Six Boats from Indy Sail in Their First Melges 17 Nationals

posted Sep 9, 2011, 1:26 PM by Melges 17 Fleet 9   [ updated Sep 25, 2011, 4:48 PM ]
Here's what the Indy fleet had to say about Melges 17 Nationals hosted the last weekend of August on White Lake in Whitehall, MI.

Chris Katzfey "between racing in Lake Michigan to flying around the course on Saturday afternoon.  My crew said it gave him goose bumps when we rounded the windward mark on Saturday afternoon surrounded by 10-15 boats.  It was a great learning experience and look forward to sailing with everyone in the future."

John Schumacher "Who could ask for more out of three days."

Bob Herdrich "Our host, Dick Marvel, was a great host and a great place to stay. As far as memorable moments, I have never sank a M17 while still under sail, 3 times."

Casey Call "Just wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful time - and really, really appreciated the wonderful job you and team did in hosting the event. It was first class all the way and a great time!"  

Bryan Sarber "Three Awesome days of sailing. Planing downwind on Saturday. Sailing on Lake MI. Traveling with the Indy fleet. 6 of 6 Indy boats participating. Good group of great friends.  Sailing my best race in the last race. Sort of like making birdie on the 18th, it keeps you coming back. Hanging out on back deck of the McMurray cottage with the Big Dipper and a billion stars lighting up the night. Let's do it all again in Indy Oct 7-9."

Tim Conder  “36 boats flying a 27 foot asymmetrical spinnaker at speeds toping 20 mph is the best thing ever!  I am just happy I got to share that experience with my wonderful wife.”


30 AUGUST 2011

Lake Geneva’s Vincent Porter and his Full Throttle Melges 17 won the 2011 U.S. National Championship this past weekend, hosted by White Lake Yacht Club. It was the largest championship ever for the sporty, Reichel-Pugh designed Scow. Porter won the event by an impressive 18 point margin.

Finishing second overall, is long-time Melges sailor Mike Dow on Flying Toaster and in third, is Deb Gluek on Snackcakes in third.

Article courtesy of Tommy Clough - DAY ONE of the 2011 Melges 17 U.S. National Championship, hosted by  White Lake Yacht Club has already proven itself as an outstanding host of the LARGEST EVER Melges 17 Nationals (33 boats). Virtually all attending competitors have been provided free housing from WLYC members. The event organization, management (Tom Munroe), food/drink and race committee work (PRO - Jamie Jones) have been nothing short of outstanding.

Today's featured another first for the Melges 17 class, racing out in the open water of Lake Michigan! PRO Jamie Jones was a bit skeptical when the WLYC team suggested adding “the nearby waters of Lake Michigan” to the SI’s, but he allowed it and everyone is glad he did. Conditions were perfect on Lake Michigan, SW from 5-12 kts and a little more than a slight chop. The northerly current from the previous days strong North winds was a big challenge at the starts and many boats found themselves over early with the I flag in effect for all starts. Race one was sailed in wind of 4-6 knots, a big left shift at the start launched Vincent Porter who was chased the entire race by Tom Munroe Sr. and Deb Gluek. Porter cruised to victory and team Gluek snuck by Munroe Sr. on the last downwind for a second place finish. As the breeze began to build the small waves were more than enough to surf and plane at well over 10-12 kts downwind. Race two saw Vincent Porter again take the win followed by WLYC’s Brian McMurray, then Dow, Biwer and Hilgard to round out the top 5. The third race of the day had the most breeze and chop putting a premium on sailing the boat flat upwind to avoid the planting the bow, and keeping the right angle of heal downwind to avoid diving the bow and swallowing up a whole bunch of lake Michigan. Brian and Deb McMurray again showed their speed on USA-188 taking the win, followed closely by two time National Champions Sean and Tiffany Filder. Mike and Stephanie Dow showed consistency finishing Third. Vincent Porter was fourth, and somehow Tom Munroe Sr. Battled back to 5th after being OCS.

Vincent Porter of Lake Geneva posted an impressive 1-1-4 to take the early lead in the even followed by M17 veteran Mike Stephanie Dow in 2nd with a consistent 8-3-3. Third place was held by Brian McMurray with and rapidly improving 17-2-1.

DAY TWO of the 2011 Melges 17 U.S. National Championship, hosted by White Lake Yacht Club (WLYC) forged ahead with four more races for a seven races series after two days of racing. Hanging tough is Vincent Porter on Full Throttle in first place with a four point lead. In second overall and making a nice jump in the overall standings from fourth to second is Sean Fidler's Ludicrous Speed. Mike Dow on Flying Toaster slipped a notch to third.

The fleet moved back onto the lake in the morning with the breeze out of the east around 6-8 knots to start the first race of the day. The conditions were shifty and the racing was close. But Fidler found a way to hold off a hard charging Porter and Tom Munroe Sr. on USA-11 to finish first second and third, respectively. But this is White Lake and the home turf should have some advantage to the locals. And it did. But they would have to work hard for it.

Race two saw the breeze pick up to a steady 8 and with a clean start the fleet was off. As everyone fought for the left side, it was Munroe Sr. and Brian McMurray on Catbird finding the perfect gear they were looking for to contend for the top. This race was led start to finish by Munroe sailing with 13 year WLYC Jr. Lauren Lopez. In the end it was Munroe Sr. and McMurray holding off the fleet to take a first and second in Race 5. The fleet went in for lunch giving the wind a chance to shift and fill in. And fill in it did. Just as the fleet was heading out to the lake, the wind shifted 50 degrees and started blowing a steady 15 with gust to 20 for Race 6 of the regatta.

With another clean start by the fleet, it was obvious that everyone wanted the pin end to get to the shoreline, except for one boat. Ben Biwer on Jakookin' tacked soon after the start and found better angles on the right side to round the weather mark in first. Now the real fun begins when sailing a Melges 17. Planing and wiping out were the words of the afternoon. New and experienced crews alike found themselves having a great time seeing what this boat can do. On the second beat, Fidler caught Biwer and the two rounded the weather mark together. Just then the breeze picked up more and Fidler recorded on his speed puck that Biwer and himself were going 17.4 knots downwind. What a ride! Fidler sailed on to win the race with Ben Biwer in second, Porter in 3rd and newcomer Myles Gutenkunst on E-9 in 4th.

The last race of the day saw the conditions get pretty hairy some times and with another clean start, the fleet was off again. Vincent Porter sailed off the line like a sling shot and never looked back. Fidler and Porter duked it out the whole race, covering and positioning. One false move and the fleet could sail right by. However, it was not meant to be as Porter held off Fidler to take first with Fidler second and Deb Gluek on Snackcakes finishing third.

DAY THREE, White Lake Yacht Club, 2011 Melges 17 Nationals. It really doesn't get any better than this. 

If there is a standard on how Saturday night socials should be held, the White Lake Yacht Club has just reset that bar. The WLYC threw out all the stops for the Saturday night event with steak and chicken on the menu and after seven races over 2 days, the skippers and their crews were ready for a great sit down dinner and some cut loose time. And cut loose was the norm for the night. After an incredible dinner with photos and videos presented on a big screen from the days racing, the Outer Vibe band started up and in no time the dance floor was packed, a strong contingent stayed on till Midnight, even after four races!! Sometimes the stress and pressures of sailing hard and sailing fast can wear you down and it is good to socialize with old friends as well as making new ones. This is why the Melges 17 fleet will continue to grow!!

Now onto racing. 

Sunday morning brought clear skies, a steady light easterly breeze and 66 tired sailors to WLYC for the last 2 races of the national championship regatta. But it was obvious the sailors we not too tired as the first race of the morning started off with a general recall. There was no clear cut winner at this point and everyone wanted the crown. The 2nd attempt at a start was successful with only an individual recall and the fleet was off. The fleet split up the race course, with some boats sailing for more pressure on the right and other boats sailing for better angle on the left. Picking the left side paid off in the end. Most of the boats jibed at the weather mark to sail in better pressure, but sailors like Rob Terry extended down the lake before jibing as this paid off for quite a few boats that stayed to the right sailing downwind. However, the fight was on as Vincent Porter and Sean Fidler were the first boats around the leeward mark, with Mike Dow, Tom Munroe Sr., Myles Gutenkunst and Rob Terry close behind. As it was unclear who was really in charge of the race, the finish told the tale. When the boats approached the finish line, Sean Fidler had fouled a boat and proceeded to do penalty turns. 9 boats sailed by as Sean Fidler completed his last turn. Vincent Porter has won the regatta. This is how tight the racing had been all weekend. As for the top boats, Mike Dow finished second, with Rob Terry and Myles Gutenkunst in third and fourth, respectively. 17 year old Tom Munroe Jr. sailed his best race of the series and finished 5th. A new champion will be crowned, but the race for second has really heated up.

While Porter secured the championship and was able to withdraw from the last race, there were still 4 more spots up for grabs with 6 boats still in contention. Take a look at the final scores and you will see how intense the fight was for 2nd place. The race committee moved the starting line one last time, to square the course up after another wind shift, and the stage was set for the final race of the 2011 Melges 17 National Championship. The starting gun sounded, and once again, the fleet split. The right side of the course had tempted the racers once again with more pressure, but the left side of the course was still the place to be. As boats fought up the race course, it was Tom Munroe Sr. coming in from the left side of the course to round the mark first, with Deb Gluek on Snackcakes in second and Ben Biwer sailing Jakookin’ in third. The remaining fleet was left to watch the 3 boat race for first. Biwer and Gluek had changed positions a couple of times downwind while still remaining close to Tom Munroe, but Gluek’s were able to get to the leeward gate first to maintain leverage. Tacking duels ensued amongst the 3 boats, each trying to gain an edge on the other 2 boats, but it was Munroe again who rounded the weather mark first by a narrow margin with Gluek and Biwer now right behind him. With the pressure heating up, this was the last race and Munroe found himself in a fight to the finish. A gybing duel again ensued between the 3 boats, and it was anybodies race. Boat handling was at a premium and each of the boats executed their gybes with precision. However, Gluek split from Munroe, finding more pressure in the middle of the course and crossing the finish line first with Munroe one second behind them and Ben Biwer finishing 1 second behind. And with the fleet screaming down the lake in the mid-morning, freshening breeze, this was a great way to end the regatta. With their first place finish in race 9, Deb and Jim Gluek secured an overall third place finish with 38 points, Tom Munroe with crew Loren Lopez, secured a top 5 finish with 39 points. Ben Biwer with crew Tommy Clough secured a 7th place finish overall and Mike and Stephanie Dow on Flying Toaster finished in front of the fleet to take fourth for race 9, placing 2nd overall with 34 points, behind Vincent Porter. Even though Fidler did not finish race 9, Sean and Tiffany Fidler placed 4th overall for the regatta also with 39 points, taking the tiebreaker over Munroe.

Congratulations to Vincent Porter and crew RJ Porter, the 2011 Melges 17 National Champions.

A special thank-you goes out to the race committee and PRO (Jamie Jones) for their hard work, dedication and tireless efforts in making this a world class event on the water. And to the Chair, Tom Monroe and his team, for their outstanding efforts to put on a regatta of this caliber, leaving every competitor exhausted, yet wanting more next year. 

TOP TEN RESULTS (After 9 Races)
1.) Vincent Porter, Full Throttle; 1-1-4-2-3-3-1-1-[34/DNS] = 16
2.) Mike Dow, Flying Toaster; [8]-3-3-6-6-6-4-2-4 = 34
3.) Deb Gluek, Snackcakes; 2-6-[12]-4-7-8-3-7-1 = 38
4.) Sean Fidler, Ludicrous Speed; 5-13-2-1-4-1-2-11-[34/DNF] = 39
5.) Tom Munroe, USA-11; 3-12-5-3-1-[18]-7-6-2 = 39
6.) Myles Gutenkunst, E-9; 7-8-9-5-10-4-6-4-[14] = 53
7.) Benjamin Biwer, Jakookin'; [20]-4-15-7-8-2-9-9-3 = 57
8.) Jim Hilgard, Dragonfly; 10-5-10-8-13-[17]-8-8-8 = 70 
9.) Brian McMurray, Catbird; 17-2-1-12-2-[26]-13-19-5 = 71
10.) Brad Sprouse, Yellfire; 15-9-6-11-5-[24]-5-13-12 = 76

YOUTUBE VIDEO LINKS (Courtesy of Jonathan Ahlbrand)

A note from the Author:

As I pack up my boat today, I look on the water. Envisioning one last time, 17’s crossing back and forth in slow motion. Remembering once again the exhilaration of each start, each mark rounding and each finish. As I glance around at all the faces in the boat area, I look at all the new friends I have made, and chuckle to myself as I watch my old friends, remembering the times we have shared over this weekend. We climb into the SUV and as my skipper and I drive away, no words are spoken, just a smile on our face. Both knowing that this is one of the best experiences and regattas we have ever attended, and finally, wondering, when we will sail with our old and new friends again.