Expat Simon Strauss leads at Melges US Nationals

Three races were completed on day 1 of the US Melges 24 Nationals leaving Simon Strauss on GBR-592 Simplicity in first place overall. Chris Larson on USA-655 Lightwave is seated in second place, tied in the points standing with Alan Field on USA-587 WTF in third.

The first day of racing proved that the Melges 24 Class's US National Championship is not for the faint of heart. Sponsored by OSA Sailing.com and hosted by the Charleston Yacht Club, gorgeous sunshine and full power breeze propelled the final tally of 44 teams around Charleston Harbor.

Overall, the fleet enjoyed three great races, resulting in three separate winners under what most would consider ideal planning conditions for the Melges 24 — big lumpy seas, current, spring tide and sustained winds of 20-25 knots occasionally gusting to 28-30+ reeked havoc. Needless to say it was a fascinating spectator sport from start to finish.

The first race got underway on schedule with the vast majority of the fleet getting off clean. Favorites seemed to do fairly well, such as Field taking to the right side, while Larson and defending champ Brian Porter on USA-749 Full Throttle duked it out for the duration of the race.

The two came screaming into the first weathermark, Larson with a comfortable lead. On board with Larson is Finn Champion Eric Oetgen, multi-faceted Mark Kroening and Melges 24 Class crew regulars Bill Wiggins and Sarah Callahan.

Downwind Porter made an unsuccessful attempt to close the gap with Larson increasing his distance slightly. At the gate, Porter looked for pressure on the right while Larson took to the left but quick to tack to cover.

On the last run, Porter jetted off to the left looking for something different. Larson now several boat lengths ahead, Porter's effort just wasn't enough to make a difference. Larson took the win, Porter was second. The fleet's one and only competing helmswoman Kristen Lane on USA-623 Brickhouse 623 stepped up to take third.

As the day went on, the racing just got better and far more intense. After a reset of course, the breeze insisted on pounding the fleet with steady heavy air and chaotic seas.

The second race was as dramatic as the first with Porter back in front of the fleet with Reggie Fairchild on USA-626 Wireless, Field and 2004 Melges 24 North American Champion Argyle Campbell on USA-630 Rock n' Roll getting in on a piece of the action.

At the first weathermark, Fairchild came in strong along with Porter. Downwind, Fairchild slipped a few positions giving Porter permission to take the lead for the first time in the regatta. Followed closely through the gate was Nixon and Peter Lane on USA-539 Brickhouse 539 right behind. Ultimately, Field played his speed card surpassing Nixon and Lane to take second behind race winner Porter. Nixon took third.

The final race was not only probably the hardest race due to the prevailing 20-25+ breeze, but the endurance and concentration required to do well was essential. The start was seriously aggressive. Nerves were definitely on edge as the first attempt was a general recall.

The current in the harbor was obvious. At this point Porter was clearly the regatta leader. Despite a nice punch off the line alongside of Kristen Lane and Nixon, Porter suffered what appeared to be a temporary equipment malfunction. As Porter watched the fleet pass him by, his crew was quick to resolve the issue, but not in time to save them from being dead last.

This was Nixon's race as he rounded the first weathermark first, got out front and stayed out front for the race win. Strauss sailed a superb race taking second place, with Field awarded third.

Racing continues on Saturday with another three more schedule races. Conditions are expected to be at a premium as the fleet anticipates an almost carbon copy of today.

Melges 24 - Leading positions after 3 Races

01. Simon Strauss, Simplicity; 4-6-2 = 12
02. Chris Larson, Lightwave; 1-8-5 = 14
03. Alan Field, WTF; 9-2-3 = 14
04. Brian Porter, Full Throttle; 2-1-17 = 20
05. Scott Nixon, Quantum Racing; 17-3-1 = 21
06. Stuart Simpson, Team Barbarians; 7-4-11 = 22
07. Reggie Fairchild, Wireless; 6-7-9 = 22
08. Argyle Campbell, Rock n' Roll; 10-5-8 = 23
09. Kristen Lane, Brickhouse 623; 3-9-13 = 25
10. Allan Terhune, USA-738; 5-10-14 = 29