74 boats, 35 of which belonging to the Corinthian division, will be rounding the marks in front of Miami Beach and Biscayne Bay during the 2016 Melges 24 World Championship, which got started with registration and measurement in Island Gardens Marina and Miami Yacht Club yesterday, but the real excitement starts with racing on Tuesday, November 29th.
The Corinthian division has always been a key component in the Melges 24 fleet where the friendly spirit and pleasant environment has at all times attracted also many non-professional sailors, still wanting to measure themselves against some of the best sailors in the world, competing in the professional division: The amateur and professional crews will race together as one fleet for the overall Melges 24 World Championship, with the points for the Corinthian division (which precludes any World Sailing Category three sailors) also being scored separately towards the 2016 Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship title.
‘Since we are true Corinthians with jobs and families we made the choice in 2013 to make all the sailing time as good as possible. This means we are only sailing in the European Sailing Series and Europeans or Worlds where we manage to sail against the crews of the moment but we chose the Melges 24 because it was the dream sport boat for us,’ declared Joost Brouwer, bowman in the Eelco Blok’s Team Kesbeke/Sika/Gill (NED), Melges 24 European Champion in Corinthian division in 2013.
Similar words on the Melges 24 Class were said by Duncan Stamper (Goes to Eleven, CAN), Vice Chair Americas for the International Melges 24 Class Association: ‘With the Melges 24 class I particularly like the people, the boat and the competition. Generally the people are a fun loving friendly group and are always there to share advice or offer a helping hand. I have been particularly impressed with the culture of sharing knowledge and getting newcomers up to speed. The boat is amazing in so many aspects, from its design and performance under sail to its simplicity of rigging and layout. It is such an exhilarating feeling to be ripping downwind at 20+ knots with a grin from ear to ear. And the competition well and truly is top shelf’.
Some Corinthian teams, sailing for the pleasure of sharing the experience, are characterized by the fact that the crew is composed by whole families, making in this way regattas and trainings moments of pure aggregation: ‘We are a family team of four plus our friend Alex Murray. My daughter Bonnie lives in the US and we live in Australia, so as a team we only practice a few days before each regatta and maybe three or four times at home without her. We do a couple of regattas per year and that seems to work fine as we are always looking forward to the next one, and never get sick of sailing. Less is sometimes more,’ affirmed Kevin Nixon from Accru family-team (AUS), volunteering also at the post of the Australian representative in the Executive Committee of the International Melges 24 Class Association.
Racing in the Corinthian division doesn’t necessarily imply little experience in the Class or no precedent experiences in the sailing world: Tõnu Tõniste, owner-helmsman of Lenny (EST) – 2015 and 2006 Melges24 World Champion in Corinthian category; 2014 and 2011 European Champion in Corinthian division – one of the favorites also for the victory of this upcoming championship, started sailing in Melges 24 by accident, but he already had at his back a great sailing attitude: ‘In 1997 brothers Haavel bought a first Melges 24 to Estonia and invited my brother Toomas and me for a ride: the boat was a complete novelty but immediately looked as an amazing one design. We both had some sailing experiences including Olympic Games from 1988 to 2000, obtaining silver and bronze medals and tenth place with 470s. Melges 24 seemed the perfect prosecution of our sailing career to us. Four of our team members are former 470 sailors and one former Finn sailor – therefore we have a good background for sailing.
Most boats are now in the Miami waters, just a few hours of preparation are left before trainings and races will officially start and the mood of the crews is at the top: ‘Many things start with a dream – sail a Melges 24, participation at the Worlds 2012, a new Melges 24 – and also to participate at a big championship overseas. A small anecdote for this: Frank called his wife Inga: ‘Is it ok for you, when I go to the Worlds 2016 to Miami?’ Inga answered: ‘Ok, so we will cancel our annual leave.’ After Frank informed us about the answer of his wife, it was clear for us that we will do it, we will go to Miami for the 2016 Worlds! It seems to be that the Worlds are very well organized. We are very excited to go the first time for sailing on the ocean in Miami and we are curious about the competitors and our own level compared to them, because we only know the European competitors,’ is the thought of Conrad Brinkmann of the German boat Immac Sputnik.
It will be a dream coming true for many crews, including the Chilean Team Obsession Chile, whose experience in Melges 24 started in 2011 from the idea of five friends that now compose the crew: ‘For us Miami will be a big challenge. First, because we only race on lakes in Chile, so we don’t have much experience in sea waters, with streams and waves; secondly, because for us racing in a big and crowded fleet will be a brand new experience. We hope to gain experience, to sail fast and to improve a lot as the championship goes on!’ declared José Rubio, helmsman of the Team Obsession Chile.
Few hours left and all of the Corinthian will have, one more time, the chance to enter the challenge in one of the most competitive fleets of the World. We just have to keep following them to see which crew will manage to get on the podium of this 2016 Melges 24 World Championship in Miami.
All teams mentioned in the article will be sailing at the upcoming Melges 24 Worlds and longer interviews with their experience from the Miami Worlds will be published after the World Championship.
by Silvia Gallegati and Piret Salmistu