If, like me, you are the type of racing sailor for whom the G&T is reserved for the yacht club, not the aft deck, then you will understand why the Melges 24 is a boat I love, writes Doug Bird.
In 1992, Reichel/Pugh designed the Melges 24, and when launched in 1993 it immediately set the bar for high performance one design racing: well built, fast, simple with great tactical racing, and regularly seeing more than 100 boats at international championships. But these are not the only reasons why I love the Melges 24.
As a crew, it’s a boat that epitomises the pain/pleasure metaphor. Sailing upwind in 20-plus knots of breeze, hiking (read: dangling by waist) from guard wires to keep the boat in the groove, ploughing through waves, tacking and ducking other boats whilst the feeling slowly drains from your lower extremities is a curious way to enjoy the sport of sailing. Come the final leg into the windward mark, wondering why I didn’t just stay in bed that day, optimism returns and anxiety builds. It’s time to bear away…
During the bear away, the crew and I do our impressions of Bambi as the feeling returns to our legs, and the boat steadies onto a run. The 670 square-foot spinnaker is hoisted, filling with so much power it sweeps us from our feet, immediately followed by a bow wave that conveniently washes us to the back of the boat. As the boat powers up and planes, the log hits 19, 20, 21 knots with the bow lifting clear off the water. With boats on either side hoisting, gybing, charging or falling over, the upwind leg is a forgotten memory. Adrenaline is pumping. By now the crew is huddled together, and we begin calling each other Maverick or Jester (Top Gun), and the helmsman is focused on keeping the boat from becoming a submarine.
This is a boat that still sets the bar high for performance sailing after 20 years, and anyone who has sailed one downwind on a breezy day has that moment etched into his sailing memory. If you are reading this and own a Melges 24, give me a call if you need crew.
Find out more from the Melges 24 UK Class Association or if you're really keen to try one yourself, search all Melges 24 for sale on www.boats.com