Celebrating Families on the Melges 24
There has been a resurgence of family teams in the Melges 24 class and it is a healthy development. Recognized the world over as a breakthrough boat for its speed and ease of sailing, the Melges 24 has the added quality of bringing families together. Some of the family teams start with a couple. Other teams have grade-school children, high school, and college-aged or young adults in their makeup.
A family team could not have picked a better boat, for the Melges 24 delivers uncompromised speed in a very comfortable package that can be managed by smaller-sized crewmembers. It only takes a 68-kg trimmer to handle the large spinnaker (62 square meters) due to the light overall weight of the Melges 24. With no winches (the jib has 2:1 sheeting like a Star boat), there are fewer opportunities for bruising.
The Arntson family Melges 24 team at Whidbey Island, Washington when the boys were in grammar school
Krak and Kimberly Arntson, now of Lake Tahoe, CA bought their first boat, (USA15) in 1995 and sailed with another couple before starting their own family of Melges 24 sailors. A decade later they started to get some production out of their 9 and 11 year-old boys (they did the trimming) and won the 2007 San Francisco Claus Regatta.
“Stein would pull the jib around and cleat it, then Rudi would hang off the boom and jump up and down on the sheet to bow-string it,” says Krak Arntson, California’s new Melges 24 District Governor.
“Of course, most of our Melges sailing in the last 7 years has been as a complete family… mom, dad and both grade school and later teenaged kids together... which has always been a special challenge what with weight, size, maturity, sibling rivalry…other crew willing to sail with kids on a 6 person team,” he says with a smile.
Now, with the boys aged16 and 18, the Arntson family team, sailing Nikita (USA379) has become a force on the bay, recently taking it down to the wire with another Tahoe boat for first and second in the Melges 24 fleet of the 130-boat Great Pumpkin Round the Islands Race (Alcatraz and Angle).
The Nixon Family (Accru team AUS 812) travels from Australia to the US Nationals and wins the Corinthian trophy
The Australian family of Glenda and Kevin Nixon recently traveled to the states and won top Corinthian honors, 6th overall, at the US Nationals sailing Accru (AUS812). Kevin and his son, Daniel, bring their Aussie18-foot skiff sailing skills to the Melges 24, while Glenda, daughter Bonnie and Daniel’s girlfriend, Christine LInhart, balance the crew on the bow, kite and jib.
“It is definitely a different dynamic sailing together as a family. As you might expect, everyone is a bit more vocal. Daniel is a boat handling perfectionist and we put in the training as would be expected of a professional crew and sometimes in training things can be heated. Even though we are a Corinthian crew we pride ourselves in been able to do any maneuver whether it be roll tacking, gybing or gybe-setting as good or better than the professionals,” says Kevin.
“Sailing with the women, I’ve noticed their lack of ego and great concentration in trimming the spinnaker or jib. They also seemed to be able to hike harder and longer and never complain. What more can you ask for in a team?“
“We observed later, that any point when things were tense someone would chirp up and do the motivation speech and lift spirits. This may be attributable to more freedom of expression that exists when family members make up the team. I’m sure you would get a similar behavior happening in a really good group of friends sailing together.”
Family Team- (L-R) Erling Holler, Jorgen Wathne’s 70- year old Father-in-law, on the bow; Jorgen, and IMCA Executive Committee member, Jens Wathne
Most families that can sail together find that it adds another dimension to their relationships. They find it rewarding and it often leads to the creation of top-level teams. There are many examples of siblings who started sailing with the family early in life and grew to become top-level sailors. For example, the Tõniste brothers of Tallinn, Estonia are multiple Corinthian Melges24 World and European Champions and multiple Olympic medalists. The McKee brothers won the 2005 Melges 24 World Champions, multiple Olympic medalists.
Lenny Team from Estonia with the Tõniste brothers Tõnu and Toomas - 2014 European Champion in Corinthian Division
Written by Brian Hutchinson