You may not know who these two characters are, but their years-long feud nearly tore the vibrant, ultra-strong Italian Melges 24 fleet to pieces, and the International Class down with it. Somehow, though, last month Franco Rossini (owner of Blu Moon, on the left) and Riccardo Simonesci (owner of Audi Ultra) buried the hatchet, and the world’s best sport boat can once again move forward. From the minutes of the AGM: “…In a joint statement, [the two] advised the meeting that they acknowledged that they each have the best interests of the Class at heart, and that in the best interests of the Class, they wish to work together going forward to rebuild the Italian Class and the bonds between the Italian Class and the International Class. Having shaken hands, Riccardo and Franco made a toast to the future success of the Melges 24 Class with glasses of Palinka, a traditional Hungarian liquor, that had been made by the grandfather of Arkos Riko, the Hungarian Class representative. The entire meeting joined them in toasting the success of the Class and welcoming this excellent news.
How You Hike Me Now?
The ultra-high level of competition and the unrestricted status of crews and helms in the 20-year old M24 Class has always put the pocket rocket at the forefront of sport boat technique and development within its one-design restrictions. When Brian Hutchinson’s hiking line pads became universal in the fleet, it became feasible to hike your entire body well over the rail for an entire race, no matter how painful, stupid, and nerve-destroying it could be. And now, like Ricky and Franco’s feud, this too, is over!
Thanks to about 5 years of lobbying and plenty of testing and development, the new Melges 24 Rules require shorter stanchions and ‘tight’ lifelines. This means asses on the deck, no ‘climbing the stanchions’ for the #1 and # 4 spots, and, according to Bora Gulari and Harry Melges, ‘no loss in upwind speed at all, with a massively better experience for the entire crew’. And not that it needs it (few designs have aged as gracefully as the Melges 24), but the lower stanchions look better too, and may allow backwater PHRF areas like Lake Erie to rate the archetypical sportboat, which celebrates its 21st birthday this spring.
Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
2014 also sees the first-ever Class World Championship down under, the Class Association deciding to take the attendance hit by bringing the annual event to Geelong for a ‘fleet-building’ Worlds, and with barely 30 boats registered so far, we’d say Bora Gulari may be a shoo-in for his first Worlds but for the attendance of a ghost from Worlds Past – it’s 2002 World Champion “Star”, and we think it’ll be the O.G. team of Harry Melges driving, Andy Burdick on tactics, and Federico Michetti and Jeff Ecklund up front. America’s top high-speed pilot versus the original gangstas with a little Blu-Moon flavored Italian sausage and some Aussie croc meat thrown in for good measure…we’ll have reports from Bora and team when the US Air Force arrives in a few weeks. Next year things go back to normal, and we should see 100+ boats on the line in the best-named regatta venue ever: Middlefart, Denmark.