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An interview with Scot Zimmerman about the 2019 Melges 24 North American Championship

by David Schmidt 13 Aug 16:00 BST August 15-18, 2019
2019 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship - Day 2 © Hannah Lee Noll

When it comes to high-level racing in boats less than 25 feet, the Melges 24 hasn’t been far from the center of the conversation since its introduction in 1993. The boat’s slippery hull form, which was drawn by the wizards at Reichel Pugh, coupled with its powerful rig and its talent-riven starting lines, made the boats popular amongst One Design sailors across the country and, eventually, around the world. And while newer designs exist, few rival the Melges 24’s blend of speed, sailing challenge, and high-level competition, both at home and abroad.

Take the class’ 2019 North American Championship, which is being hosted by the Grand Traverse Yacht Club in Traverse City, Michigan, from August 15-18, 2019, and which is attracting battle-hardened teams from three countries (Great Britain, Canada and the United States). Domestically, the regatta is drawing on sailors from the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and the South.

As with almost all high-level One Design regattas, the Melges 24 North American Championship will employ windward-leeward courses that use offset marks and gates. Racing is set to take place in one of two race areas (a primary race area, which is set to the south, and a secondary race area) on the waters of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

I checked in with Scot Zimmerman, regatta chair of the 2019 Melges 24 North American Championship, via email, to learn more about this championship-level regatta.

How many boats are you expecting at this year’s Melges 24 North Americans? Also, when looking at your entry list, are there any geographical concentrations or does the fleet represent a who’s-who of the country’s fastest M24 teams?

We currently have 46 entries for the race, and are still seeing teams sign up. Thirty-one teams are Midwest based. Kevin Welch (Team Mikey), Travis Weisleder (Team Lucky Dog), and Richard Reid (Team Zingara) are all signed up and represent three of the top five teams in the country based on 2019 US National Ranking Series results.

Do you have your eye on any pre-racing favorites? What about any dark horses?

Local favorites are Mike Dow (Team Flying Toaster) and Chris Lamb (Padawan 3), and Dan Berezin (Team Surprise) who comes to the venue every year always gives the local fleet a run for its money. [Berezin] may be the dark horse in the fleet.

How important do you think local knowledge will be at the regatta? Also, how heavily does your answer to this question weigh in on your answer to my question about pre-racing favorites?

Knowledge of the wind (locally known as the “coal pile express”) will have an impact until visiting teams figure it out.

If you could impart one piece of local wisdom to visiting sailors, what would it be?

Be ready for everything. We could have big breeze and smooth water if a southwesterly comes in, or big chop and breeze if a northerly or northwesterly rolls in. Both are common in late August.

What are the best case/worst case scenarios in terms of weather?

Best case low 80-degree temps and beautiful freshwater sailing, with water so clear you can see the bottom at 40 feet.

Worst case, squally late-summer rain storms and shifty, challenging breeze.

What kind of evening/evening entertainment is planned for the regatta?

The Grand Traverse Yacht Club will be open for the duration of the event for food and drink, with all amenities available to visiting teams.

Can you tell us about any steps that you and the other organizers have recently taken to help green-up the regatta or otherwise reduce its plastics/CO2 footprint?

Event sponsors Costa and Irish Boat Shop have committed to supporting a clean regatta, both will be providing reusable water bottles and water bladders to teams in support of this mission.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

Tracking will be provided live by Trac Trac. Lots of the Midwest teams are new to the class in the last few years.

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