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An interview with Eddie Cox on the state of the Melges 15 class

by David Schmidt 6 Feb 16:00 GMT February 6, 2024
2024 Melges 15 Winter Series © Melges 15 Class

When it comes to collaborations between yacht designers and boat builders, the partnership between Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design and Melges Performance Sailboats has turned out some fantastic designs. The newest of these designs is the Melges 15, which hit the water in 2020, and which is currently being built by Melges in Zenda, Wisconsin for the North American market, and by Nelo, in Vila do Conde, Portugal, for the European market.

Generally speaking, when a design is less than four years old and is already in production in multiple factories, it tends to suggest great things in terms of One Design racing.

The Melges 15 has a hard chine that starts, softly, in its bow sections before gaining stature as it runs down the length of the hull to the transom. The boat features an ergonomic-looking cockpit, a retractable on-centerline sprit pole, a big asymmetric kite, and a square-topped mainsail, in addition to a fractionally rigged jib.

While the boat looks like it would be a hoot to sail singlehanded in a breeze, it’s intended to be raced two-handed.

I checked in with Melges’s Eddie Cox, via email, to learn more about the company’s latest grin-inducing One Design.

To date, how many boats have been built?

We have built nearly 800 boats in about three-and-a-half years, with more on the way!

Are you seeing any geographical concentrations? Or, are fleets starting to crop up anywhere that there’s water?

Yes! We have fleets across the country. If you are near water, there is probably a Melges 15 Fleet near you!

It's really unlike anything we have ever seen; folks are really enjoying the boat and fleets are popping up across the country.

There is strong activity in the Midwest (Inland Lake Yachting Association, Michigan, Indiana), all along the East Coast from upstate New York to Miami, the Los Angeles area, and new excitement popping up along the Gulf Coast.

The boat looks sporty. What kinds of sailors has it been attracting?

The boat is great for folks who like to be active—it is exciting, fast sailing that is appealing to anyone who loves being on the water.

The boat is very stable making it appealing to a wide range of sailors.

At our last 91-boat Winter Series event, we had 21 teams under the age of 21 and 36 teams over the age of 50, with many of those sailors in their 60s and 70s! The boat is really for anyone!

How would you describe competition levels? Are we talking about lots of coach boats, or are things more relaxed?

No matter your sailing skill if you come to a Melges 15 you will have someone to race and compete against. The regattas are relaxed and focused on great sailing, learning, and a fun onshore social scene that Melges is known for!

The class recently had its first Winter Series in Florida and attracted 91 boats. Those are the kinds of numbers that we’re used to seeing at well-attended world-championship regattas. What’s the gravity?

I think the success of the Winter Series has to do with a few things.

#1: The boat is awesome, it's a total blast to sail downwind and the upwind racing is tactical and really enjoyable.

#2: The events are really fun for folks who are new to the class and to the boat. There are learning opportunities at the end of each day, and everyone is there to have fun and enjoy the water with family and friends.

#3: Melges has put considerable effort into developing a series with straightforward logistics and minimizing expenses as much as possible.

#4: The organization of the regattas emphasizes high-quality and efficient racing. So many classes have poor race management, which causes hours of lost time on the water. We prioritize a quality racing experience, aiming to ensure that sailors are off the water within four hours or less, while still executing three top-notch races.

While I know that R/P designed the boat to be slippery in all conditions, can you please tell us about its sweet spot (or spots) in terms of wind, seas, and angles?

The boat is great in all conditions, but as we say it is a wind-driven sport and we all want to go sailing when it is windy. The M15 is awesome in the heavy air.

To date, the fastest recorded speed in the M15 is 22 knots.

The boat's stability and forgiving nature make sailing in heavy air more accessible and help build confidence for many newcomers to the sport. There is no better way to get someone to fall in love with sailing than taking them on a screaming downwind run with the spinnaker!

Is there anything else about the Melges 15 that you’d like to add, for the record?

We believe that sailing has become overly segmented, with excessive emphasis on elite-level competition and insufficient attention given to enjoying the water with family and friends.

Our goal with the Melges 15 from the beginning was to create a boat where everyone regardless of age or experience could compete and have a great time on the water.

We hope the Melges 15 can help reinvigorate small boat sailing worldwide and instill the love of sailing for generations to come!

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