by Joy Dunigan
The 2012 Melges 24 Gold Cup at Charleston Race Week was the third major event for Bora Gulari's West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes since last October, and it marked his third straight victory in a major Class championship.
Bora Gulari, West Marine Rigging - New England Ropes - Melges 24, Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week 2012
Gulari took the lead on the final race of the week from overnight leader and 2011 Charleston Race Week winner Kristen Lane (Brick House 812), winning his first ever Melges 24 Gold Cup, and second Charleston Race Week in three years.
Since becoming 'powered by Troll,' (Gulari's nickname for Australian tactician Jeremy Wilmot), the Detroit-based team won the 2011 National Championship, 2012 Key West Race Week, and now Charleston. 'Jeremy's style is the perfect complement to my own, since we're both addicted to speed, we're both obsessively competitive, and we're not only on the same page – we're on the same sentence, the same letter, and the same line,' Gulari said. 'Where Troll really excels is communication, something I'm not great at, and he makes sure everyone knows what happened, what's happening, and what will happen at all times.'
Gulari's team also included champion singlehander Brad Funk, multiple U.S. multihull champion John Casey, and accomplished dinghy racer Meredith Nordhem.
Brick House 812 skipper Kristen Lane was visibly disappointed as she accepted her trophy, though her crew of Willem Van Waay, Jonny Goldsberry. Matt Pistay and Charlie McKee were more philosophical. 'Bora is one of the best racing helmsman in the world in any class, and Kristen had him until the final half of the final race – we'd be silly not to be proud of that result,' said Goldsberry.
That race was number nine for the week, and it went off in 8-10 knots from the Northeast, with a big shift to the Northwest in the forecast. Lane led by just two points going in, and Gulari set his sights on her in the pre-start. 'Kristen never backs down, and she loves taking the fight to the enemy, so that's what we did,' said Goldsberry. Both boats were buried in the fourth row, while third place Alan Field aboard WTF sailed away from the fleet.
'It was a little nerve-wracking seeing WTF out in front, since they were only a few points back and could easily win the event,' said Wilmot. At that point, Gulari broke to the right. 'Brad has an amazing eye for pressure and he found some out towards James Island, and Troll put us in beautiful lanes as we overhauled most of the fleet,' explained Gulari, who would work back into second place at the finish line, trailing WTF, but a full 5 places ahead of seventh place Brick House 812.
With the breeze holding out and rain showers pushing across Charleston Harbor, the fleet set up for the final race of the week. Gulari and Lane might as well have been match racing alone, both skippers attacking and defending as though the other 31 competitors didn't exist. The start went off with Gulari ahead and half the fleet over the line, and PRO Hank Stuart's voice rang out over the radio: 'General Recall!'
The next start saw Lane with the advantage after another full-contact pre-start. 'General Recall!' said Stuart.
Just minutes remained until the time limit for Race Week would expire, and as the one-minute horn sounded, Gulari peeled away from Field, gybed back to the committee boat, and then tacked under a group of boats that included Brick House 812.
'We saw our chance to put 'em in the wall, NASCAR-style, and Bora executed flawlessly,' said Wilmot. Stuck at the boat in a pack, Lane hooked the starting boat's anchor line and stuck fast, while Gulari sailed off into a lead that disappeared with Stuart's final VHF announcement of the week: 'Attention Melges 24 racers: All racing is abandoned. Drive safely.'
Detroit sailor Paul Hulsey on Hoodlum Racing took the Corinthian trophy for the top non-professional Melges 24 team, finishing ninth overall in the class.
Tactician Geoff Kimmel was satisfied with their result despite what he called 'an intensely frustrating week.' 'The wind was quite different from what we've gotten used to after a few years sailing Charleston Race Week,' he said. 'It's tough enough here without having to re-learn the conditions, but we're pretty happy with our result.' According to Kimmel, 2012 may be the swan song for the Hoodlum team, one of the Midwest's top performers for nearly a decade of Melges 24 racing.
'We'll sail the full Midwest season this year and hopefully it'll be our best ever, and Paul will have to decide what he wants to do after that,' said Kimmel.
Charleston Race Week is nearly synonymous with the Melges 24, and from the top to the bottom of the fleet, racers had the time of their lives. 'Everything about this event was awesome,' said first-time Melges 24 sailor Lisa Van Dell, crew on USA-106, built nearly two decades ago. 'We were certainly on a steep learning curve, but we never finished a race last, and in a few races we beat enough boats to really feel good about our performance,' said the Newport, RI sailor. 'It's just an amazing boat, and I can't wait to race again soon!'
Results after 9 Races:
1. West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes, Bora Gulari , USA - 7, 2, 6, 1, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2,  ; 26
2. Brick House 812, Kristen Lane , USA - 13, 1, 1, 7, 4, 5, 1, 3, 7,  ; 29
3. WTF, Alan Field , USA - 1, 15, 2, 5, 1, 3, 16, 7, 1,  ; 35
4. Convexity, Don Wilson , USA - 10, 4, 11, 33, 2, 11, 6, 2, 3,  ; 49
5. Rock N Roll, Argyle Campbell , USA - 9, 13, 3, 4, 14, 2, 11, 8, 4,  ; 54
6. Battle Rhythm, Guy Mossman , USA - 11, 5, 12, 3, 11, 14, 25, 1, 13,  ; 70
7. Black Seal, Richard Thompson , Guernsey - 6, 9, 17, 8, 6, 17, 4, 15, 6,  ; 71
8. Monsoon, Bruce Ayres , USA - 18, 3, 8, 2, 12, 18, 15, 9, 8,  ; 75
9. Hoodlum Racing, Paul Hulsey , USA - 14, 6, 13, 17, 9, 6, 7, 10, 12,  ; 77
10. High Voltage, August Hernandez , USA - 8, 16, 9, 10, 13, 10, 8, 4, 22,  ; 78
Full results here
Next up for the U.S. Melges 24 Class are two huge West Coast events on the weekend of May 18th-20th. California Cup Event 2 will be sailed on the waters of San Diego Bay, while Seattle's big M24 fleet is ready for another great NOOD regatta.
Melges 24 US website