Melges 24 Gold Cup Fleet Readies For Charleston Battle

19 April 2012

Consistently one of the biggest and toughest regattas of the US Melges 24 year, 2012's edition of Charleston Race Week should see an epic battle across the fleet for supremacy in the "Sailing Capital of the South." The city has been a past venue for several Melges 24 Gold Cups and National Championships, and it’s never failed to deliver intense action and brutal competition.

2011 saw Kristin Lane on Brick House become the first female skipper to win a major M24 regatta in a decade, and she's back with the same strong team of Willem Van Waay, Charlie McKee, Jonny Goldsberry, and Matt Pistay. Kristin is always fast and never backs down, though she'll have to sail through the red-hot Bora Gulari on West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes if she is to have a chance to succeed. Gulari is back with his 2010 CRW champion trimmer John Casey, and he's added Jeremy Wilmot, Brad Funk, and Meredith Nordham to round out an all-star team. Gulari scorched the fleet in Key West with nearly straight bullets and added a US National Championship to his resume just last year. Alan Field is back for another year with his Los Angeles based WTF, though he's lost trimmer Jeff Reynolds to an injury on the Caribbean circuit and tactician Steve Hunt to a scheduling conflict. Field, who grabbed second place in Charleston last year, managed to grab someone off the dock though to fill in for Hunt; Multiple Melges 24 World Champ tactician Jonathan McKee. "We’re mixing it up a little, and hoping for a good result," said forward hand Erik Shampain.

The battle to be in the top 5 is setting up to be a knock-down brawl with some new faces and old rivalries. Bruce Ayres is always in contention for the podium, and the combination of Bruce's speed and past world champ Brian Hutchinson's smarts, Monsoon  should be a contender. Argyle Campbell has been beating the best for a decade, and nothing less should be expected. Chicago Match Race founder Don Wilson's Convexity is due for a good result in Charleston, while the Class is excited to welcome past US Melges Class President Scott Gregory back to the family! Gregory's Free Bettycould be a real spoiler, with former Charleston top dog Steve Kopf at the helm. Cary Siegler's Rock Steady is also capable of great results, and is another team with tons of local knowledge and college racing talent.  Siegler put some insurance aboard in the form of Charleston fixture, fisherman, and sailing coach Michael Miller, who leads the annual "Tides & Currents" seminar for Charleston Race Week.

Another skipper in the hunt for a potential top ten is Richard Thompson's Black Seal, back in the fray after a hiatus. The Britain-based skipper returns to US shores with sailmaker and class vet Nigel Young and class favorite Krista Paxton from the Detroit fleet. A contender from that same Detroit fleet is Paul Hulsey with Hoodlum Racing, while the NorwegianParty Girl and Augie Hernandez' High Voltage should be right in the thick of it.

Predictions aside, only one thing is certain about a Melges 24 Gold Cup in Charleston: Anything can, and probably will happen. Daily reports and photos will be available beginning the evening of April 20 at www.usmelges24.com.

Photo Gallery - Meredith Block