This is a stressful week at the Clean house, and not because Mer’s losing her shit doing our taxes right now. No, we are working ourselves to the bone to get everything in place for the most comprehensive coverage On-The-Water Anarchy has ever done. We’re talking, of course, about the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship in Annapolis, MD. Running for six full days of racing from the 26th through the 1st with practice races starting in less than a week, this is the gold standard for small boat racing, and it’s hard to not get excited knowing what kind of drama and action is in store for us in just a few days.
Our readers know many of these sailors; you’ve seen many of them on this very page for years. You’ve watched their interviews, cheered their victories, and suffered with them through their defeats. Many of you know their stories and have followed their careers, and many of you sail with or against them at your own clubs. Erik "mini-hippie" Shampain, made famous here for his epic giant-killing rides aboard his Hobie 33, has fought long and hard to get Alan Field’s WTF ready for this big event. Bora Gulari, fresh off his Moth World Championship win, has put together a rock star crew – including two smokin’ champion sailor chicks – for Simon Strauss’s Simplicity. SCOTW Kristin Lane and Peter Lane’s two boat Brick House program includes guys like Mark Strube, Mark Ivey, Jonathan Goldsberry, Matt Noble, Charlie McKee, and Brian Hutchinson – Anarchists through and through and incredible sailors to boot. The awesome Barbarians are back, with Jamie Lea at the helm to get some redemption for a tough M32 Worlds that so many of you followed. Brian Porter’s Full Throttle will have Harry Melges aboard, Chris Larson has Richard Clarke, Mike Wolfs, and Curtis Florence, Bill Hardesty’s got Vince Brun telling him where to go, and top sailors from Norway, Italy, Ukraine, Holland, Germany, and of course, Italy, abound. Even the amateurs are rock stars here – it takes a serious commitment from all over the world to roll into Annapolis at the end of October and take on the world’s best sportboat sailors in a tough venue with wildly unpredictable conditions.
The racing itself will be frenetic. While the overall registration numbers are a big disappointment to even the biggest of cheerleaders, the quality of the fleet is not; while the Italians are phenomenally fast, two-time and current World Champion Federico Michetti told us just the other day that the average racer in this fleet is much faster than the average team it Italy. "Here it will be tough to even be in the top 15 if you are not doing everything perfect." In fact, the only defeat that his Uka Uka Racing has suffered in the past year was here – at the hands of someone we all know well, Terry Hutchinson’s Quantum Racing. Terry is no doubt looking for redemption after being so thoroughly trounced by ETNZ in the MedCup – a year ago at this time Terry couldn’t put a foot wrong, but things have changed. Will Terry’s lack of time in the boat negate his perenially strong starts and local knowledge advantage? Only time and tide will tell. But it’s not a two-boat race; not by a longshot. Franco Rossini’s Blu Moon has finished second-fiddle for far too long, he’s so serious about winning this one that he’s given up his spot in favor of an all-star cast of characters. 2006 World Champ Nicola Celon is back with Fantastica Racing, and he’s tired of following around Rossini and Michetti. Riccardo Simoneschi has beaten most of them at Key West, and if the wind blows he will not. And possibly the biggest spoiler for the 2009 Worlds will be Gabrio Zandona at the helm of Joe Fly, who watched their World Championship hopes die on home waters in Sardinia last year when a turnbuckle shattered during the final day of racing.
Like I said; drama. And lots of it. And all with a backdrop that has improved substantially. Idiotic plans to host the event at the middle-of-nowhere Annapolis Sailing School have been binned; tireless Event Chair Liz Filter’s last-ditch effort to bring the circus to the downtown City Docks – the location of the US Sailboat Show – was successful, and now the regatta will be in the thick of it all. Surrounded by bars, restaurants, and more bars, the open-to-the-public festivities and dock-in/dock-out are being broadcast to the locals by a media team that includes celebrated Washinton Post sailing writer Angus Phillips. Filter’s team has planned boisterous parties almost every night, while the world’s assembled media bang away with an ultra-high speed connection to ensure that everyone can see the day’s images and videos without delay. And we’re on a mission to bring it all to you like no one has ever done before.
Thanks to Justin.TV, brand new OTWA sponsors Velocitek, Charleston Harbor Access, and the book Saving Sailing as well as long time supporters Eastport Yachts, Point Loma Outfitting and Latis Yachting Solutions, our team will produce the most ambitious coverage we’ve ever attempted. We’re bringing you live, streaming coverage from every minute of racing on the Chesapeake Bay that can be paused when your boss walks in the office and restarted later. We’ll mix in dozens of interviews with everyone we can find, from sailor chicks to Olympic gold medalists to average Joes, while superstar cameraman Petey Crawford and his crew will create narrated HD highlight reels in HD from each day’s racing for SA’s front page. Mer’s photo slideshows will give you gorgeous new wallpaper each day, and those who watch religously will get the chance to win new Velocitek Speedpucks, great gear from Point Loma Outfitting and Latis, limited edition SA swag, and free copies of Saving Sailing – one of the most important books ever printed for the future of our sport. Add in great discounts available from all our sponsors (if you know specific coupon codes during the event), and even an off-the-hook SA party for participants and Annapolis locals at a time and place to be determined. And for those of you sick of hearing my voice and looking at my ugly face, we’ve enlisted army vet, TP52 sailor, and Quantum "Live The Dream" contest winner Katie Burns as our on-the-screen co-commentator. And I dare you to call this badass blonde ugly.
4 years of development, of painful and expensive trial-and-error, of proving people who say "no one will watch sailing" very wrong, and here we are. The class we know most; the one filled with more Anarchists than any other; the most exciting keelboat racing we know – and you get to see it all.
Enjoy the ride.
Photos of last week’s tune-up regatta from Sara Proctor.