livin’ large


Sailing Anarchy’s undeniable awesomeness has little to do with its outspoken editors and their opinions; we are the world’s biggest and best thanks to the opinions and contributions of thousands of sailors over the years.  Whether you’re a top professional, industry insider, or someone sailing your first major regatta, we want to hear your reports – and so do thousands of Sailing Anarchy readers all over the world.  

That’s what top Midwestern pro Sam “‘Sheed” Rogers did when he read our somewhat critical report on the Melges 20 Worlds “It’s All In A Name” the other day.  While many Melges 20 owners have responded with gratitude for our sharing their view, Sam disagreed, and instead of whining and bitching, he did what everyone should when they disagree with us; he wrote his own report on the event.  Enjoy it, and thanks to Steve Bernstein and Joy Dunigan for the photos.

Bucanneer+beach-dec2006Originally a Key Largo fishing camp in the 1960s, the Ocean Reef Club developed into one of the most desirable communities in the country over the past decade plus.  Home to 3 unreal golf courses, a private airstrip and the highest density of sexy sportfish and center console power boats you’ll ever see, it’s a fully self-contained community complete with movie theatre, medical clinic, fishing village, palm-lined trees, pools, and tennis courts.  It’s not hard to see why so many 1%ers choose Ocean Reef for their home away from home.

Rarely known for sailing, the Reef played host to the 2005 M24 Worlds.  With 99 boats on the line in incredible conditions, it went down in many people’s books as one of the greatest World Championships ever held in any class. Fast forward to 2013 when the Audi Melges 20 Class looked to make an impression with its first-ever World Championship while breaking the routine of racing in Biscayne Bay.  The Class picked the venue for its ideal sailing conditions as well as its family-friendly nature; exactly what many Audi Melges 20 owners and sailors were looking for in a one-of-a-kind regatta experience.

As Sailing Anarchy noted last week, the Reef is a luxury community.  Ferraris and Lamborghinis grace the driveways and Gulfstreams take off from the airstrip.  But despite the exclusive appearance, a little work found affordable housing options, and if you paired up with another team and hired a cook, you could house 8-10 people for under 800$/night in a beautiful home complete with sweet golf cart.  Unlike a hotel, the house/condo option meant a better environment for debriefs, dinner parties, and the kind of late-night partying you might expect when a couple hundred sailors take over a neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.25.04 PMAs for the racing – no one could dispute the quality or amount we saw in a spectacular week. Each day brought a slightly different direction and condition, with more than half the races sailed in 15-20 knots in water the color of Blue-Raz Gatorade.  25 teams showed up with a legit chance to win the whole thing, and if you were fortunate enough to round the first windward mark in the top 10 and break out in the lead group, the racing was quite civilized. If you rounded outside the top ten, you were given a not-so-friendly welcome to the Peloton, and once in the Peloton, it was a full-on street fight with any hiccup to your speed or boathandling instantly costing you boats, and sometimes dozens of them.  The margin from 15th to 40th was always one bad tack away, and posting a 20th has never been so exhausting. PRO Bruce Gollison and his legion of loyal volunteers from Coconut Grove Sailing Club did an amazing job banging off 10 high quality races with no drama.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.24.45 PMThere was no shortage of feel good stories from this Melges 20 Worlds, starting with John Taylor and his team on Ninkasi Racing. Having won races but never a regatta in his long sailing career, John picked a great time to get hot and put the fleet in a sleeper hold to take the title. Then there is the Eagan family who is one of the more bad-ass sailing families in the country, not only did they take the Corinithian title by a whopping 250 points, but they finished 2nd overall and made Ninkasi work for it in the last race. And my personal favorite, Rhonda Joyce was all smiles (as she usually is) for completing her goal of finishing in the 20s. Rhonda has been busting her ass trying to improve in this tough fleet, and not only did she nail her goal, but she was the top Canadian boat giving her some solid bragging rights to take back to Port Credit. And with an eye to the sky and the past, the fleet was left guessing at what departed Big Booty owner Pat Eudy would have had in store for this event.

For the Audi Melges 20 sailors that made the commitment to attend the first World Championship, the event was an undeniable success which left both Ocean Reef and the sailors wondering when we can come back and do it all over again. From top to bottom, the event had a special feel to it which is all you can hope for when you attend a Worlds; it’s an annual event that cannot be just another ‘average’ regatta. Originally wary of hosting another group of sailors after a rowdy closing night in 2005, Ocean Reef members rolled out the red carpet, opened up their homes and waterfronts to allow sailors to keep their boats and set up shop for the week, even going so far as to deliver homemade chocolate chip cookies to sailors post racing.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.28.39 PMNaturally there are some outsiders who wanted this event to fail, or even went so far as to label one of the greatest regatta venues as “silly” which could not be more off the mark. As for the complaints of the lack of media and publication, it’s true that it is crucial to promote the Class and the sport, but for the racers all that really matters is the sailing.  And for 4 days and 10 races, Audi Melges 20 sailors were treated to some of the best racing conditions that can be found anywhere. It would be great to see more Corinthian teams get involved, and for any sailor looking for a challenge and to rub elbows with the world’s best sailors on the starting line, the Audi Melges 20 Class is it.

Those who experienced Audi Melges 20 Worlds first-hand can walk away proudly saying they were a part of the Ocean Reef Worlds. With two more iconic venues on tap for World Championships in coming years (Lake Garda 2014, San Francisco 2015), the Melges 20 fleet is primed for some solid years ahead, and strong consideration as the most challenging and rewarding  amateur owner/driver One Design fleet in the world.
Huge thanks to the Ocean Reef Club, Card Sound Sailing Club, and the Race Committee for an unforgettable event.