Just four months remain until the first-ever Audi Melges 20 World Championship in Key Largo, Florida, and tomorrow, 26 teams will square off for the first major regatta on the Road to the Worlds.
Audi Melges 20 U.S. National Championship
It's the US National Championship presented By Audi Muskegon, and for three days, a mix of amateur teams, family programs, and some of the world's top racers will battle for supremacy on the open waters of Lake Michigan. 'We like to think of Macatawa Bay Yacht Club as 'home' for the Audi Melges 20,' said regatta co-chairman and skipper of Bacio, Michael Kiss. 'We hosted the first-ever U.S. Championship four years ago, and it's a huge pleasure to have the Class back again.'
Kiss is a perennial standout in the hot sportboat class, but he'll have a new skipper to worry about this week; daughter Morgan Kiss is taking the helm of Baciamo, the Kiss family's first Audi Melges 20. 'Dad let me take the boat through to the World Championship in December, and this event should help get us up to speed,' she said. Don't let young Morgan's humility fool you; the 20 year-old Yale Sailing Team member was named a Collegiate All-American in 2013 for the second consecutive year.
Detroit's Marc Hollerbach brings another two-boat family program into the mix with his new boat Fu and son Ian Hollerbach's Fuku. 'Our boat names mean 'Good Times' in Japanese and Chinese, and I don't know any better way to spend my time than being on the same race course with my kids, with my wife cheering us on from the spectator boat.'
Hollerbach and Kiss face one of the toughest fleets ever assembled for a U.S. Championship; while the drivers of each are accomplished amateurs, crews include Olympians, Volvo Ocean Race veterans, and America's Cup veterans, and teams must fight for every inch on the race course. Kiss's team includes Olympic 49er sailor Chris Rast, while Hollerbach has Olympian and America's Cup vet Jonathan McKee aboard. Ft. Lauderdale's Jeff Ecklund on STAR brings America's Cup winner Ed Baird to the mix, while Laser World Champ and Olympic medalist Paul Goodison sails aboard Jason Carroll's Argo. Young Morgan sails with Olympic 470 racer Stu McNay and scow superstar Jamie Kimball, and Canadian skipper Erwyn Naidoo's crew includes Olympic medalist Mike Wolfs. The crew roster also includes 470 wiz Steve Hunt, U.S. Sailing Team director and Olympic vet Charlie Mckee, Kiwi Volvo Ocean Race veteran Cameron Dunn, and countless other sailing superstars and up-and-comers.
The Class is also happy to welcome Eric Wynsma back to the fray. The Holland, Michigan native was one of the first members of the Audi Melges 20 Class, and after a two-year hiatus, he rejoined the Class weeks ago with his second Superfly. 'I really got the boat to sail with my 15-year old daughter,' Wynsma said. 'Ironically, she was too busy to sail this week, but I'm very psyched to get back to racing Audi Melges 20s.' Wynsma may be out of practice, but he proved in 2009 that he can never be counted out; he walked away with the first-ever Audi Melges 20 US National Champion title.
Racing begins at 11.00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow, and fans of sport boat racing can follow the Audi Melges 20 Facebook Page for up-to-the-minute updates from the course. The Class media staff will also post photos, videos, finish orders, and more as it happens.
For the first time ever, the U.S. National Championship Opening Ceremony was streamed live on the internet. It's available for viewing or embedding at the Audi Melges 20 Ustream Channel
Tomorrow evening the Class will bring together some of the top pros, owners, and crews for a live, online discussion about racing technique, the boats, and the exciting months ahead for the Audi Melges 20 Class. The video will be streamed at theAudi Melges 20 Ustream Channel
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