Interview with Keiran Searle on the 2021 Melges World Championship regatta

Interview with Keiran Searle on the 2021 Melges World Championship regatta

by David Schmidt Dec 8 04:00 PM UTC
December 8-12, 2021

Action from Melges 20 racetrack on the waters off Miami © UP TOP Media / Felipe Juncadella

The Melges 20 was born from a line plan drawn by design experts at Reichel Pugh Yacht Design in 2007. It went into production at Melges Performance Sailboats the same year, and soon the class, which is piloted by crews of three or four people and with trekking legs, a lifting keel, an A-shaped mainsail and a mighty square mainsail, began to take root across the country.

While hindsight might suggest that 2007-2009 might not be the best time to launch a new One Design class, given the backdrop of the ever-choppy Great Recession, the Melges 20 had great things to do, including This included a slippery hull, a strong and dedicated builder, and the fact that it costs a lot less to campaign with a Melges 20 than to race seriously with bigger keelboats such as the Melges 32 or the Farr 40.

The recession finally passed and the class contested its first annual World Championship regatta in 2013. Today, the Melges 20 class enjoys healthy national (including a winter series in Miami) and international circuits. The 2021 World Championship regatta, which is hosted by the Coconut Grove Sailing Club (CGSC) and Shake-A-Leg Miami, is scheduled to take place on the waters of Biscayne Bay in Florida from December 8-12.

I reached out to Keiran Searle, North American Class Director of the Melges 20 class, via email, to find out more about this exciting world championship event.

What kind of entry numbers do you see this year? Also, are there any notable geographic concentrations in this entry list?

The Melges 20 class is currently undergoing a revival! The next World Cup is the biggest American event since 2016, we have 24 boats from all over the world. The largest contingents come from Italy and North America. It’s great to see Russian footfall increasing as well.

From a weather point of view, what conditions can sailors expect to encounter off Miami from early to mid-December? What are the most optimistic and the most pessimistic weather scenarios?

Miami in December is hard to beat, it always brings a mix of conditions from many directions and all wind strengths. The temperature ranges from 70 to 90 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Where else would you like to be during the winter!

Do you consider that local knowledge plays a big or small role in the outcome of the regatta? Can you please explain?

Miami Racecourse is an open track, results will come from the start [line] well and arrive at the best grade in good shape.

Biscayne Bay has limited geographic and environmental effects compared to other sites.

If you could give the visiting (and local) teams one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make sure you enjoy Miami on and off the water. From restaurants to museums, Miami has it all.

Melges 20 class has a social event scheduled most nights at CGSC, be sure you don’t miss out [it]!

Do you have teams that you are aiming for podiums? What about the black horses that you think might turn out to be quick, once the shots start ringing?

North Americans premiered Jason Michas movie in November Midnight blue, that of Daniel Theilman Kuai, and that of Peter McClennan Gamecock [as] all [being] contenders.

It will also be great to have the best teams from the EU in Brontolo, Nika and Russian bogatyrs back in the fleet.

How many races do you and the other organizers hope to score during the regatta? And how do you run the racetrack? Traditional racing brands, or will you be using some of the newer autonomous GPS guided robotic brands like MarkSetBots to administer the racetrack?

Our program includes a day of “Pre-World” races and four days of World Championship races. We have 11 races on the program. Coconut Grove has done a tremendous job with its COVID-19 protocols and our races have been fully operational since the start of the pandemic.

CGSC uses a traditional racetrack and does a terrific job of keeping races fun and fast.

Organizing and leading a great regatta in the midst of an ever-turbulent pandemic is not easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles you had to overcome to make this happen?

Ever-changing travel restrictions, testing procedures and COVID-19 protocols have been a challenge. We worked with USOPC and US Sailing to secure exemptions from travel restrictions for competitors, [and] it’s great to see the international teams coming back.

Can you tell us about the efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to reduce the environmental footprint of the regatta or to make the regatta greener?

CGSC does a great job of running races efficiently with just the perfect number of volunteers on the water.

The Melges 20 class does not allow contact with coaches during race days, this certainly reduces the number of hunting boats as a team on a day-to-day basis.

Is there anything else you would like to add for the record?

It’s exciting to see the Melges 20 class grow again, the cost of entry has come down in recent years with a strong second-hand market. Used boats are between $ 18,000 and $ 30,000 [USD] range.

The class also has access to some great charter boats, if you are interested in trying the class, please contact: [email protected]

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