, from the small boat one design sailors to grand prix fanatics.

It’s the perfect in-between with all the one design simplicity but has that grand prix fun and exhilarating edge that other classes can’t match. This regatta was just the beginning for our team, but all in all, it was a great place to start and get our bearings. We may not have won the regatta, but in our own way, I feel like we still won the weekend.

From Left: Amina Brown (runners), Katja Sertl (trimmer 1), Cory Sertl (co-skipper/tactician), Meredith McKinnon (mast), Hollis Barth (trimmer 2), Colette Fortenberry (with the La Croix in her hand* float, squirrel, assistant), Hillary Noble (bow), Kathy Geftner (pit)

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