Chris Fretz was among the first to sail their new Melges 15 in July. He and a few friends at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club (Beach Haven, NJ) had been searching for a double-handed boat that could handle their home water’s chop and sand bars. After the teaser was released in early May, they quickly decided that the M15 was the boat they had been waiting for.

Melges: What is your sailing background?
Chris Fretz: I learned to sail as a kid in Sunfish and Hobie cats, but didn’t get into racing till my late 20s. I’ve owned Melges M-Scows and E Scows among other boats over the years, and crewed extensively on E Scows and Melges 24s.

Melges: What attracted you to the Melges 15 in the first place?
CF: We needed a double-handed boat that could handle the chop at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club. I had been looking for something with a jib so that the crew had work to do and an asymmetric spinnaker would be nice, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Little Egg Harbor is a beautiful place to sail but there are sand bars that prevent us from sailing true keelboats. The scows are ideal but bending an 18″ rudder isn’t unusual over the course of a season. When I saw that early May Melges 15 teaser with the bow shot, I knew Melges built something special. Harry confirmed it had a daggerboard and shallow draft, so I had to buy it.

Melges: How did you decide that the Melges 15 was the right for you?
CF: COVID. In April and May, we were unsure whether or not we could actually sail the E Scows with social distancing and proper precautions. We knew we could sail with “household” members or on single-handed boats, which wasn’t appealing for those of us who were not in peak physical condition. We were looking at various two-person options, but most were dated designs that lacked excitement and were not even available new. All of the initial owners have owned or crewed in the E Scow fleet, so they were familiar with the Melges brand and performance. The early videos from Melges looked great and we knew Melges would do a lot to promote a new class, so regattas would be fun. In May, the pandemic situation was quite grim so having a fun boat to sail was a surprisingly easy decision for the group.

Melges: What were your first impressions after sailing the boat?
CF: I was a bit nervous. Not only did I buy a boat sight unseen, but I talked others into it as well. I sailed the boat three times the first weekend and was impressed by something new each time. First single-handed, then in light wind with my wife, and finally some breeze with another owner which was a hoot. Our first day of racing had big smiles from the owners. We love how quick the boat accelerates with the spinnaker, but it’s very forgiving too. I’ve had an 11-year-old Opti sailor driving while I crewed, and they felt in control, which helps build confidence. The M15 is easy to de-power and can sail under control in breeze, but really lights up at the windward mark.

Melges: What feature do you like most about the Melges 15?
CF: The gnav vang system opens up the cockpit to make crossing the boat easier.

Melges: Who do you plan on sailing the M15 with?
CF: I plan on sailing with my wife, Mary, primarily. We have nephews and cousins who are budding junior sailors that we’ll go out with too.

Melges: What are your plans with your new boat?
CF: Primarily racing at the club, but it’s proving to be a fun boat to daysail too. We intend to take the boats to FL for the winter series.