Gill Melges 24 Worlds warm-up
Six of the top ten finishers from the last Melges 24 World Championship are readying for the class’ first southern hemisphere staging of their pinnacle international event, the Gill Melges 24 World Championship 2014.
Five of these six teams are tourists heading downunder to Geelong’s Corio Bay to grapple with the best placed Australian at the 2013 worlds, Olympic 470 gold medallist Nathan Wilmot, and other key players who make up the strong Aussie contingent.
Two of the five international visitors are former class world champions.
All up, organisers the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in partnership with the International Melges 24 Association, anticipate 26 of the one-design sports boats on the start line at Geelong in two weeks’ time.
Melges 24 Australian class president Warwick Rooklyn believes there are no firm favourites and anticipates the usual cut-throat level of competition for the crown.
Geelong’s Festival of Sails January 21-27 will incorporate the Melges 24 Australian Open Nationals as a shakedown to the main event, the World Championship, to be staged on the same expanse of water. Racing will run from 29 January-2 February, when the 2014 World Champion will be declared.
Rooklyn is prepared to float the names of the highly credentialed, but says in his opinion there is no clear cut favourite.
Harry Melges III, son of the class’ founding father Buddy Melges, is a previous world champion and one of the best pro sailors in America says Rooklyn. Melges’ crew of Andy Burdick, Frederico Michetti and Jeff Ecklund, who makes a welcome return to the class after several year’s absence, make this USA team called Star a solid chance.
Italian skipper Flavio Favini, the 2013 European Champion, won the 2001 Melges 24 World Championship. 13 years later and he’s still on form, helming for a Swiss-based Melges 24 team called Blu Moon. Runner up at last October’s World Championship, Favini is a definite threat for the biggest slice of the silverware.
Skipper Bora Gulari and his American team finished fourth at the last worlds. As well as a noted Melges sailor he’s a dual Moth world champion, winning most recently in Hawaii last summer. Gulari took up windsurfing at five years in Michigan. He was late coming to sailing; inspired by watching the America’s Cup and 18 foot skiffs on television he made his foray into the sport at college.
Sailing and the desire to be the best has taken Gulari around the world, including spending three summers in Australia: “There was a Moth Nationals I participated in that was part of Geelong race week,” he said.
On his chances against plenty of tough teams at the upcoming Gill Melges 24 World Championship Gulari rates his team West Marine Rigging a shot, “I think we are a serious challenger, my team and I are coming to Geelong trying to win the event”.
International class chairman Riccardo Simoneschi won the Melges 24 European Sailing Series last year and placed seventh at the Worlds with his Melges 24 Audi.
Another Italian team, Andrea Racchelli’s Altea placed 10th at the worlds and Racchelli has had the measure of those who finished higher up the ladder at various European regattas.
Of the Australians Nathan Wilmot finished fifth from 59 entries at the 2013 world championship run out of San Francisco Yacht Club.
“Nathan is on paper the strongest chance out of the three top tier Australian teams as I see them,” said Rooklyn.
Wilmot is sailing Kaito Northshore Marine with his wife Shona, Chris Links and Melges Asia Pacific managing director Heath Walters and his son Harley.
Warwick Rooklyn (Bandit) and Cameron Miles (Roger That) are evenly matched both on paper and on-water, 19th and 20th respectively at the last Worlds.
Rooklyn and his trusty right hand man Doug McGain (spinnaker and strategy) have combined with a young team of Farr 40 sailors to work the front of the boat. Daniel Nixon was with Rooklyn when they won the North American Championship in 2012. He’s on the bow while Malta Pasler is on jib trim and David Chapman is calling tactics.
The versatile Chapman, a Sydney-based former youth match racing champion, is also making a name for himself in the big boat arena as tactician for both a Farr 40 and TP52 campaign.
The maximum crew weight for the class is 375 kilos and the majority of teams contesting the world title will sail five up.
The RGYC has a reputation for hosting world-class sailing regattas and the race management nous developed over 170 years of running Victoria’s oldest sporting trophy, the Festival of Sails, to ensure the sailors enjoy the best competition possible.
Corio Bay is an extensive body of protected water. Summer southeast sea breeze is typical, either localised due to the land heating up, which creates a sea breeze around the edges of the bay, or a stronger more long lasting ocean sea breeze generated in Bass Strait.