2016 Melges 24 Worlds: Passion Powered by Dark Energy

November 25th, 2016 - Miami, FL, US - Melges 24 driven enthusiasm and passion to this boat will bring a great fleet of Melges 24 sailors to sail in one of the most desired sailing venues in US – Miami – for the title of the 2016 Melges 24 World Championship. But not only for this particular title. Sailing on that boat, having fun both on the ocean waves and on the dock enjoying a great company of the other sailors are the reasons to be there. Laura Grondin – the owner and skipper of the Melges 24 called Dark Energy USA-805 will be there for all these reasons, but title. She is representing the core of the Melges 24 class – Corinthian fleet.

Laura was a collegiate sailor at Yale and is a very competitive sailor, tennis player and business person now. Being CEO and owner of Virginia Industries – a manufacturing company serving the water, gas and automotive industries, she can easily compare skippering the boat with leading a company. You can’t have good results without having a passionate, dedicated and friendly team or without contributing time into this. The lessons learned both in sailing and business can help to manage better on both fields. Laura was happy to talk to us how she became such a devoted fan of sailing and Melges 24 in particular.

The Beginning

“Seeking a fun and fast boat to race in PHRF, about 5 years ago, a good friend and I decided to buy a Melges 32.  It was a humbling, challenging and exciting journey, particularly, since my skippering experience was dated: I grew up sailing blue jays, spent one year of my four-year college sailing career at Yale steering instead of crewing and took a 20 year hiatus from racing.”Laura returned to steering sailboats racing an old wooden boat.  In fact, Laura’s tactician and now good friend, Carl Fast, made her thinking she could sail a Melges 32 with that old wooden boat experience as a back drop!

Next Step

Laura had had a growing number of Melges 24s skippered by experienced and awesome sailors in her local waters of Fisher’s Island Sound and when another friend decided to sell his 24, Laura bought it because she wanted to pursue class racing. “We picked up a good boat AND a great bowman, Rich Peale, in the transaction! With one local race under our belt, we entered, and remarkably won, the OakCliffe Oyster Fest Regatta last October!” Laura said happily.

On The Road to Miami

Laura and her team went on to compete at Sperry Charleston Race Week, Wednesday night regattas in their local waters (three of those local five  Melges 24s will be on the line at the worlds in Miami – Wardance USA-798 and Opportunity Knocks USA-43, the MudRatz boat), and US Nationals.  “We are training in Miami the weekend before Thanksgiving combining crew and sharing that experience with Wardance, skippered by Peb Bergendahl who will race in the Worlds with brother and fellow Melges 24 skipper, Woody Bergendahl, to finish our preparation for the Worlds.”

Experiences Means Development

Laura admits that sailing a Melges 32 was great preparation for sailing a Melges 24: “We experienced 30 knot plus winds on the 32 in an epic round Block Island race; the kind of day that if I hadn’t been so worried about pitch poling as we drove into the waves at 16 knots, I would have had more fun!  And, yes, we got the kite down that day after being smacked by a gust.  I think that experience will help me and all of us on the boat manage the conditions in Miami! Facing challenges and stepping outside of your comfort zone a real development will come.” She welcomes highly the opportunity to sail at the Worlds in Miami. “For us northeasterners, an opportunity for warm, ocean sailing and a world of competition, the best of the best, on our home shores is a draw.”

Fun Boat, Great Team and Corinthian Spirit

Two main reasons to be delighted about Melges 24 class are a fun boat and a chance to enjoy your spare time with your good friends. No doubt, whoever to speak to among the Melges 24 fleet, everyone is saying it’s the funniest and most competitive one design boat ever. Laura very much agrees with this statement: “The Melges 24 is a fun boat in any conditions – light air, heavy air, flat water, wavy water.”

But even more enjoyable is a chance to sail with people that are your friends and whom you deeply respect. “We have five people on our boat who range from very good to great in terms of skills and knowledge.  But what elevates our performance is the time and effort we put into working together to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Truthfully, I am honored by the caliber and dedication of our team; they are eager to learn and want to succeed. That is the essence and the strength of the Corinthian experience!” The crew of Carl Fast (Tactician), Richard Grondin (Mast), Frank Murphy (Headsail Trimmer) and  Richard Peale (Bow) for sure are lucky to have leader like Laura – it’s her contribution, her passion, and her drive that makes Dark Energy a great team.

Pay Forward

Laura’s passion and devotion to the sailing is admirable. She is very keen to see young women steering to get the same experiences she has had. After ending Melges 32 racing she donated the Melges boat to Junior-sailing organization MudRatz so that they could buy another Melges 24. “My only expectation was to give opportunities for the girls to steer, an opportunity that I had to achieve by buying a boat.”

At the upcoming Melges 24 Worlds in Miami there will be lined up three female-owned Melges 24s. Next to Laura’s Dark Energy USA-738 there will be Megan Ratliff’s Decorum USA-805 and Sallie Lang/Jan Crosbie-Taylor’s Posse USA-140. And if not steering, female sailors are playing a very important role in a numerous teams of the Melges 24 Worlds.