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move along

The 2012 Melges 24 Worlds gets ready for its start Monday, and it’s time to have a quick look at what to expect from the fleet in Torbole on Lago Di Garda.

The M24 Class has gone through some major changes recently. The economic nightmare in Southern Europe has seen quite a few teams at the very top mothball their programs, while lots of middle-level teams have sold their boats to the North. Across the pond, the dominant teams have either gone away or are spending their 2012 prepping for the highly anticipated 2013 Worlds in San Fran. Times have changed, and money (and talent) has poured into the M20 and M32 Class. With the Olympics under way, the ACWS rolling into SF, and VOR crews collecting much-needed down time, there just aren’t enough pros to fill the 24 fleet the way they used to. 65 or so Corinthian teams are entered in Garda, and that’s almost double the size of the previous benchmark for all-amateur teams. Not really pertinent but still interesting is the makeup of the fleet – shockingly, just 23 Italian teams made it to Garda for this one – that’s less than 20% of the fleet. Meanwhile, the Germans (with a better economy, a short drive, and a perpetual need to take their holidays somewhere they can get great food and even better sailing) have 23 entries, Denmark and Switzerland sent ten each, and Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Britain, and Estonia all have more than five boats entered. It’s a smorgasbord for sure, and frankly, the disappearance of the super-teams and continually shrinking barriers to entry for the class are all great news for the future of the world’s benchmark sportboat.

So it may be the biggest M24 Worlds ever, but it’s also going to be lonely at the top. Consider who’s not in Italy: Back-to-back World Champ Uka Uka Racing is done. Joe Fly, Full Throttle, Full Medal Jacket, Rock and Roll, Monsoon, WTF, Xcellent, Pegasus, and Team Gill – all those perennial top tenners are gone. Harry Melges is at home, as is Ullman, Brun, Larson, Hardesty, Hunt, Michetti, Hutchinson, Zandona, Bressani, McKee and about two dozen other past world champ crews. In fact, of the 14 previous World Champ drivers, just one is in Garda, and Flavio Favini last won it 2001! 

This sets up something special for the Detroit M24 gangsters: With most of the biggest dogs gone, it’s Bora Gulari’s best-ever chance of winning the World Championship he’s most hungered for this past 5 years. After dominating every regatta since winning Nationals last year, Bora’s West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes has been firing on all cylinders, and in my analysis (however colored), they’ve got a better than even chance of taking this one. If Gulari has one worry, it’s his last-minute loss of Jeremy "Troll" Wilmot on tactics; Troll was aboard for all Bora’s recent wins, including the nearly all-bullet show in Key West against Flavio Favini on Blu Moon. Will Troll’s replacement — 49er and skiff ace Jonny ‘Nugs’ Goldsberry (sporting a ‘worlds’ goatee) — be up to the challenge? America’s top team is Moth-tacular; all five of the boys are hard core Mothies (and they’ll compete at Moth Worlds in Garda just two weeks from now), and it includes skiffy Matt "Junior" Pistay, Laser superstar Brad Funk, and ABN AMRO 2/Quantum Racing veteran George "Bear" Peet. 

Remember the All-American Offshore Team (that somehow morphed into the oak tree hill squirrel nut zipper racing group powered by acorns)? Meet the All-American Inshore Team. 

With AC vet Matteo Ivaldi on tactics, Favini will likely be Bora’s toughest competition, though Chris Rast is driving the Swiss EFG Bank entry and has some mad skillz and a deep knowledge of the lake. Italian teams Saetta, Altea, Gullisara, and Audi have about 300,000 accumulated hours on this, the sweetest sailing lake anywhere, and they’ll be tough to outwit if the wind gets tricky. But if the usual stiff breeze blows, Bora’s boat speed – upwind and down – is pretty much untouchable, as he proved in Key West this year.

We’ll be getting reports from the team all week, and there’ll be daily video from Zerogradinord, photos from Pierrick Contin, and updates from Fiona and her media team. Those looking to browse the full crew list can find it here

This photo courtesy of Pierrick.  Title from the appropriately named All-American Rejects.