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Six Melges 24 Champions promise tough competition at PYC 'Bushwhacker Cup'

by Talbot Wilson 12 Nov 2019 05:42 PST 15-17 November 2019
Pensacola Bay is perfect for Melges 24 sailing. © Paul Todd /

Five reigning 2019 Melges 24 US champions and a former US Champion will duke it out with a stellar fleet of challengers on Pensacola Bay this weekend.

Pensacola YC hosts the Melges24 Bushwhacker Cup with racing for the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Championships on Friday and Saturday. A practice race and a Quantum sails clinic will help tune the fleet on Friday.

One entry dropped out today, but still a strong fleet of 21 sporty Melges24's will be on the line Saturday with the First Warning scheduled for 1055. Tim Bowman, from Lake Stockton YC in Missouri has had to withdraw. He and Rhumb Runner are not able to make the trip. But he promised, "I'll make it next year."

"This is the inaugural, first annual, Bushwhacker Cup," said Race Chairman Tom Pace, Jr. "We want to build a Melges tradition in Pensacola and this is the first step. We have a perfect venue for competitive one-design racing.Our PRO Hal Smith is very familiar with Melges24 racing and will put great racing on the bay for the sailors to enjoy."

This week's fleet is highlighted by champions. Travis Weisleder the 2019 North American Champion from Richmond VA tops the list with Roger Counihan, the 2019 Canadian National Champion coming from Atlanta GA on his heels. Steve Suddath of Jacksonville FL is 2019 Corinthian U.S. National Champ. He'll be pressing the pros.

Bruce Ayres from Newport Beach CA is last year's Bacardi Winter Series Champion while Megan Ratliff of Chicago is 2019 Corinthian Bacardi Winter Series Champ. For many of the entries, this regatta in Pensacola is a perfect tune-up for racing in Miami at the other end of the state in the Bacardi Winter Series starting in December.

Another notable sailor is former US National Champion Bora Gulari. He is in Pensacola for the winter as a sailing team member with New York Yacht Club American Magic, a Challenger for the 36th America's Cup. Gulari competed at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, sailing the Nacra 17 male/female multihull. Gulari was US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in 2009.

There are also two teams from Oakcliff Sailing traveling from Oyster Bay NY for the competition. This should be one-design fleet racing like Pensacola has never seen before.

On Friday 15 Nov, Zane Yoder will host a Melges 24 Racing Clinic following practice racing on Pensacola Bay. The clinic, hosted by Quantum Sails, is the kickoff for a great weekend of racing out of Pensacola Yacht Club.

Beware sailors and sailor companions, the regatta's new Bushwhacker machine will be dedicated, too.

For this regatta, Pensacola PRO Hal Smith plans to introduce new robot race marks — MarkSetBots— which are in Pensacola for the Performance Sailing League's winter Exhibition Series. This will allow the committee to set marks quickly and accurately and to shift marks at the push of a button.

This is the inaugural Atlantic and Gulf Coast Championship for the Bushwhacker Cup "We want to offer a fun, competitive regatta in our fantastic venue. Pensacola Bay is perfect for Melges 24 sailing," said Smith.. "To that end, we invite all the one class sailors to catch the magic on Pensacola Bay. Pensacola Yacht Club is ready to shine."

Pensacola Yacht Club has a 22 acre, powerline free campus. Owners can arrange to store their Melges 24's before and after the regatta in order to accommodate travel plans for their teams.

All the news will be posted on the event website, Facebook, and Twitter. The complete entry list is here.

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