August 26, 2011
Thirty three Melges 20s have gathered in Newport, RI to compete for the title of 2011 National Champion. Teams have been practicing in perfect conditions the past 2 days, masts have been tuned, bottoms have been waxed and new sails will be broken out to ensure that is no stone left unturned to create a winning formula. The only problem for each of the teams dreaming of championship glory…Hurricane Irene.
The town of Newport has not reached full panic yet, but there was a bit of an erie feeling on Wednesday when we were busy launching and prepping our Melges 20’s, while at the same time the legendary Newport Shipyard was working at a furious pace hauling out large vessel one after the other in preparation for 60-120 mph winds and a storm surge that could reach the bars of Thames Street. Irene has several projected paths and categories, but when Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel has been stationed in Providence for the past 2 days, you know with certainty the storm is headed this direction and it could be serious…Jim Cantore doesn’t go where storms aren’t.
The class has wisely decided to cancel racing on Sunday as the storm is scheduled to hit sometime that morning. The question now is will there be any racing on Saturday, and if I had my way, we would do 1 day of racing on Friday, call it a regatta and get the hell out of town. The conditions on Saturday are forecast to be beautiful, but if you don’t catch a flight or get in the car on Saturday evening, best case scenario is you are most likely stuck here until Tuesday with the airport most likely being shutdown, as well as the Newport Bridge and most major highways. The plan at the skippers meeting on Thurs night was to get as much racing in on Friday with a 930 am warning and make a call from there.
We are not taking any chances on M and M racing and we have secured a rental truck with a trailer hitch and plan to get the boat out of the water and start hauling it West as soon as racing is done. It seems a little bit crazy that we are still here as I am typing this, but racing is still scheduled and we are here to do our best. All I know is I would like to do well, and make it home to take my family to the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday morning. Getting stuck in Newport with no power, water and in a state-of-emergency while missing out on seeing an 600 lb pig and eating mini-donuts would be a disappointment to say the least.
A new Melges 20 Champion may be crowned as early as Friday afternoon. Stay tuned for a report from the front lines of Hurricane Irene.
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