2008 Melges 24 North American Championship Preview

There is no mistaking the quality of the fleet which will assemble at the Eastport YC in Annapolis, Md., next week for the International Melges 24 2008 North American Championship. A glance at the entry list shows it to be studded with Olympians, serial world champions and America’s Cup veterans. With the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship being hosted at the same venue in twelve months time, many of the top name teams from the U.S. and Europe are using the North American Championship to launch their Worlds campaigns.

Brian and John Porter’s Full Throttle from Winnetka, Ill. are the reigning Melges 24 North American Champions and having won the 2008 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship last month in Charleston, they will arrive in Annapolis in a unique position to pull off a championship ‘double’.

The Porters will be facing some stiff competition however and none more so than 2007 Melges 24 World Champion, Dave Ullman from the Balboa YC in Calif. who will be at the helm of his world-title winning USA 505. Scott Nixon has multiple world champion and America’s Cup legend Terry Hutchinson at the helm of Quantum Racing. Hutchinson clinched the overall European TP52 circuit title last month in Portugal and will undoubtedly be a contender in Annapolis. U.S. One Design guru Chris Larson, racing his own boat, showed great pace at the U.S. Nationals and will be hoping to put his local Annapolis knowledge to good use with the help of tactician Allan Terhune.

With the 2008 European Melges 24 season now almost at an end, several of the key teams from across Europe have turned their attention to the U.S. and will be using the North American Championships to gain some vital experience of the Annapolis race area, ahead of the 2009 Worlds. Giovanni Maspero’s Joe Fly team from Italy are the reigning European Champions and Maspero has put together a fearsome line up which features 470 Olympian Gabrio Zandona on the helm and includes two members of the reigning Melges 24 World Championship winning crew - tactician Francesco Bruni, an ex Olympian and America’s Cup sailor; and trimmer Federico Michetti who already has two Melges 24 World titles to his name. Franco Rossini’s Swiss entry Blu Moon, with Italy’s Flavio Favini at the helm, were winners of the 2001 Melges 24 World Championship in Key West, Fla. This consistent team are familiar faces on the U.S. circuit and must be considered amongst the contenders in Annapolis. Stuart Simpson’s UK crew aboard Team Barbarians are also regular competitors in the U.S. and having finished a close second at the recent Nationals will be looking for at least another podium place next week.

Truth be told there are many other teams entered who are capable of taking a race win and putting together a series good enough to win the North American title, including Bruce Ayres’ Monsoon, Simon Strauss and Bora Gulari on Simplicity, Argyle Campbell and Vince Brun on Rock & Roll, Alan Field on WTF, Othmar Mueller von Blumencron on Gannet and several others. In our next preview release, to be issued next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at the teams facing off for the 2008 Melges 24 Corinthian (all amateur) North American Championship title.

Tight racing and hot competition are the entry level criteria for a Melges 24 Championship and this year in Annapolis it looks like the quality of the racing will be matched by the standard of the on-shore entertainment. A full social programme is planned for the competitors including the Pusser’s Rum-sponsored opening night party at which Gary Jobson will help welcome the competitors. Melges Performance Sailboats will be hosting one of their legendary ‘Melges Rocks’ parties on the Thursday evening to mark the mid point of the regatta and Stuart Simpson from Team Barbarians will be sponsoring the final night gala prize giving party. Those familiar with Stuart’s passion for loud, live rock music will have some idea what to expect.

Registration, crew weighing, boat measurement and sail registration will take place from Sunday October 26th until Tuesday October 28th. North Sails will be offering a round-table clinic Monday evening Oct. 27th. All are welcome to hear Vince Brun, Andy Burdick and Chris Larson discuss tuning, sail trim and boat handling at Eastport Yacht Club 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. There will be video review as well as opportunity for questions directed to some of the class's best. Beer and snacks will be provided.

A practice race will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 28th.The Championship Series will run from Wednesday, October 29th through to Saturday, November 1st. Up to three races per day are scheduled.

The 2008 North American Championship is sponsored by Pusser's Rum , Pusser's Caribbean Grille , Corel Reef Sailing Apparel , Gill , Melges Performance Sailboats , North Sails , Velocitek , Annapolis Wireless Internet (AWI) , Harken , Sail 22 , Quantum Sails , Westin Annapolis , Atlantic Yacht Rigging and Stuart Simpson's Team Barbarians. The Melges 24 Class and the Eastport Yacht Club are extremely proud to be partnered with these outstanding companies and thank them for their generous support of the 2008 Melges 24 North American Championship.