MELGES 24 – The top US Melges 24 teams are joined on San Francisco Bay this weekend by visitors from Switzerland/Italy, Australia, Ireland, Canada and the UK for the 2012 Melges 24 North American Championship, taking place from 23-26 August.
Today the fleet completed registration and enjoyed three great informal warm up races which gave both the competitors and the race committee, headed by PRO Hank Stuart, a chance to test their equipment, systems and skills. At this evening’s official Opening Ceremony and dinner, held on the San Francisco Yacht Club’s delightful waterside lawn, SFYC Vice Commodore Tad Lacey and Regatta Chair Angie Ohlson welcomed the competitors and took the opportunity to thank the dozens of volunteers and sponsors who have made the event possible. To ensure the prize giving team was also fully warmed up a host of fun prizes were presented to the various winners with a special presentation being made to Warwick Rooklyn and his Bandit crew, who have traveled over 7000 miles from Sydney, Australia to take part.
This year’s Melges 24 North American’s fleet is a case of small but perfectly formed as what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in quality! Flavio Favini and his all Italian team aboard Blu Moon, owned by Franco Rossini, come hot foot from a fourth place at the recent Melges 24 World Championship on Lake Garda. Favini has won both the Melges 24 World and European titles in the past but has yet to claim the North American Trophy so will no doubt be hoping that his recent experience in Garda will have put him in good stead to take on the American teams.
Chicago’s Brian Porter and his Full Throttle crew, who claimed the North American title in Santa Cruz in 2006 (the last time it was held on the US west coast), head up the US teams. This crew, which includes 2002 Melges 24 World and reigning US National Champion Harry Melges on tactics, is renowned for its love of strong breeze so are very much hoping that San Francisco delivers is infamous heavy airs.
The San Francisco home fleet also looks very strong and puts up two of the main contenders for the Corinthian, all amateur, title. Don Jesberg makes a welcome return to the Melges 24 after a couple of seasons out and with Andrew Holdsworth, Steven Marsh and Eric Baumhoff and Andrea Cabito on board he is expected to put in a strong challenge. Dave Joyner also hails from the San Francisco YC and with a crew including William Goldsberry, Fabrizio Natale, Tommy Pastalka and Janie Miklaunus he too is more than capable of taking a podium position.
From Southern California come Argyle Campbell and Bruce Ayres, who have both won the North American Championship on previous occasions – Ayres at the inaugural event in San Francisco in 2000 plus a Corinthian win in 2006; and Campbell in Detroit in 2004. Alan Field, from the California Yacht Club, has put in a super strong set of results already this season, including a second place at the US Nationals, and currently leads the 2012 Melges 24 North American Ranking Series. A win here in San Francisco will put the icing on the cake for his 2012 season.
New Zealand’s Beijing 470 Olympic Gold medalist and five time 470 World Champion Nathan Wilmot will be helming Embar, owned by Ireland’s Conor Clark, with Maurice “Prof” O’Connell on tactics. This crew has shown moments of sheer brilliance in the past but has lacked consistency so will be hoping for a change of fortunes this regatta.
Warwick Rooklyn from Sydney, Australia took his third Australian Melges 24 National title back in January and with a crew that includes Jeremy Wilmott, the other half of that legendary Kiwi 470 partnership with brother Nathan, he has every chance of a podium finish again this week.