November 30, 2010
The Vikings are 4-7, the snow is flying, Minnesota is experiencing one of the coldest Novembers on record, and Santa Claus isn’t coming for another 20+ days…its a perfect time to head to warm Ft. Lauderdale for some sailboat racing.
Over the past 4 years, the Melges 32 Gold Cup has evolved from a 12 boat training event where the fleet shared a coach, had video sessions at the end of each day, and owners were just getting their feet wet in this new class, into a 20+ boat annual event that features top level amateur and pro sailing talent. Although the event takes place at the end of the calendar year, the Gold Cup signifies the beginning of the next season since there is typically a 2 month hiatus between the Gold Cup and the last major event. Teams have a chance to regroup, reorganize and apply the lessons they have learned from the previous season to the start of the next.
For the 2010 Gold Cup in particular, having 23 boats is not only surprising, but a very good indicator of how strong this class has become. The assumption was that most of the 30 strong fleet at the Worlds would be taking a few events off and that the 32 winter series might see a drop in attendance. With several teams like Star, Ramrod (2009 Gold Cup Champ), Warpath, Leenabarca, Red, Arethusa coming off strong World Championships and hoping to carry that through this winter, along with new teams like Dawn Raid and Catapult, it is clear that fleet veterans are ramping up again, and new owners with talented teams are continuing to jump into the fray.
When it comes to events that have a good vibe and a great feeling, it is sometimes hard to put your finger on what exactly gets the job done, and the success of the Gold Cup cannot simply be attributed to the great competition it has drawn over the past few seasons. First, the Gold Cup has a great venue located at the Bahia Mar hotel and marina where all the teams are housed together and the boats are a 30 second walk from the lobby. Sure, the hotel itself needs a little touching up and you often wonder if the elevator is going to make it to your floor, but not having to get in a car all weekend is certainly a plus. The free Heineken Light provided at the end of each day by 32 owner of Ninkasi (Goddess of Beer), John Taylor is also a nice perk. John has been doing this for several years, and it not only gets him some crossings, but keeps the fleet mingling and in good spirits at the end of each day. Lastly, the best feature of the Gold Cup occurs on the last day which is take a Junior racing day. Each team is paired up with a junior sailor from the Lauderdale Yacht Club and it is always priceless to get a glimpse of the junior when they are handed the tiller and get to drive the boat on the way out to the race course. We get to provide the juniors with a great experience, and it keeps the teams from taking things too seriously and helps each of us to remember why we got into the sport in the first place.
Picking a winner is never an easy task in this fleet since there are plenty of talented teams and all it takes is for someone to get hot or find their wheels and they will be tough to beat. The crew list can be found here and feel free to take a stab at the top 5 in the comments section of the blog.
Stay posted to 42marine.com for daily updates and reports from the 2010 Melges 32 Gold Cup.