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An interview with Charlie Usher on the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta

by David Schmidt 20 Jun 16:00 BST June 29-30, 2024
Melges 15 action on the waters off of Savannah, Georgia, ahead of the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta © the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta

Sailing has always been a sport that encourages lifelong participation, and it's great to see regattas that are inclusive of sailors of all ages. One example of this is the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta (June 29-30), which is being hosted by the Savannah Yacht Club and contested on the waters off of the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, Georgia.

The event is open to Optimists, Sunfish, and—as part of its moniker implies—Melges 15s. Racing will take place on two courses, one for the Optis and Sunfish, while the faster-moving Melges 15s will have their own playground.

In both cases, the RCs will be setting windward-leewards or windward-leewards with a dogleg finish.

I checked in with Charlie Usher, who serves as event chair of the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta, via email, to learn more about this exciting One Design regatta.

Can you please give us a bit of history on the Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta? Also, given the regatta's dates, would I be correct in thinking that the event's name is a reference to upcoming 4th of July celebrations? If not, where does this colorful moniker come from?

The Firecracker is the Savannah Yacht Club's longest standing regatta stretching back over 100 years. Initially it was held around the Fourth of July, but now it is held on a weekend not on or near the 4th because so many family gatherings occur that weekend.

The M15 is our newest fleet and part of the newly established SAYRA (South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association) M15 Regional Series with regattas in Wrightsville Beach, Savannah, Charleston, Charlotte and Columbia. This class is one of the fastest growing sportboat fleets in the country!

What's the scene like at the regatta? Is it a blend of juniors and adults?

[It's a] mix of juniors and adults in the Sunfish and M15 fleets. Juniors [race] in the Optimist [class].

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing ahead of this year's event? Also, of the three competing classes, what are the individual class number breakdowns looking like?

[Our] expected turnout [is]: M15 - 20+ boats Optimist - 10 boats Sunfish - 10 boats

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors typically expect to encounter off on the waters of the Wilmington and/or Skidaway rivers in late June? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

In Savannah, we have a typical coastal weather pattern with 0-10 mph gradient breeze in the morning and 10-15 mph sea breeze in the afternoon.

Sometimes a late front or an early tropical depression will brush us with 25+ mph winds.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Two rivers converge on our course, which can make local knowledge helpful during the outgoing tides. The local sailors share their knowledge and frequently give a pre-race talk on local conditions/tides.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be?

Please come race with us and come to enjoy Savannah and Tybee Island! Savannah is an historic planned city with shaded squares and beautiful live oak trees, many wonderful food options, and true Southern charm.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

I like to award functional trophies (engraved glasses), which one can use until it breaks. These glasses also serve as a constant reminder of the event. We have tried to get away from plastic water bottles but post-Covid this has been difficult. We usually pack lunches in cardboard boxes, which many sailors have come to associate with the Savannah Yacht Club.

Also, sailors are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles, which they can fill at the club.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about the 2024 Firecracker and Melges 15 Regatta, for the record?

We emphasize excellent safe race management, multiple races and fun!

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