Melges 24 Musto Australian Nationals 2018 - Final Preparations as Melges 24s Get Set
February 19, 2018 - Port Lincoln, Australia - By Neil Stanbury, Down Under Sail - It was a busy preparation day for crews of Melges 24s in Port Lincoln today, with racing for the 2018 national titles, sponsored by Musto, set to start tomorrow. 12 boats will contest the title as part of Lincoln Week, injecting a high-quality one-design element into the annual Lincoln formula.
Boats were craned in at the Port Lincoln marina - photo Neil Stanbury
Race Officer Mike Rogers said he and sailors were both looking forward to good conditions on the renowned Boston Bay, where the flat-bottomed Melges 24s would excel. "I’m confident it will be flat water and a great spectacle," he said.
The combination of the Melges 24 Nationals and Lincoln Week has seen registrations for the event jump, compared with the previous nationals. The quality of the field is strong across the board, with 10 of the 12 boats considered possible heat winners and perhaps seven contenders for the title.
There are three New South Wales boats joining the strong SA contingent and one from Victoria, Penultimate Challenge, helmed by Jon Newman. The Melges 24s is now in its 27th year but has lost none of its potency, still considered one of the most exciting and formidable sports boats on the water, able to deliver great performance across the breeze range.
Current national champion Andy Wharton, from Sydney’s Pittwater, is back to defend his title but said today the competition was very strong and he was delighted to be part of the larger event. "Well we’re here to win, it’s a big commitment to come to Port Lincoln, as it’s a trip of over 2000km and it’s a major investment in time as well," he said. "But it’s great and the Melges 24s are a very good boat and they are fantastically fast and very competitive."
Andy Wharton interview
Highly regarded contenders for the title include multiple 505 national titleholder Sandy Higgins in Scorpius, acclaimed Sharpie champion Robbie Deussen in Red Mist and David Royle in Outlier, who is a multi-class veteran in Sharpies, Etchells and other classes.
Sandy Higgins interview
Robbie Deussen interview
The Melges 24s were unfortunate to miss a great breeze on the Monday, with conditions expected to ease a little as the week progresses, but what’s not in doubt that whatever the conditions the one-design component will result in champagne fleet racing.