Along with Quantum pros Scott Nixon and John Bowden, Virginia’s Travis Weisleder and his Lucky Dog/Gill Racing team are showing their name ain’t a fluke, crushing the fleet at the first-ever Audi Melges 20 World Championship in Key Largo, FL by some 30 points over second place (and first-time Melges 20 racer) Jason Michas. It’s not like Travis is some kind of hack; the Collegiate All-American (Charleston) and long-time Melges 24 racer has won plenty in his day, but he’s never been close to winning a World Championship, and at the moment, with the only non-double digit scoreline in the 52-boat fleet, it’s his to lose.
With one of the most insanely pro’d up fleets ever assembled at a non-Olympic event, you’d think the amateurs would love to show up to play, and with probably a dozen past America’s Cuppers and more Olympic and Volvo sailors than you can shake a stick at, you’d really expect the sailing publications to send their ‘ace’ reporters down. And with an inexpensive boat to move and store, you’d think the Corinthians would come down en masse to pit themselves against the best of the best. And like any Worlds in almost any class (especially a high-profile one like the M20), you’d expect good video coverage, a website, and some top pro photographers shooting the event.
But none of that happened. There’s really no ‘B’ fleet at all like you’d see at almost any other Worlds. In fact there are only 6 “Corinthian” teams with no pros at all – that’s just 11% of the fleet (though one of them – Marcus Eagan’s Cajun Underwriting – is showing that a great amateur driver with great amateur crew can beat the crap out of most average amateur drivers with rock star crew). There’s no video, no website, and no ace pro photographers. In fact, other than Clean and Mer showing up for a day of coverage (check out some mark rounding videos from yesterday on our Facebook Page) there is not a single reporter from any sailing publication covering the regatta; they are at home posting press releases and low-res photo galleries.
There’s a very simple explanation for this bizarre state of affairs; the 2013 Worlds venue is one of the silliest places ever to hold a World Championship. It’s at the ultra-exclusive Ocean Reef Club, a place where folks don’t usually go without an Amex Black Card, an AARP membership, and a golf bag. There are literally no low-cost options for housing or food within 30 minutes’ drive – not a single one – and the resort, one of the world’s biggest master-planned communities, has only one hotel, and you can buy a new set of sails for the cost of a week’s stay. Just a handful of the teams are staying offsite on the cheap, and it is quite literally an hour’s commute to get back to the boat each morning. Add the $1800 entry fee to the food, lodging, and transport costs, and it becomes clear why there are just 52 boats competing, and you see why a couple of pro’s day rates is just a drop in the bucket – hence the 11% amateur fleet.
The Melges 24 fleet in the US has never really recovered from hosting their 2005 Worlds at the same resort; the 99 boat-starting line is still the biggest non-European Worlds in that class’s history. Our advice to other classes? Take this one off your list. They don’t want you there, and most of your members don’t want to go.
But it does accomplish something interesting for us spectators; we get to see a fleet of the best sailors ever assembled for a sport boat regatta. And we get to watch an old friend and one of the first Anarchists on the cusp of winning his first-ever Worlds. You can sort-of follow along too; the penultimate day of racing starts now, and you can follow along on the Audi Melges 20 Facebook Page.
Meredith Block photo.