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2019 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship at Fairhope, Alabama - Preview

by USM24CA 23 May 2019 15:50 PDT 22-26 May 2019
2019 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship © Joy Dunigan

In less than 24 hours the next Melges 24 U.S. National Championship gets under way in Fairhope, Alabama with a solid 35 entries, of which 17 have qualified to compete for the all-amateur Corinthian title.

"FYC is proud to be hosting this event because the Melges 24 is the most exciting one-design sailboat in the world," says Scott Hartwell, 2019 U.S. National Regatta Chairman. "All of our members and volunteers have been working really hard to make sure this is a great event. It is our goal to give the Class a very high-quality regatta, on- and off-the-water."

"We are currently on track for an amazing weekend of racing. We anticipate that the days will start out on the light air side, but when the sea breeze comes in, we should have some nice racing in the teens. It will be warm, perfect race conditions for the Melges 24."

The runners and riders for the event are clear. Reigning National Champion Kevin Welch (Anacortes, Wash.) on MiKEY with helmsman Jeff Madrigali will be working exceptionally hard this Memorial Day weekend to hang on to the Class's most valuable trophy for a second year in a row.

"This regatta is going to be a great event. The numbers in the fleet are up and the competitive quality is really high. The club is fantastic and the hospitality is really good," said Madrigali. "The venue is going to be challenging. It's a new place, and it's shifty."

"We've been working hard on our sailing program, as we are also preparing to race at the World Championship in Italy. The practice racing conditions today were great - different, but great. The current weather pattern will be in place for the duration of the regatta, although it is forecasted to get a little hotter each day as we work our way through, and up until the end of the event."

Top seed Travis Weisleder (Richmond, Va.) at the helm of Lucky Dog/Gill Race Team and Bruce Ayres (Newport Beach, Calif.) on Monsoon have scores to be settled as they are currently tied with equal points atop the 2019 National Ranking Series (NRS) circuit after two events.

2013 World Champion and seven-time National Champ Brian Porter (Lake Geneva, Wisc.) on Full Throttle is sailing with his kids Bri and RJ, and Matt Woodsworth on the bow. It is without speculation that their goal is to capture a record-breaking, eighth Championship title.

The Corinthian division is deep in weekend warrior talent too, which means the fight for the 2019 Nationals all-amateur title will be intense. Race fans will be watching Megan Ratliff (Chicago, Ill.) closely as she and her Decorum team will aim to stay in the lead on the 2019 NRS.

"We had a solid practice session yesterday in the breeze, which was really nice in the afternoon. Our team includes a great group of friends, a total Chicago-based team which is really nice with Michael Whitford calling tactics this time," said Ratliff. "We are looking forward to a wonderful event, and just because we are Corinthian doesn't mean we can't win this. We are right on the heels of those top teams, so get ready for some fantastic competition."

It is pretty much guaranteed that Ratliff will face tough opposition not only from the local 'Gulf Coast Gang' but also from Steve Suddath (Jacksonville, Fla.) on 3 half Men, 2017 Corinthian Nationals runner-up Brent McKenzie (Flowery Branch, Ga.) on Ex-Kahn, and Gary Schwarting (Naples, Fla.) sailing Obsession.

The first day of racing is Friday, May 24. It is the Race Committee's intention to run up to three races each day with no more than four in anticipation of weather disruptions, or to make up for races not sailed during previous days.

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