As promised here is a quick interview with recently crowned Melges 24 NA Champ Travis Weisleder. yep, that’s them crushing it in the photo above.
SA: Congratulations are in order for your very first Melges 24 North American title! You’ve been hard in the class for a while, are there any particular things that stood out to you as why this one ended with a W?
TW: Thanks Scot, it was a tough event; light and super shifty which really can even the fleet out. In looking at our plan for this year John Bowden and I decided that being able to be more consistently on the podium we needed to sail with different people and try to learn different ways to make the boat go. We started with Mike Buckley and Bear Peet last summer for a few events in Europe, where we ended up 3rd in the Europeans. But this year we have had a different team member or two at every event we have sailed. We have rotated 11 different people on the boat this year including Troll Wilmot and Anthony Kotun. Learning from all these guys is what has made the difference for us. Our last three events have been 1st Charleston, 2nd Nationals and 1st North Americans.
SA: Tell us where you are at with your sail development in the class. Is there one particular area where you see an improvement with new M24 sails:
TW: The new North 3di sails are great. The guys at North, Tim Healy and John Bowden, really pushed us to take a set to Europe last summer and use. We decided as a team that we would practice with the main but sail with the panel sails for the event. We threw that theory out the window after the main really rocked it in the breeze. Then this winter we worked with Monsoon and Mike Marshall from North to dial them in further. We think they now have a greater range and hold their shape longer, which helps my pocketbook on not having to buy new sails.
SA: Tell us a little about your winning crew – do they all regularly sail with you, is everyone on a specific training schedule for the boat’s needs and perhaps weight limits?
TW: What’s kind of crazy is that of the 6 events we have done this season John is the only person who has done all of them. This event I was fortunate steal George “Bear” Peet and Mike Buckley for a few days from Stars and Stripes. These two in my opinion are two of the best M24 crew in the world. Being that I am on the bigger side weight wise we needed small person and Chewy Sanchez was able to make the trek from Mexico to sail. With the M24 crew weight limit it makes it hard for us to find all the right pieces to the size puzzle. Sadly Bear and Mike sail on another boat normally and we were only able to do this event due to Monsoon in transit to Italy for the Worlds. My work and life schedule takes up most of my time so the sailing days are limited so I make sure that when ever we are going to an event we are there to put 110% in all the time.
SA: How about your own skill levels. You’re clearly a good sailor, but have you worked on being better? What areas, and how did you (or did not) do the work and improve?
TW: The past two years I made the decision that I was going to try and sail with a number of different pros. The goal here was to learn something new from each of them on how to do things better. What they talk about and say or do isn’t any different than what we may have done in the past, but the delivery method could be slightly different. When we sailed with Dave Hughes I think we/I got better sailing downwind. With Mike, starting techniques and up wind speed. With Troll it was rig tune, Anthony was patience. And all the other guys have filled in many many holes in my learning. BUT having a great group of guys makes my job much easier too.
SA: As a long time Melges 24 sailor, give us your assessment on the on the state of the class, and what does it need to do to get better?
TW: I think the class is having continued grassroots resurgence in the US. I have been in it since 2001 and 858 is my 4 new boat. I am excited about the people that have attended the NA’s and Nationals this year. Both events had solid turnout from their local/ regional areas, a lot of those boats had never sailed at a major 24 event ever. So its great to see the grass roots growing and people getting excited. We also feel that the top boats have a responsibility to help these teams with how to help make the 24 go better. If we can get these teams more comfortable in the boat and see their confidence increase they then in turn will try to do more and pass that knowledge down. We try and do this at every event we attend.
Personally I think that the class needs to remove the crew weight rule; its not healthy and makes it harder for some teams to find the right mix of talent, weight and availability to sail. We just need to keep things simple. The Melges 24 is still the best true sports boat on the market with some of the toughest competition.
SA: What’s next for you, Travis?
TW: Next for us is our plan to the 2020 Worlds in Charleston this coming May. I will take a break from sailing for the next few months and we will pick back up again in either November in Pensacola or December in Miami and good full steam ahead from there. We will have sail the three Miami Bacardi events, Charleston Raceweek and then the worlds with a practice session or two in there as well. But part of the entire equation will be determining the final crew for these events; which will be critical but I think we will be able to sort it out quickly.
SA: thank you my brother!
TW: Thanks Scot, I am really happy about this win, I have been at this for a long time. We are feeling really good about our 2019 spring and summer and are excited about the upcoming events and Worlds.