Scuttlebutt Interviews Harry Melges
IC37: Creating something pretty special
Published on May 3rd, 2018 on Scuttlebutt:
It was announced in May 2017 that New York Yacht Club had enlisted Mills Design to create a new 37-footer for the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The immediate intent of the boat would be for this Corinthian competition, and while the club was committed to own and maintain a fleet of 20 IC37s, there was a vision for a one design class to extend far beyond Narragansett Bay.
To achieve that goal, New York Yacht Club partnered with Melges Performance Sailboats (MPS) to facilitate the class promotion and management. With sea trials now undergoing on Hull #1, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with Harry Melges III, CEO of MPS, for an update.
Talk me through your involvement with this project.
The goal is to make the class international and have international sailing around the world. While the decision of designer had already been made, there was still plenty of work to do to when we joined the project, and it has been a privilege for our company to put our fingerprints on quite a bit of it.
There’s been loads of conference calls and meetings, but we’ve got a great team that works really well together, and it’s been really impressive what the group has accomplished. From the builder and the designer and the sailmaking team, the mast builder. It’s just a great group of people. A great team. Everybody works really well together. And I think what’s being created is pretty special.
The class rules are rooted in the concept of full Corinthian teams and one-design sails. For us, we just felt the time was right for that kind of platform, and given the interest, it seems to definitely be the case. We are up to 39 total boats that are going to be built now, and that’s only going to grow, especially now that we’ve got the first boat on the water.
Let’s talk about the crew classification. The plan is to use the World Sailing Regulations, and for the crew to be all Corinthians aside one boat captain. Any concern on managing this aspect?
It’s always a challenge to police the sailors in classes where there’s crew restrictions. But the class rules are very clear and we will rely on the World Sailing system that has been in place for some time. What’s critical is being diligent at regattas and diligent with crew checks beforehand to make sure everybody complies. It’s when oversight gets lax that leads to escalating problems.
Why the decision to limit sails to one sailmaker in the class rules?
We’ve just seen too many issues in other existing classes where the sailmaking wars and the sail development programs just add so much cost, and perceived cost, to campaigning a boat. We have witnessed how this was really damaging to a lot of the classes.
When there is no restriction, a lot of the teams are looking for an edge, and if there’s an option to work on sail developments, they’re going to play with sails. They’re going to play with anything they can play with to find that edge. To have one-design sails on a boat like this, in the long run, will really control costs and take away that arms race perception.
It’s just one more part of the equation that we’re taking away. One more variable that’s being removed to keep it simple and level the playing field and just make it more fun. We want to keep the focus on just going racing, being social, and enjoying your day on the water.
Is there concern the excluded sailmakers will direct their clients away from the IC37?
I don’t think it’s as relevant today as it used to be. There’s so much information that’s readily available on the Internet that it’s pretty easy for a person looking at boats to do their own research and learn what’s going on. Plus word of mouth travels pretty quick. Friends start talking to each other and good news travels fast. I don’t think that that situation is going to be a negative.
And the class rules don’t close the door on what boat owners can do outside of one design racing.
Correct. If they’re going to do some non-one-design handicap racing, people are free to buy any type of sail they want for that. This is also when all sailmakers, or any other Group 3 sailor, can get on the boat assuming the event rules permit it.
With 39 boat orders, is there talk of a second builder being brought on?
There is talk of a second builder, and that’ll probably be in Europe somewhere. Of the 39 boats, 1 is in the UK, 1 in Sweden, and 1 in Italy. Hopefully that will be lined up pretty quickly. It’s not a definite yes but it’s probably the path we’re heading to meet the demand at the moment.