The Melges 32, Flat Stanley, was the first PHRF boat to finish the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race, crossing the finish line in 17 hours, 25 minutes. Flat Stanley was also the third monohull to finish the race overall and their navigator, Nick Ward, won the top navigator award.

MELGES: What do you enjoy most about the Melges 32?
TREY SHEEHAN: The boat is always fun to sail with friends. We have campaigned at a level that is competitive but comfortable for Terry and me. Our children have grown up with the class and as it has evolved, so has our summer sailing focus.  We sail PHRF in the summer at our home club, but have been doing 30-70 mile port-to-port races in the Great Lakes more recently.

M: The Key West Race is just one of your most recent wins while distance racing onboard Flat Stanley. What made you decide to take the Melges 32 offshore in the first place?
TS: We have done so many windward-leeward races that trying different races became really fun. That eventually took us to Florida last year for the resurgence of Melges 32 Winter Series at Davis Island, and my race schedule had us looking to fill in some holes over the winter. The “Race to the Buffet” Wirth Memorial was a perfect opener for the season and a quick turn-around before the holidays had us back on the Gulf Coast for the start of the Winter Series the first week in January.

M: What are some of the challenges of racing the Melges 32 offshore? How do you overcome those challenges?
TS: Some of the challenges were offshore reefing and trimming on a reach. The boat is built to go up and downwind. But we have found so many races to let just rip for hours offshore. We had a beautiful mainsail built with a reef and Glow-Fast draft stripes and tell tales for nighttime trimming. For the outboard sheeting, we added some soft pad eyes for the jib and Code Zero. This is not class legal, but since we race a lot of other stuff, we figure this is fine!

M: What upgrades have you made to the boat recently?
TS: We added a couple of manual bilge pumps and a beefier battery. I am a bit of geek, so we added new B&G Vulcan7 and an AIS enabled B&G VHF V60B to make the boat offshore compliant as well as a life raft and gimballed cook stove. Soft pad eyes on the deck for sheeting the Code and Staysail. Bigger fuel tank to be legal and LED lighting and ran an antenna in the mast. The boat was really simple to bring into compliance.

M: Describe the conditions for this year’s Key West Race.
TS: This year’s race started with us Jib reaching then putting up the Code Zero. We were overpowered, so went into a reefed main. This proved really nice as we were able to sail much flatter and in control and added 1.5 to 2 knots. Then the wind backed, prompting us to put up the A3 and sail that to the last turning mark. It was nearly the best race we could have asked for. The Class 40 passed us with about 3 miles to go and we really hugged the shore at Fort Zachary pointing higher in shallower water, getting inside and above the Class 40 Longbow to narrowly edge them out for First to Finish in PHRF and 3rd monohull to finish.

M: How do you think Flat Stanley handled compared to other boats in the race?
TS: One thing is the boat is weight sensitive and the crew knows this. This means we all stayed on the high side the entire race; knowing that it would be under 17 hours, we could sprint and work hard. We were all smiling, laughing, but we kept the boat flat. It was great to return to Key West with the end goal of grabbing a beer. We did 8 or 9 Key West Race Weeks with the boat, so it was great to go back.

M: What do you attribute your success to- time on the boat, your all-star navigator, teamwork?
TS: A little bit of everything. We spent some time on all the details to make sure we would be fast and safe! Going the correct way was also a nice thing but this group sails fast and has the most FUN!  No boat brings the party like the Flat Stanley/ Hooligan team. The Melges 32 and our Melges 20 have become a bit of a lifestyle for us.

Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race Results: