Newport – On the waters off the coast of Newport, R.I., the Melges IC37 Class has been making history in its first action-packed summer season full of unrivaled camaraderie, competitive racing, and the most level playing field available giving sailors a racing experience unlike any other. On Sunday, Sept. 29th the Melges IC37 Class members reached their most notable milestone to date, crowning their first-ever National Champion. Teamwork, preparation, and skill were all put to the test in Newport’s finest conditions this weekend which delivered the closest, most hard-fought racing Class members have seen yet.
After three days and eight races on the longest courses the fleet has sailed, the Melges IC37 National Championship title and podium positions came down to the final leg of the final race in the series. In a tale of redemption, Members Only syndicate led by Jay Cross, Ben Kinney, and Hannah Swett sailed their way to victory, winning the ultimate bragging rights as the 2019 Melges IC37 National Champions.
Leaving behind a turbulent performance earlier this season, the Members Only syndicate is proud to end the summer on such a high note. “It feels great,” said Hannah Swett. “We won the first regatta and then after a few rocky events, we had some crew rotations. It felt like we settled into this event and the crew did a really good job. The teamwork was great, our speed was great, and having Steve Benjamin on board was fantastic so it felt like we really pulled it together for the last regatta.”
The remaining three scheduled races were completed Sunday afternoon in a Northerly breeze that became more shifty as the day went on and eventually rotated East, as well as strong current and light swell – a recipe for incredible racing. Melges IC37 teams hit the starting line with force, ready for the final opportunity to battle their way to the top of the leaderboard. Once again, a dynamic set of conditions on the water rattled the scoreboard and two teams, in particular, soared up the overall standings. Vigilant, helmed by John Hele, and Das Blau Max, helmed by Cory Sertl, put the pressure on their fellow competitors with two of the lowest score lines for the day, trailing Chris Lewis and his team onboard Qubit who won the day.
Flanking the Members Only syndicate on the podium in the overall standings, Qubit, helmed by Chris Lewis, finished the regatta in second place followed by Double Jointed, co-helmed by Ray Wulff and Andy Fisher. RUSH, helmed by Thomas Stark, and Das Blau Max, helmed by Cory Sertl rounded out the top five overall finishing fourth and fifth place, respectively.
In a bitter-sweet end to their summer season, Melges IC37 sailors left the docks full of pride and joy, already reminiscing on their experience in the IC37 by Melges and at their National Championship. For all, the fondest memories will come from the fierce competition, social gatherings with fellow Class members, and sailing with their friends and family in this amateur one-design fleet.
Melges IC37 National Champion runner-up Chris Lewis, helmsman of Qubit, missed the Championship win by a narrow margin but heads home ecstatic nonetheless and is already planning his pursuit of the National Championship title next year.
“This whole championship, the trophy came down to the last run of the last race and you can’t ask for any better racing than that,” said Lewis. “The racing is just as tight as it could possibly get. So we’re super happy. Having put [the crew] together I feel really pleased with the way it turned out. What we see is this class is growing and I think it’s just going to get better and better. This is a very welcoming club and a very welcoming sailing community. Everyone is really enjoying themselves and having a lot of fun. It’s just so great to build these relationships and make some new friends. We’re planning to come back next year.”
For Ray Wulff, co-helmsman of Double Jointed, the entire experience of competing in the Melges IC37 Class, since the very first weekend on the water this past June, has been unforgettable. “It’s been better than we ever could have expected and I’m really sorry for the [summer] season to be over because it has been absolutely fantastic,” said Wulff. “The boat, the organization, the group coaching for everybody in the fleet, and the yacht club’s general mission to say ‘you know what, we’re gonna put a stake in the ground and make corinthian sailing awesome’ have been incredible.” But according to Wulff, “it’s more the camaraderie than anything” that stands out.
The summer season may be over, but the Melges IC37 fleet will head south to Ft. Lauderdale, F.L. for their Winter Series beginning in November of this year and return to Newport, R.I. once again next summer. Stay tuned for a full 2020 race schedule coming soon!