Six Melges 24 Champions promise tough competition

November 12, 2019 - Pensacola FL, November 11, 2019 - Article by Talbot Wilson - Five reigning 2019 Melges 24 champions and a former U.S. Champion will duke it out with a stellar fleet of challengers on Pensacola Bay this coming weekend (November 15-17). Pensacola YC hosts the Melges 24 Bushwhacker Cup with racing for the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Championships on Friday and Saturday. A practice race and a Quantum sails clinic will help tune the fleet on Friday.

One entry dropped out today, but still a strong fleet of 21 sporty Melges 24’s will be on the line Saturday with the first warning scheduled for 10.55. Tim Bowman, from Lake Stockton YC in Missouri has had to withdraw. He and Rhumb Runner are not able to make the trip. But he promised, “I’ll make it next year.”

“This is the inaugural, first annual, Bushwhacker Cup,” said Race Chairman Tom Pace, Jr. “We want to build a Melges 24 tradition in Pensacola and this is the first step. We have a perfect venue for competitive one-design racing. Our PRO Hal Smith is very familiar with Melges 24 racing and will put great racing on the bay for the sailors to enjoy.”

This week’s fleet is highlighted by champions. Travis Weisleder the 2019 North American Champion from Richmond, VA tops the list with Roger Counihan, the 2019 Canadian National Champion coming from Atlanta, GA on his heels. Steve Suddath of Jacksonville, FL is 2019 Corinthian U.S. National Champ. He’ll be pressing the pros.

Bruce Ayres from Newport Beach, CA is last year’s Bacardi Winter Series Champion while Megan Ratliff of Chicago is 2019 Corinthian Bacardi Winter Series Champ. For many of the entries, this regatta in Pensacola is a perfect tune-up for racing in Miami at the other end of the state in the Bacardi Winter Series starting in December.

Another notable sailor is former U.S. National Champion Bora Gulari. He is in Pensacola for the winter as a sailing team member with New York Yacht Club American Magic, a Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup. Gulari competed at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, sailing the Nacra 17 male/female multihull. Gulari was US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in 2009.

There are also two teams from Oakcliff Sailing traveling from Oyster Bay, NY for the competition. This should be one-design fleet racing like Pensacola has never seen before.

Pensacola YC
All the news will be posted on the event website, Facebook on PYCBushwhackerCup, and twitter at BushwhackerCup #bushwhackercup. The complete entry list is at Bushwhacker Cup Entries.

On Friday 15 November, Zane Yoder will host a Melges 24 Racing Clinic following practice racing on Pensacola Bay. The clinic, hosted by Quantum Sails, is the kickoff for a great weekend of racing out of Pensacola Yacht Club.

Beware sailors and sailor companions, the regatta’s new Bushwhacker machine will be dedicated, too.

For this regatta, Pensacola PRO Hal Smith plans to introduce new robot race marks — MarkSetBots— which are in Pensacola for the Performance Sailing League’s winter Exhibition Series. This will allow the committee to set marks quickly and accurately and to shift marks at the push of a button.

This is the inaugural Atlantic and Gulf Coast Championship for the Bushwhacker Cup “We want to offer a fun, competitive regatta in our fantastic venue. Pensacola Bay is perfect for Melges 24 sailing,” said Smith. “To that end, we invite all the one class sailors to catch the magic on Pensacola Bay. Pensacola Yacht Club is ready to shine."

Pensacola Yacht Club has a 22 acre, power line free campus. Owners can arrange to store their Melges 24’s before and after the regatta in order to accommodate travel plans for their teams.

Sailing on Pensacola Bay
Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound are naturally protected by Santa Rosa Island to the south. The pass to the Gulf of Mexico is located to the southwest, across from the Naval Air Station Pensacola and divides the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island from the western park on Perdido Key.

The racing area is a matter of minutes from the Bayou Chico channel and the Pensacola YC marina. That’s close racing… more racing and less transit time.

In summer months, sailors find a daily sea breeze that builds from a mid-day southeasterly to the afternoon 12-15 knot southwesterly they love. In other seasons, the winds are determined by frontal passages, temperature variables, sunshine and other factors. Tides are minimal, about one foot to one and a half feet.

Pensacola Bay is naturally deep with a white sand bottom. The water is clean, seasonally warm and just choppy in a breeze, but not often rough. The east-west shoreline in downtown Pensacola to the north is perfect for regatta spectating.

All sailors— race or cruise— are invited to come sail on Pensacola Bay. Organizers of both amateur regional, national or international sailing championships and professional sailing events should contact Pensacola Yacht Club to discuss racing on beautiful Pensacola Bay.

The NYYC America's Cup team, American Magic, chose to train in the 'Mule' on Pensacola Bay in the fall and winter of 2018-19. They will return to Pensacola in November to train in both the AC75 'Defiant' and the 'Mule' in 2019-20 before heading to the first Prada Cup race series in Sardinia in April.

Pensacola Yacht Club, the South's Finest—
Pensacola Yacht Club is a championship sailing venue on approximately 22 acres at the mouth of Bayou Chico just west of downtown Pensacola, Florida. Part of that area is approximately 250 feet of sparkling white beachfront property on Pensacola Bay adjacent to the club marina in Bayou Chico.

PYC has been the site of numerous one design and handicap championships over the years. These include the 2000 USODA Nationals, and the inaugural Gulf Coast Championships in 2010 and the highly successful 2013 USODA Southeast Optimist Championships and the 2015 USODA Optimist National Championships which drew 320 sailors from 12 foreign countries and the USA to the competition. The 2018 Optimist Nationals, just completed, drew 301 sailors and featured an opening ceremony keynote presentation by the team from the AC36 NYYC American Magic Challenge.

PYC hosts the Junior Olympic Sailing Festival every year near the Fourth of July. PYC hosted the US Sailing Single Handed Championships in 2010. The club hosted several Flying Tiger East Coast Championships, and the Flying Tiger Nationals were held at PYC in 2011. The club hosted the Ultimate 20 Nationals in 2012, and the Thistle Nationals in 2011. In 2009, PYC hosted both the Corsair Nationals and the Snipe Nationals. Also in 2009, PYC hosted the Junior Lipton Championship, the Gulf Yachting Association’s Junior Championship.

In 2019 PYC hosted the Thistle Class Southeast Championship in April, the 2019 Junior Olympic Sailing Festival presented by BBVA Compass in June, the Flying Scot North American Championship in July and will host the Melges 24 Bushwhacker Cup — the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Championship— in November. PYC stages local regattas throughout the year and offers a youth Summer Sailing Camp in the summer.

See Pensacola Yacht Club