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Charleston Race Week 2024 at Patriots Point - Fierce by nature, next level fun

by Charleston Race Week 29 Mar 08:04 PDT April 18-21, 2024
Charleston Race Week at Patriots Point welcomes the Melges 24 Class, and proud to host the fourth event on the International Class' North American Sailing circuit © Priscilla Parker / CRW2023

Sailboat racers have been having a blast on the Melges 24 for over 30 years and the boat's popularity is as hot as ever, as Peter McClennen, from Newport, RI, can attest.

A relative newcomer to the Melges 24 since 2020, McClennen also races VX One, Melges 20, J70s, C&C 30 OD, and the IC37. However, he loves the challenge that the M24 brings to the party.

"For me, the Melges 24 has been a project of learning the boat," he said. "The M24 slots in between a number of similar boats I sail but no boat I sail brings the complexity of the helming position even close to the Melges 24. While similar with the asymmetrical kite and powerful sail plan to the other boats I sail, the M24 is very different than all of those boats and that's what keeps it interesting!"

McClennen primarily races his boat Gamecock/USA 811 in Miami over the winter and occasionally takes it to Newport over the summer for practice or rated racing. He's raced CRW many times in multiple different boats and loves the venue.

"Charleston is a great venue with the combination of the on-water racing and the city's fun and unique offerings," he noted. "The racing is complex with the rivers and current, but the best part is the one design nature of our fleet and general level of sailing in the Melges 24. I'm looking forward to CRW, to go out there and focus on the learning and execution."

Sailing with his crew Wilson Stout, Will Connely and Zach Champy, McClennen likes that he gets to compete against some of the best Melges 24 sailors anywhere.

"The top of the fleet is world class and it's going to be fun to introduce a few new people on my boat to the Melges 24."

Sixteen Melges 24s are signed up for this year's Charleston Race Week including the father-daughter team Pat Croke and Brigette Croke sailing on Crazy Train/USA 155, with Ted Helme and Megan Roach. From Bedford, NY, the Croke's are seasoned M24 sailors; they bought Crazy Train in late 2015 in time to hit the 2016 race season.

"Our previous boat was a Soverel 33, and we wanted to move to a smaller boat with sport boat characteristics in a great one design fleet," Pat Croke said. "The Melges 24 fit the bill."

The Crokes raced their first CRW in 2016 enticed by the one design class. They've been fans of the regatta ever since. Pat notes that the father-daughter combo works well although issues do arise from time to time...

"We work well as a team but like all skipper/crew or father-daughter combinations whoever has the helm in their hand at the time drives the boat and makes the final decision!" Pat noted.

Brigette usually helms - she's been fortunate to grow up sailing a variety of different boats out of Indian Harbor Yacht Club where she raced Optis, 420s, and Lasers. She sailed with Long Island Sound Youth Sailing Team circuit, in college at Roger Williams University, and any other big boats she could get on but the Melges 24 has become her favorite.

"I'm extremely lucky to sail with my dad and even more lucky that he lets me drive the boat. Since I was a kid, he has trusted me to drive our family boats, helping me become a more confident skipper. We strive to have a dynamic on our boat where everyone feels comfortable talking and voicing opinions, but the person driving makes the final call. This means I'm usually the one telling my dad what to do. He typically takes me bossing him around pretty well, but when I get on a power trip, he's the first one to call me out. I'm so grateful to race with my dad and am thankful that he has always supported and empowered me to be a female skipper."

The Crokes love the larger one design fleet and racing CRW against a larger fleet with some of the best Melges 24 sailors always teaches them a lot.

"We're looking forward to getting back to Charleston — the sailors in the fleet are generous with their time/information and interested in getting other boats sailing at their best," Pat commented. "On Crazy Train, we're lucky to have Brigette's college sailing friends join us which brings a great young dynamic to the boat with the old guy trying to stay out of the way!"

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