Downwind in 20 + knots in the Melges 20 is a ride! However, to get such performance, the boat has to be light and make some sacrifices in durability. In race four on day one, our mast broke into two pieces. It could have been a showstopper, but Camille and Andy were determined to not miss the next day. We cleaned up the pieces on Odin, salvaged the sails, and in the morning, Johnny Goldsberry tossed up a new rig, so we were ready to go on Saturday. In fact, our best race of the event (2nd place!) was the next day.
Each regatta, we figure out a little more about the boat. This event was very useful for exploring big breeze tuning. The M20 class held a chock talk after Friday’s races. The wind was 12-25kts. Here are the big points:
1) Harry Melges says that when the main is back winding at the spreader, your first move should be to ease to the jib.
2) Jib leads stay max forward for a long time in this boat, because the jib is very high aspect. Some fast teams left them all the way forward into 20kts, but others, moved the leads 2” inches aft in 18kts and then 4” back once there were puffs that caused both sails to rag (25 kts). We found that jib sheet play in concord with main sheet was very important in heavy air. This allowed the bow to stay high in knock down puffs.
3) Tension the intermediaries along with the diamonds in a 1:1 ratio. In 20kts, the fastest teams went +8 turns on both diamonds and intermediaries. When in 20kts, pull the intermediaries all the way back in the track. Lowers go back a bit (3 holes), but not so much that the bottom becomes full.
4) In big puffs the helmsperson has to work to keep the bow up (actively steering up in puffs). A stable boat is fast. Find your heel angle and keep it there with trim – main and jib – and small steers. The angle of the boat should feel fairly steady too. High amplitude up/downs of the bow kills speed and hurts boat balance.
Hope this helps! Full results here.