Wiggins Wins The Midlands Regatta, 3-0 On The 2007 Melges 17 Fall Circuit!

Wiggins Wins The Midlands Regatta, 3-0 On The 2007 Melges 17 Fall Circuit!

6 November 2007

The 2007 Melges 17 Midlands Regatta was one in a million! Not only was the turn out terrific but the fun this fleet had racing on and off the course was incomparable to any other. Bill Wiggins dominated the fleet with a 1-1-3 finish taking the overall win, "It is a good feeling to start to realize that we are finally getting the hang of this," commented wife Angie, and crew member after racing on Saturday. Ken Wruk in second place, Jim Hilgard was third.

Friday afternoon was very relaxed as everyone clamored about getting the boats assembled and ready to race on Saturday. The wind was moderate about 8-11 knots, just enough to tease everyone for a test sail in the afternoon. Almost everyone ventured out onto beautiful Lake Murray as the sun set. By far this is one of the most fun groups of sailors there is — a tight knit group that really, truly enjoy one another. The camaraderie is unmistakable as everyone went off to dinner on Friday evening to simply just enjoy visiting with each other — catching up on the last regattas and discussing what the next days racing might hold. Wiggins' rum party later on in the evening, so it is said kept the natives restless until the wee hours of the morning.

Saturday's racing conditions were better than expected with a nice westerly around 8-10 knots of breeze. Great sailing indeed! Two races were held as Wiggins got a jump on the fleet immediately out on the left right away. Staying close to shore with Hilgard and Wruk right behind. Wiggins had the speed and breeze where it counted. Mary Anne Ward stayed a little more to the middle coming into the mark in fourth but with a fast clean set took third downwind. Once out front Wiggins stayed out front and held on for the win on the short once around race. Kruk gave great chase taking second, Hilgard was third. Sayce slipped into fourth ahead of Ward with a tough douse at the leward mark dropped back finishing fifth.

Under stunning blue skies and warm temperatures, race two was a bit longer in length, Wiggins again taking the pin end at the start and back out front quick. Hilgard in second spent his time chasing Wiggins around the track with Wruk in tow for third. As the race progressed the breeze diminished a little making for another interesting challenge in racing conditions. Knox Rodgers with his son Matthew grabbed a piece of the action finding themselves in fourth and Mike Sayce and son in at fifth.

As if the fleet didn't get enough rum on Friday night, they bellied up to more Mount Gay Rum on Saturday evening and special mixers for the club sponsored cocktail hour. The Melges 17 fleet congregated for dinner once again exchanging war stories of the day. The first all-girl team in the Melges 17 debuted at Midlands. Mary Anne Ward sailed with Melges 17 Class Administrator Joy Dunigan for the weekend. Despite the boat clearly being named 'M&M Sailing', it was nicknamed 'Giggles' for the regatta. "I love this boat. It is such a great boat. We came here with one goal in mind this weekend... if we do well great, but our focus was just to go out and have fun," commented Ward. "This has been the most fun I have had in a long time. It was Joy's second time on the boat, my first time since Nationals. What was important to us was going out, doing the best we could and just all out having fun! And, we did!"

This boat was turning heads no doubt. The number of people that were inquiring about the boat, asking questions, lots of interest locally and some inquiries from as far away as Atlanta traveled to see the Melges 17 move.

The racing continued on Sunday and didn't look as promising for the seven Melges 17 strong fleet. The most breeze calculated was at the very start of the one and only race of the day anywhere from 3-5 knots and receding fast from the starting line to the windward mark. The top four boat escaped the torturous next to zero breeze at least maintaining something in the sails, barely managing to get around the mark. Sayce, Wruk and Wiggins were greeted on the downwind run with exactly the same air. As the three struggled to edge to the front, it was agreed that no one could have had a big enough lead in the light air conditions. Struggling toward the back was Hilgard, Ward and even further Sablowski. The breeze seemed to reappear about midway down the course again, still extremely light. This was Wruk's kind of racing as he edged out Wiggins and Sayce for the lead. Sayce eventually found his way past Wiggins taking second, with Wiggins in third. Hilgard was fourth and Rodgers took fifth.

Thanks goes out to the Columbia Sailing Club for a great event — the Melges 17s will be back in 2008! An extra special thanks to Bill Wiggins as his campaign to specifically get more boats on the line for this regatta was his spear-headed effort. Thanks Bill for getting us out on the course for a beautiful weekend on Lake Murray!

1.) Bill Wiggins, USA-100, Palmetto Express
2.) Ken Wruk, USA-71
3.) Jim Hilgard, USA-137, Crystal Spirit
4.) Mike Sayce, USA-183
5.) Knox Rodgers, USA-188, Low Expectations
6.) Mary Anne Ward, USA-157, M&M Sailing
7.) Matt Sablowski, USA-186 Ether
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