December 7, 2011
Just 2 years ago the Melges 20 was a brand new, fresh class and for the first winter series event 10 boats were in attendance, and of those 10, at least 4 of them were basically handed out to get on the starting line. Fast forward to today as we sit on the eve the of the 2nd Melges 20 Gold Cup, there are 40 boats registered spanning 3 countries and some of the top names in sailing are here to compete on Biscayne Bay. Growth like this does not happen in most classes, but with a formula of providing a simple boat with great racing at awesome venues, people just want to be a part of it.
There are several noticeable changes from last year’s winter circuit outside of the increase in boats. First is the strong presence of cigarettes and fast talking fuzzy Italians in the boat yard who have come over to claim the Gold Cup title. The Melges 20 has exploded in Italy, and there are at least 10 teams here who are enjoying the Miami sun and looking to show the American teams what sailing a Melges 20 is all about. Secondly is the sharing of information as the tuning of the Melges 20 has seen dramatic changes over the past year. Just like NASCAR when a driver says he has a good or bad car during the race, new tuning and set-ups have been experimented with since early this summer and the results have been dramatic with teams like Michael Kiss’ Bacio being noticeable faster, while others are left to scratch their heads and attempt to glean as much info from the quick boats as possible.
Call it getting complacent, but after having decent results last winter on M and M and feeling good about our ability to hang with the top group, I was confident we had a good handle on our rig-tune settings and it was just a matter of execution to do well in an event. After the Nationals a few weeks ago, it did not take long to figure out we were well off the pace from the front group, and we needed to do some serious research on how to fix the problem. The best way to try to get up to speed with your competitors is to simply ask, and the main topic of discussion was the disparity in the mast rake measurement as the top boats are raking much further aft which we were clearly not doing.
When asking around, some teams are very forthcoming with information knowing that if they give your their tuning numbers, they are still confident in their ability to execute better. Others teams however are a bit more hesitant to reveal their settings often triggering a conversation that goes something like this over a few post race beers:
Me: “You were going pretty fast today, what are you setting your mast rake at these days?”
Fast guys: “Well, we try to keep our rake right around 30 ft, zzzzzggnnnzz inches.”
Me: “I’m sorry, you trailed off at the end there, I didn’t catch that…”
Fast guys: “Yeah, we are running our rake at 30 ft, ahhhuhhh inches…”
Me: “I didn’t hear that, you coughed at the end there, can you repeat it one more time?”
Fast guys: “I need to grab another beer, you need one?”
It sometimes takes a good poker face to try and understand if someone is giving you accurate information, if they are in the ballpark, or if they are totally bs’ing you. Other than asking people is to experiment with speed testing prior to the event. We feel we have done a good job of getting a handle on some new numbers and feel good about our speed heading into the first day of racing on Thursday. Of course, you never really know until the starting gun goes off.
4 days of racing are scheduled. Crew lists and up to date results here.
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