The Melges 17 Takes On A Youthful Revolution

The Melges 17 Takes On A Youthful Revolution

6 April 2008

The Melges 17 has witnessed some incredible racing in 2008. The Lake Eustis Midwinters during the month of March boasted a fleet eleven strong and the Easter Regatta held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina was equally successful delivering big breeze and six, solid races. Great rides upwind, downwind, parties and friends prevailed as did the highly competitive nature of the sailors that regularly commandeer this amazing Scow. This very excitement has triggered an emergence of youth participation within the class.

Three years ago, when Melges Performance Sailboats and Reichel Pugh designed and began producing the Melges 17 the philosophy was simple — fun, fast, easy sailing. So easy, that anyone could do it — girls, boys, husband and wives, siblings, friends. It was meant to be versatile, yet still offer a valuable experience to the beginner or the expert. Maneuverable and light, quicker-than-quick and agile, the Melges 17 has attracted much more than just the eye of those that long to sail fast.

At premiere events such as Midwinters and the Easter Regatta, that very concept has been proven by youthful sightings. Junior sailors are being tempted to hop aboard and take the helm (and in some cases lead the fleet). Rather than looking back on where they stand in their early, on-going sailing careers they are inspired, and instead discover how to get more out of their youth boats — Optis, 420s and Sunfish all because of an inspiring ride on the Melges 17.

Jamie Kimball took on the ultimate challenge at these two events. He crewed for Jordan Wiggins, at the Melges 17 Midwinters and again in Charleston, encouraged Bethea Long, to skipper. Kimball, whose sailing accomplishments are well-noted commented, "Jordan and Bethea, as with any young sailor, represent the future of our sport. It is important to keep their interest level in sailing as high as possible. In my opinion, there is no better way to do this than have them sail a new, exciting, and fast boat like the Melges 17."

Wiggins (pictured above), 10, admits he was a little nervous at first sailing with Kimball at Midwinters, but once he got into the groove his confidence grew. "He let me sail upwind, while downwind he sailed and I trimmed main. I only raced on the last day and we scored a second, third and a fifth. It was a really great experience and I just can't believe we placed second overall. I beat my parents (Bill and Angie)! I was surprised. The night before we were headed back to the hotel and I overheard my dad mention to one of the other sailors 'He doesn't know yet.' And like all kids I ask a lot of questions and I said 'What don't I know?' That's when he told me I might be sailing with Jamie. I was like 'What?' I knew it was going to be pretty fun."

Jordan is a lucky one as he has had the opportunity to sail the Melges 17 prior to Midwinters. "It was my first time sailing the boat competitively though. It was such a great, great experience. Not many kids get the chance to sail on a boat like the Melges 17. They are fast. I am so used to sailing Optis so I'm not used to healing the boat upwind. I think this experience will help me learn how to make my boat go faster and make me more confident in other areas of sailing my boat."

Long, 13, has clearly made the transition from Optis to the 420. Bethea's parents are his biggest fans and pleased to see him enjoying the sport of sailing. "Bethea just loves being in these boats. The Carolina Yacht Club has been a huge proponent in keeping him interested. They've made a place for him here and he loves it.' said Lindsey Long, Bethea's mother. "My mom got a call from Mr. Marenakos (Mark) and asked if I could sail. So that afternoon when she picked me up from school she asked if I was interested and I said, 'Yeah. So who will I be sailing with?' She said, 'Jamie Kimball.' And, I said 'Sweet!', commented Bethea.
Bethea Long
"I was really nervous actually. I've been watching these regattas all my life. You could walk down on the pier and always look out and see so many boats. The thought was a little overwhelming. There's a lot of big boats out there. But, sailing with Jamie was great,' said Long. "He was really encouraging. I learned so much in just one weekend. I've learned how to hold the boat down a lot better. Head up when I heel and not to pinch. When we were going upwind and we would heal the boat, he would tell me to head up and ease off. He said that he didn't want me to pinch the boat and not make the boat so flat. Because the wind was up he encouraged me to give it just enough heel to crash through the waves. He'd say 'Careful, you don't want to swamp."

"I hope to get to sail the Melges 17 again. That would be great. I would love one for Christmas. And I would hire Jamie to come and sail with me all the time!"

Both of these young sailors have a lot more sailing ahead of them as well as learning new skills and techniques however, they both give a lot of credit to their parents and other mentors. Bethea is quick to thank his parents for letting him sail and especially to Mark Marenakos for thinking of him to sail with Jamie in Charleston. Wiggins is also ever grateful for being part of a family that loves to sail. He especially wanted to publicly mention Mary Anne Ward as she has been an encouraging and generous figure, especially in sailing.

The International Melges 17 Class Association is always excited to see and hear that junior sailors are looking to this great boat for fun, fast sailing and in particular, wish the very best to Jordan and Bethea for a continued, awesome 2008 racing season.
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