The Melges 24 world championship which starts next week, is attracting some of the world's best sailors

The Melges 24 world championship is being held in conjunction with the Terra Nova Trading/Yachting Key West Race Week from 20-25 January 2002. Re-scheduled from last autumn, due to 11 September New York attacks, this event should be one of the best yet with 80 teams on the start line.

Crews are travelling from as far afield as Japan, Scandinavia, Europe, Canada and the Caribbean to race against the American home teams and some of the biggest names in international sailing will be competing for the World title.

One of the hot favourites has to be Vince Brun, who took the Championship in 1998 and 1999 and who is hoping for a record third win. Amongst the overseas contingent challenging him are European champion Cedric Pouligny and European Ranking winner Laurent Pages from France, IMS 50′ world champion Flavio Favini sailing for Switzerland, world ranking leader Jamie Lea and UK national champion and Olympic silver medallist Keith Musto from the UK and leading international match racer Marcus Weisser of Germany.

American teams are travelling from across the States to ensure the foreigners get a good run for their money. Brothers Brian and John Porter and Olympic silver medallist Morgan Reeser all have unfinished business to settle at this championship. In 2000 the Porters were close runners up to the late Giorgio Zuccoli while Morgan’s chances of victory were dashed when his rig came down in the penultimate race.

After winning KWRW 2001 Harry Melges will also be looking to do well again this year. He crewed for the Porter brothers at the last three world championships so we can no doubt expect to see some friendly rivalry between the two teams this year. US National Champion Argyle Campbell is hoping to improve on his 12th place in the 2000 worlds.

Fleet newcomer Philippe Kahn is so determined to do well that he has entered twice! Philippe will be helming one entry with triple Olympic medallist Mark Reynolds as tactician while the second team will be led by his 12 year old son Shark with US Finn sailor Mo Hart at the helm. Shark became the youngest person ever to complete the Transpac when he raced with his father in 2001 aboard the victorious Pegasus and he will also be the youngest person to compete in a Melges 24 world championship.

Japan will be represented for the very first time in the shape of Kunio Suzuki and Team Siesta, who took the Japanese nationals a few months ago and have been practising hard for their first major international event in the class.

Amongst the four women helmsmen racing will be Chicago’s Karen Gottwald. Karen is relatively new to competitive sailing, only taking part in her first international championship at the 2000 Melges worlds in France. Then Karen was delighted just to make the Gold fleet but in the intervening 18 months she has put in hundreds of hours training and racing and this time out she will have her sights firmly set on the top ten.

To accommodate the championship requirements Premiere Racing have extended the schedule for the Melges 24 Class to 10 races and incorporated on the water judging, specialist measurement facilities and a dedicated social programme.

In addition to tremendous support from the existing Terra Nova Trading/Yachting Key West Race Week sponsors the Melges 24 world championship is also being supported by dedicated sponsors Woody’s Ice, Melges Performance Sailboats, North Sails, Geneva Trading USA, LLC and Protector Boats. The class has also received generous support from a number of private donors.

Not only is KWRW hosting the 2001 world championship but it is also the final event in the 2001 Melges 24 World Ranking. With only 9 points separating the top 10 this will add an interesting twist to the racing. Going into this final regatta Richard Thompson (helm Jamie Lea) and Laurent Pages are tied in first place just one point ahead of Argyle Campbell and Neil Sullivan (helm Morgan Reeser) tied in third.