North Sails LOFT NEWS

IN DEPTH WITH MELGES 24 CLASS LEADER JOHN BOWDEN

The North Sails Expert Shares Tips + Tricks And Much More

Melges
© IM4CA/©Bill Crawford, Harbor Pictures Company

John Bowden started sailing very young and was a competitive youth sailor in Texas where he grew up. He started working for a sailmaker at 16 in Austin, TX. He went to college at the College of Charleston graduating in 2004. John won the sloop nationals and was awarded the Robert H. Hobbs Sportsman of the Year award. He has won National Championships in the Melges 20, Melges 32, Lightning, Melges 24, Coronado 15, and J-80 classes. He won the world series in the Melges 20 class.

Since joining the North Sails team in Charleston, John has been awarded the George Lockwood Trophy as one of the top sailors and contributors to the sport as a member of the Charleston Yacht Club. He gives us an inside glimpse to the Melgse 24 class uniqueness, what keeps him coming back and his top three tips for newcomers ahead of the Melges 24 Charleston Open in October.

Tell us about how you go involved in the Melges 24 class.

We started a small fleet here in Charleston and I began racing with a few of the local teams as they began to branch outside of Charleston.  We had about 8 boats that were active for a short period of time. As those boats moved on I got back into the fleet when Travis Weisleder sold his Melges 20 after a successful campaign and bought his 3rd Melges 24.  We are now onto our 3rd boat since then and have been racing the Lucky Dog Racing Team very hard.

What is it about the Melges 24 class that keeps you coming back?

The Melges 24 is one of the best boats ever built.  We have really seen a resurgence in the fleet from its peak.  Small local fleets are popping up again and we are seeing a great group of amateur owners jump back into this super competitive fleet.

What are your top 3 tips for someone just getting involved in the class? 

Practice, Practice, Practice.  Time in the boat is just the best way to get your boat going.

Ask questions.  There are a ton of people out there in the fleet that are always willing to help.  We are seeing boat owner, sailmakers, and pro sailors now being one of the best resources for new people in the fleet.  A once secretive fleet of sailors that used to keep all of their tricks to themselves are now more than happy to share information.  Don’t be shy!!!

Get to the big events.  Local racing is great, especially in these tough times, but the experience you can get from going to these big events can be priceless.  The best of the best are out racing somewhere almost every month.  Do what you can to make it to these events.  The practice starting, the tips from the best sailors, and the comradery with other sailors is something you just can’t get anywhere else.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your time sailing Melges 24?

Everyone is working with the same gear.  The class is so well established and the tuning, the boats are all very close.  It really comes down to how hard you work.  Sailing has come a long way from when I started racing.  The top teams are really leaving it all out there on the water.  The harder you work the better you will do. 

How does it feel to be class leader? 

I think it is a great opportunity.  This is such an amazing class and such an amazing group of people I am very lucky to get a chance to work with everyone.  North Sails has done a great job for so many years it is great to see us still pushing the envelope.  The development of 3Di sails has been a challenge, but the results are speaking for themselves.  It is nice to be the person to go to if you have questions or problems.  I am the go between for the sailors and our production and design team.  It really gives me a chance to work on a product and see how it helps our teams. 

Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the Melges 24 class? 

I am excited for this class.  We have had to postpone the Worlds this year and much of the racing, but we are starting it right back up here in Charleston with the first in a series of regattas leading up to the World’s being sailing in Charleston, SC.  The fleet and the organizers have done an amazing job of planning for people of all makeups to get to race at the top levels in the World.  The upcoming events are fast and furious leading up to the worlds.  October in Charleston, November in Mobile, AL, December, January and March in Miami, FL and the Charleston Race Week as the leadup to the Worlds in Charleston just after race week.

To learn more about North Sails product offering for Melges 24, see here.