Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Harbor Report: Top-notch sailor looks to next America's Cup

Pete Melvin, designer/engineer/partner of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc. (Len Bose, Daily Pilot /February 21, 2014)
By Len Bose
February 21, 2014 | 4:07 p.m.

After interviewing Gino Morrelli for my column last week, I had a chance to ask the same questions of his partner, Pete Melvin, of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc.
Morrelli and Melvin are best known for their catamaran designs and their work in writing the class rules for the 34th and 35th America's Cups.
I have known about Melvin from the first time I picked up Yacht Racing & One Design magazine, now called Sailing World. He was sailing for Boston University, where he was named an All-American, in the 1980s.
"We won the dinghy nationals a couple of times and the Fowle Trophy my senior year," he said.
Some background: He was born in Jackson, Miss., grew up in Florida and earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from B.U. in 1985. He spent five years working as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach before leaving in 1990 to join Gino and our Freedom's Wing, Little America's Cup team.
He has been involved in boat design ever since, forming his partnership with Morrelli in 1992.
I do not think Melvin is in the National Sailing Hall of Fame yet, but he will be. He started sailing Optimists at the age of 7.
By the time he was going into high school, he had won the U.S. Optimist National "a few times." He also took the U.S. Doublehanded Youth Championship "a few times" and the World Youth Doublehanded Championship in 1977.
"I did a few Olympic campaigns in 470 class from 1976 to 1984," he said. "Then got a Tornado catamaran after moving to California in 1986. Won 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in Tornado in 1988 and raced in 1988 Olympics in Korea. Then sailed in the new ProSail series in 1989 (in Hobie 21 catamarans) and won that series. That is where I met Gino.
"Then the Little AC in 1991, and Tornado Olympic Trials in 1992, where we finished second (only the first place boat goes to the Games.) Then started sailing A Class Catamarans in 1996 and won A Class Catamaran Worlds in 1997 in a new M&M designed A Class. Racing less after forming M&M but managed to win A Class Worlds again in 2005 in another new M&M A Class design. Continue to sail competitively."
I asked Melvin to talk about the company's plans for the next America's Cup.
"We are right in the middle of generating and reviewing the boat concepts for the next A.C.," he said. "Things that we know will change from the last A.C. are that the boats will be smaller and less expensive and that some components will be one design, and there will be a few more restrictions on how much design latitude teams will have on many of the components.
"It looks like the wing may be fairly one design, and the platform will have more geometrical restrictions than the last cup. The rules for the foils will be more restrictive in some areas and more open in others in an effort to reduce cost, improve safety and improve performance."
In the '70s and '80s, it was Hobie Cats and Wind Surfers that brought everyone to the water.
I asked, "Do you feel that the SUP boards can fill that gap in the future as an introduction step into boating?"
"Good question," he replied in regard to the stand up and paddle phenomenon. "I am not sure if we have seen a lot of crossover from SUPs to boating. It may be too early to know. It certainly cannot hurt that thousands of new people are getting on the water, and not just on the ocean but all across the world on all imaginable bodies of water."
Do you see yourselves entering the mega-yacht market as a design team?
"Yes, that is a market that we have been pushing into for a while," Melvin said. "We have about a dozen 65-foot to 90-foot cruising catamarans sailing now and have been doing design studies for a number of much larger catamarans.
"It takes a while for these markets to develop, but we are seeing a lot of activity in this area recently, which is exciting. There have not been very many 100-foot-plus, multi-hulls built, but they do make a lot of sense in terms of space, comfort and performance."
If you would like to follow the rest of our discussion, head over to

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Harbor Report: A life sailing along

Gino Morrelli, designer and partner of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc. (Len Bose /February 14, 2014)
By Len Bose
February 14, 2014 | 6:33 p.m.

One of our harbor's largest success stories is Gino Morrelli of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc.
If you know the catamaran scene in Newport Beach, you already know all about Morrelli. Most recently he and his partner, Pete Melvin, were selected to write the class rules for the 34th America's Cup, and later they designed the Team New Zealand America's Cup boat.
He's spent his life in boating. Morrelli moved to Irvine just about the time he was entering high school. While attending University High he learned to sail at the Sea Scout Base in Newport Beach.
"We sailed anything we could get our hands on, from Hobie 16s, 420s, Kites and Shields," Morrelli said.
In his last year of high school, he built his first boat with his father and brother — a 33-foot Crowther trimaran — in their backyard and kept it on their mooring off the Lido Peninsula.
After graduation, he attended Orange Coast College for a short time and then decided to become a boat builder, starting Climax Catamarans.
"My brother Tony and I started building 18-foot A Class cats in my parents' garage in Newport Shores. Soon after the neighbors started to complain about the smell, and we received a couple of orders, we opened a shop in Huntington Beach," Morrelli said.
As the 1980s approached, the boating industry slowed and Morrelli had to close his shop, deciding to sail a friend's 40-foot catamaran to Hawaii. He found a job running a catamaran for the Hyatt Regency.
It was not long after that he received a call from a friend in California to come back and build a 45-foot catamaran, the White Knuckler.
After campaigning the boat for a couple of years in our local offshore events, Morrelli gathered up all his boat photos and moved to France. There he found work designing and managing the construction of a 60-foot catamaran and spent five years racing Formula 40s in the French pro circuit.
Next he received another phone call to return to California and start building a 40-foot cat in Capistrano Beach. As 1988 approached, he was contacted by the legendary yachtsman Dennis Conner to build a catamaran and race in the America's Cup.

"That's when I stopped being a mercenary boat builder and started working out of my house in Newport Beach," he said.
After stints in Tustin, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc. is now located at the Newport Harbor Shipyard.
What type of boats can we expect to see in the 35th America's Cup?
"We have been retained by Oracle to help write the next rule and are supposed to get our version over to Oracle by the end of the month," Morrelli said.
He explained that the boats should be between 50 and 65 feet. Probably the hand brakes will be able to be taken off the foils and the foils controlled a bit more without rule restrictions. He's also hoping to optimize the boats a little better and make them a bit more forgiving.
Morrelli expressed, with great passion, that the boats will still be exciting to watch. One of the biggest questions regarding the next America's Cup is how the defender and challenger will keep the expenses down.
If I understood Morrelli correctly, by making the boat a third smaller and taking off the crew, the cost of these pricey vessels should go down by about a third.
My next question revolved around what type of boat might best fit the Newport Beach yachtsman who just wants to go to Catalina with the family for weekends, cruise the harbor and maybe cruise Mexico.
Morrelli described the features of a power cat. With twin diesels powering the boat at 20 knots "you can get the boats to 40 or 50 knots with little effort, but that's not very relaxing going at that speed," Morrelli said.
If you would like to follow the rest of our discussion, head over to my blog at
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Move to Harbor 20's

Photo courtesy of Joy Sailing
Over time I have taken part in many fleets from Hobie 16’s, handicapped fleets, Schock 35’s, Lido 14’s and now Harbor 20’s. During my involvement in these fleets I have taken away different lessons from each.
Like so many of us my first exposure into the sport of sailing was racing Hobie 16‘s. This fleet had every component to keep sailing fun and its fleets healthy. In my view its strength grew from within by supporting its D through A fleets. This along with a camping environment where everyone who attended these regattas would camp at the events together. This led to good times and fantastic social events. In fact, I feel a lot of this class strength was because it was not based out of a yacht club environment. Class rules kept competitors from out spending each other and race courses were less than five minutes from the beach.
Why did I leave the fleet?  It was simple, I became too heavy and I could no longer compete. The boat is very physical from launching to hiking out. I can recall many windy regattas
pitch-polling the boat and swinging out in front of the headstay and into the water. The speed was fun but it quickly became a young person’s game.
Today I have moved to the Harbor 20 and yes I miss the times of spilling out of my Toyota camper shell like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. What has kept me so passionate about this fleet is that I can compete, at the highest level, with my son, wife or even my seventy five year old father as crew.

One of the biggest lessons I learned, while sailing Lido 14’s, was that the strength of the fleet is in its B fleets members. One of the strongest features to the Harbor 20 fleet is that if you do not qualify to stay in A fleet, within a season, you must move down to B’s. This has kept the B fleet very strong. In fact Fleet 1 in Newport Beach has now created a C fleet. What happened in the Lido fleet was once you made it into A’s you did not have to go down to B’s. This kept the B fleet very small and all the attention was kept on the A’s. As a competitor there is only so long you can keep taking a beating from the top of the fleet before you lose interest.
The Harbor 20 fleet was very fortunate to be designed for Newport Harbor by a group of founding members that blended their past experiences into one of sailing’s best one design sailboats to date. With its class rules a competitor will not be outspent by an opponent. Because the fleet can race in the harbor the competitors are only five to fifteens minutes from the race course. Because of its design a skipper can sail by himself or with any of his family members no matter what their age. Fleet one continues to promote social events from a summer party to a holiday awards banquet.
Keeping the class sailing, by the sailing rules, is also an important factor to the fleet’s success. The fleet grew very fast and in the beginning the rules where very, shall we say, relaxed. Bumper boats is what started to occur and what everyone quickly experienced was the cost of gel coat repairs was not fun and very unhealthy for the fleet. In an effort to stop the bumper boats effect, three rules seminars are offered each year. Members are encouraged to do their circle if they have fouled an opponent and discuss their opinion of the rules after racing. This alone has reduced the bumper boat syndrome by half and more ideas will be used this coming season. Such ideas are marking the three boat length circle to an on the water umpiring and coaching during our summer races.
This fleet understands that a great deal of its strength will come from sailing youth. With a local effort towards team racing the fleet continues to attract sailors from the age of twenty-two to thirty.
All the variables keep lining up to keep the Harbor 20 fleet strong. I just cannot explain how fortunate I feel to be at the right place and time to take advantage of it.

If these types of variables line up for you in your area, perhaps you should consider the Harbor 20 fleet.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Harbor Report: Enjoying the winter breeze

The Crew of The J 109 Linstar after completing last weekend's Sunkist Series. (Len Bose / February 7, 2014)
By Len Bose
February 7, 2014 | 2:44 p.m.

I started this week by taking my bicycle ride on the beach trail, and as the crisp winter air touched my face, I looked out over Catalina as a boxer looks at his next opponent.
This weekend is the Mid-Winter Catalina Island Race (formerly known as the first race of the Whitney/Times/Bogart Series). It's one of my favorite races of the sailing season.
This time of year we always get our best breeze, and when sailing to the island, the first thing you usuallly notice is how green it is. I have to assume we will miss that this year because of the lack of rain.
I am just hoping for some good breeze so that we have an exciting run down the back side and do our normal one foot on the beach as we round the east end of the island before heading to the finish. The race starts and finishes at the Port of Los Angeles harbor entrance, and we round the island on our left side or to port of the boat.
Just as I started to pick up the wind direction on the water, my phone rang and people began calling me about the upcoming Midwinter Regatta hosted by the American Legion Yacht Club on Feb. 15 and 16. This is the first race of the Newport Beach High Point Series.
Already entered are Linstar, Amante and Baraka. I have heard that Roy Jones' Tango, Chuck Brewer and Joe Carter's Heartbeat, Taylor Grant's eXigent, Tim Harmon's Cirrus, Paul Stemler's Patriot, Gerald Madigan's Berserk, Brian Dougherty's Legacy, John Szalay's Pussy Cat and Peter Bretschger's Adios all plan on participating, just to name a few.
I can't explain how important it is this season to compete locally and support Newport Harbor's PHRF fleet. It has also been suggested that this year's winning High Point crew will receive sailing vests. Remember, you have to play local to win.
My mind wandered as I rode toward Newport Harbor, recalling last week's interview with Capt. Brian Blair and his comments about our harbor's only commercial sea wall, located between the Bluewater Grill and the Cannery restaurants.
Why have we kept this sea wall at the deepest point into our harbor, where the water is the most stagnant and the land side continues to turn into primarily residential use? With the devolvement of Lido Village and the old City Hall area, how will our marine industry continue to access this sea wall?
About this time, I stopped riding my bike and called Harbor Commissioner David Girling, who is also chairman of the subcommittee for the development of the Lower Castaways. Fortunately, Girling was a good listener as I tried to explain the need for another commercial sea wall and how the Lower Castaways is the perfect location.
Girling thanked me for my call and encourages more of our harbor users to contact the commissioners about their harbor concerns and to attend the next Harbor Commission meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers.
My next stop was our local shipyards. I noticed the Choate 48-foot Amante and the J-124 Marisol getting work done to their bottoms. The 78-foot Nordland Shanakee was also out of the water getting ready for the upcoming season at the Newport Harbor Shipyard.
While at Basin Marine, the first thing that grabs your eye is the 62-foot light-yellow Viking sportfisher. I am not going to lie: That is one good-looking yacht, and I am sorry I did not remember its name.
The J-122 TKO was replacing its bottom paint and getting ready for the upcoming racing season. Speaking of good-looking yachts, earlier this week I also noticed Manaaki, the Friendship 40-footer, leaving Basin Marine after receiving a buff and wax to its hull.
I would have thought it received a new paint job. Every time I notice Manaaki on the water, I have to do a double take.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.