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Makings of a healthy one design class

Published on June 30th, 2021

The sailing organizations of the Inland Lake Yachting Association are among the best examples of what works in the sport, with Eric Hood sharing his observations on the growth within the MC Class:

The numbers speak for themselves! One hundred nineteen boats traveled near and far and all started the 50th MC Scow National Championship on June 25-27, 2021.

Clear Lake Yacht Club (Clear Lake, IA) has hosted the MC Nationals multiple times, and this clearly was their best effort ever with incredible organization both on and off the water. Putting boats at lakeshore homes around the lake really made a difference for logistics but it also built a ton of new relationships that will last for years and hopefully generations to come.

The Oltrogge, Tesar, and Osmundson families plus dozens of other sacrificial volunteers at Clear Lake put a long and well-organized years’ worth of effort into this event and we all owe them a huge thank you and deep sense of gratitude.

Everyone came to this event thinking big wind throughout the series with multiple weather organizations and apps providing optimism, but Mother Nature had other plans:

• Day 1 began with beautiful skies, heat, but no wind and no opportunity to sail.
• Day 2 arrives with a deluge of rain, lightning, and thunder. But then skies clear in the afternoon and finally some good breeze to get one race off.
• Day 3 arrives, and we have absolutely no wind.

The regatta ended with one race completed, so we had a regatta but not an official National Championship according to the class by-laws requiring three races be completed to award the perpetual trophies. But let me transition and tell a story about my start with the MC Scow and why I love this class.

In 1979, Bill Kilpatrick and I from OKC, arranged a deal to sell ten MC Scows to a bunch of my southern buddies to sail in the 1981 MC National Championship in Oklahoma (of all places) in brand new boats.

Having personally sailed in 200+ MC regattas along with dozens of training clinics and a ton of Zenda U Clinics as well with Andy Burdick, Jim Gluek, Ted Keller, Eddie Cox, and Team Melges over the years, I have observed our class grow and continue its strength because of individuals who caught the vision and invited others to join in.

If you want to know more about those very first years, connect with Brett Hatton as he was part of the big Michigan start up during that first decade as well.

However, there are now dozens of others who have adopted what was done so many years back, who started a trend of buying used boats, and some new boats to build their fleets. Mostly in their clubs but a few did so in their regions. Think about this for a moment. We literally started our sixth decade of MC Scow sailing this year.

The only real solid visible promotion in the beginning was Smiley Freytag from Lake Geneva (WI) and he had free reign from Buddy Melges to take this new boat everywhere and anywhere he wanted. Doing just that Smiley helped class founders launch our class in Shreveport, LA; Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; Spring Lake, MI; and many other spots along the way in those early years with boats 1 through 1000.

Harry Melges III allowed Scott Ripkey, Andy Burdick, and myself to do the same in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Today, Andy has Eddie Cox and Jim Gluek doing the same with free reign to promote the MC heavily around the country.

In the decades to come we have individuals like Happy Fox and Carl Reuterdahl from Spring Lake (MI), Tom Wurster from Diamond Lake (MI), Jack Kern (the boat fleet building legend) from Rush Creek (TX), and others like Harry Protzeller (our first national champ), Dick Prokup (2-time national champ) also from Rush Creek (TX), Jeff Annis from Augusta (GA), Frank Keenan from Lake Fenton (MI), and Martin Zonnenberg from Lake Eustis (FL) and many others (maybe you).

Point 1 – Invest:
It happened decades ago and currently it is happening again and now more often in several of our regions. In almost every lake you can find a ringleader (is it you) who is promoting and often many times buying used MCs to help others get started. We really have never seen anyone lose money either. The boats are in huge demand, and you can at least break even almost always when helping new folks into the class.

For example, the leaders of New Jersey’s MC fleet primarily based out of Barnegat Bay YRA now have 65 boats in their region in just a few years’ time. Our upcoming 2022 MC class commodore Sean Bradley from NJ/BBYRA has done this many times with his friends like Will Demand along with others are doing the same.

The Rush Creek crew in Texas is another classic example of helping others into the class by investing in a supply of used and new boats and they have seen fantastic growth and club participation with this model.

Or perhaps your investment comes from volunteering at your club or on the MC class board of governors. Invest can mean your time, your talent, and/or your resources.

Point 2 – Mentor:
Something else I observed at Clear Lake was how often veteran sailors were helping new sailors with rigging their boats, talking about tuning, and sailing. For everyone in our class, please read and heed the following. The most important sailors in our group are those who are new and those who have not had opportunities to be near good sailors on a regular basis.

Their learning curves are steeper and more difficult. We must as a group mentor anytime we can. If someone asks you a question, then drop what you are doing if possible and dive into the question. The rewards are huge because now that sailor gets better 5% at a time when he or she solves one more question. And then eventually they become the mentor. This will be how we multiply and grow our class.

Point 3 – Invite:
This past week my 14-year-old MC Nationals crew, Finley Nyhus, who sails an X Boat at Clear Lake had never skippered a MC Scow. We had no wind on day 1, but we did have a good shore breeze along our tree line on the east shore. I said “Finley, take our MC sailing.”

He said he was afraid he would scratch the brand new boat or hurt it. I told him that everyone has a first day for many things in life. Then I asked, “Do you want to sail the MC?” He replied, “More than anything” and I said, “GO and have your first day skippering a MC Scow!!”

Finley sailed for the next hour and a half up then down the tree line with good breeze. That one move with Finley will not only be a lasting memory in his life but I am convinced, will spread at Clear Lake in that great junior program as he influences and leads others through the years.

Final Thoughts!
So, in closing here are two that bodes well for our future.

1. We need to continue supporting our builder. Knowing there is demand for new boats allows our manufacturer Melges Performance Sailboats to scale up on building boats which allows us to stay healthy as an organization. Hopefully, there is a day when we get back to 100+ boats being built every year and maybe even more.

2. We need to find all the used boats that are good boats sitting in barns, garages, sheds, yacht club parking lots, and storage units that are not being sailed. Example – three different leaders from New Jersey said they would buy 15 used boats right now (like the 1500-2500 series).

As a side, this does not hurt Melges or prospective customers for new boats but helps. People get their starter boats and then they eventually want to buy new boats. Or the person who invested puts a new sailor in a boat and the investor gets a new boat. It is a win-win deal for all! Let’s find the boats and get the word out so those boats get out on the water with new sailors!

With this said, we are all part of the future of this class, and I am grateful to know many of you over the years. Whether you contribute in a small way or can contribute in bigger ways, every contribution matters to us sailors, our class, our builder, and suppliers. We are all connected and are all needed.

Invest, Mentor, and Invite. Decide where you can add value to our class and then go do it soon and often!

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