Melges 24 teams could not have asked for more spectacular racing conditions on opening day at the 2017 U.S. Melges 24 National Championship. Plentiful sunshine, a shifty 20-25 knots of breeze and relatively moderate seas ushered in the event, along with a thousand smiles.
PRO Hal Smith and his race committee did an amazing job with the ideal conditions presenting three championship-style races. No more than one mile in length, the simple windward/leeward configurations provided the perfect playground for the insatiable Melges 24 fleet.
Seven-time Melges 24 U.S. National Champion Brian Porter on Full Throttle (USA-849) blistered the race course with speed to win the first race of the day. As a number of individual recalls were announced, Porter put the pedal to the metal to lead at the top mark, then extended to win by a sizable margin, leaving Jason Rhodes at the helm of Kevin Welch’s Mikey (USA-838) and John Brown’s Blind Squirrel (USA-547) to fight for second place. Brown won the second slot, Welch came third, Steve Suddath’s 3 ½ Men (USA-526) was fourth followed by Bruce Ayres’ Monsoon (USA-851) in fifth.
Ayres’ extremely experienced Charleston Harbor Melges 24 team proved why they are back-to-back Sperry Race Week Champions (2015/2016) in Race Two. After being called OCS, he along with long time pal Porter, had work to do to stay in contention. With the breeze still pumping at an ideal 20-25 knots, Ayres made big gains on the right side of the course, on the final run, playing the current like a fine-tuned fiddle to take an impressive first place win. Brown was second, Peter Duncan’s Jigs In Space (USA-515) was third, and Porter recovered nicely to take fourth.
Another highlight of Race Two came a little after the top five crossed the finish line. A steady stream of big puffs blasted down the course touching into the upper 20s presenting spectators with a few entertaining crash and burns.
The final race of the day was a Course Five – and an absolute dogfight between Weisleder (Lucky Dog USA848) and Porter. The tough and very challenging conditions added to the spectacle of watching the Melges 24 revel in the breeze. Upwind and down, Weisleder and Porter were neck-and-neck, continuously trading lead positions. At the final gate, Weisleder secured the lead, less than a boat length ahead of Porter up the right side of the course to the finish. Weisleder held on for the win followed by Porter, Duncan, Wes Whitmyer Jr.’s SlingSHOT (USA-747), and Welch rounded out the top five.
The competition in the overall division was heated, but the same can be equally said for the all-amatuer Corinthians. These fierce, weekend warriors were commonly spotted throughout the day mixing it up in the top ten.
Atop the field is Brent McKenzie on EX-KAHN (USA-575). Keeping the points standing tight, Great Britain’s Stuart Simpson on Team Barbarians (USA-691) is currently seated second, followed by Alabama’s Zane Yoder on FNG/Eelsnot (USA-9) in third. Rounding out the top five is KC Shannon on Shaka in fourth, and Jay Greenfield’s Old School (USA-491) in fifth.
For fleet newcomer Greenfield, packed solid with young, aspiring sailors… they had a blast. “It’s the first time we have ever sailed the Melges 24 before. It was so much fun,’ said Greenfield post racing. Once he took notice of being currently seated in fifth, his simple response was “We’ll take it.”
Racing continues on Saturday, April 8 with more sunshine and moderate breeze.
TOP TEN RESULTS (PRELIMINARY – After Three Races)
1.) Brian Porter, Full Throttle: 1-4-2 = 7
2.) Bruce Ayres, Monsoon; 5-1-6 = 12
3.) John Brown, Blind Squirrel; 3-2-7 = 12
4.) Kevin Welch/Jason Rhodes, Mikey; 2-7-5 = 14
5.) Wes Whitmyer, Jr.; SlingSHOT; 7-8-4 = 19
6.) Peter Duncan, Jigs In Space; 12-6-3 = 21
7.) Michael Goldfarb, Warcanoe; 8-5-10 = 23
8.) Travis Weisleder, Lucky Dog; 25/RET-3-1 = 29
9.) Brent McKenzie, EX-KAHN; 9-9-12 = 30
10.) Guy Mossman, Jack Mormon Coffee; 10-10-11 = 31
TOP FIVE CORINTHIAN RESULTS (PRELIMINARY – After Three Races)
1.) Brent McKenzie, EX-KAHN = 30 pts.
2.) Stuart Simpson, Team Barbarians = 34 pts.
3.) Zane Yoder, FNG Eelsnot = 40 pts.
4.) KC Shannon, Shaka = 40 pts.
5.) Jay Greenfield, Old School = 43 pts.