Brave New Worlds
21 September 2009
As published by On-The-Water Anarchy
After 4 days of production preparation, taking in the sights of Northeastern Sardinia, and of course, drinking with a whole pile of Melges sailors, I can say in all honesty that there is truly something special going on here. And that thing is, of course, the first ever Melges 32 World Championship. There are 30 boats registered and likely 29 will be on the line, and they represent some of the best monohull teams on the planet. But of course it is an owner/driver class, which means the helmsman are NOT the best on the planet, and that changes the game in unexpected ways. In the Farr 40 Class, it lent an exclusivity to the class that made it somewhat uninteresting to me (reverse snob that I am), plus the Farr 40 is not a particularly exhilarating ride. As one former Farr 40 owner told me yesterday, "this is the first owner/driver class with a really cool boat, and that's why I am here."
And of course that owner vibe flows downhill, meaning the crews - as competitive and professional as many of them are - are here to have fun. And it shows. There are a lot of young people, quite a few extremely hot chicks, and even the old guys are a blast. There's a solid mix of the best dinghy, sportboat, multihull and big boat crews, ready to get wet, bashed up, and to go really fast in one of the truly special boats of this decade.
But this is also the story of one of my favorite people in all of sailing, a young man who has already become a legend like the man who mentored him in his early career, Georgio Zuccoli. The dude is not even 40 yet, and he is one of only a tiny handful of people to win three Melges 24 World Championships - the first of them with Zuccoli in 2000 just before Georgio succumbed to cancer, and the second and third these past two years. He is of course Federico Michetti, and he is easily as much of an asshole as I am - perhaps that's why we get along so well.
Federico is the CEO and President of Melges Europe, one of the few success stories in sailing today. While the US operation struggles to sell boats and the North American 20, 24, and 32 events continue to see disappointing numbers, Michetti's operation continues to steamroll past other classes and builders during an economic period that makes selling sleek toys all but impossible for anyone else. Remember folks - there are thirty of these things here, and it's probably the single most expensive place to attend a regatta on Earth. Someone is kicking some ass right now, and all roads lead to our pal Freddie.
Now of course it's not all Federico's success; a group of people have worked their asses off to help the 20,24, and 32 become as successful as they are, and we'll be talking to all of them this week. The first is Luisa Bambozzi, Michetti's right-hand woman, whose sugary sweet smile belies some serious brains and aggressiveness, on the race course and off. Another big factor has been the support of Audi (for the 20 and 32) and Volvo (for the 24) - there is no denying that they spice up these events and turn them into "must do" regattas. And of course Harry Melges has strongly supported the growth of the European class all along.
But guys like Onorato don't buy into a class unless they believe in the people behind it. And the vision for the Euro class and this massive event is all Michetti.
And for the most important week in his life, we have the honor and privilege of being here to cover it all. We have some truly special stuff planned for this special week, and we are quite sure that you will all enjoy some of the most exciting sailboat racing there is. Check back for links in the morning - the racing begins Wednesday.
A huge thanks to Melges Europe, Melges Performance Sailboats and the International Melges 32 Class for bringing On-The-Water Anarchy to Porto Cervo, and to Tom Carruthers at Point Loma Outfitting for once again being our official apparel provider for this great event.