Pacific Yankee was crowned the 2020 Melges IC37 National Champion in Newport, RI on October 4. The West Coast-based team, co-owned by Bill Ruh and Drew Freides, finished with a resounding 13-point lead over the competition after two races on Sunday.

The National Championship featured nine races offshore with a focus on competition and camaraderie on the racecourse. As Pacific Yankee led the fleet for the entirety of the event, the real battle was for the remaining spots on the podium.

“We’ve sailed against the top teams in this fleet before, so we knew they were good, but some of these new teams are really talented too,” remarked Freides. With a meager five-point spread between the contesting boats, it was all or nothing on the final day of racing.

The first race of the day had Alexis Michas’s Midnight Blue leading the pack around the racetrack to the finish. Michael Goldfarb and Laura Grondin’s Waka Jawaka snuck by Chris Culver’s Blazer II on the final downwind and placed second.

Half the fleet was called over early in the final race of the regatta. The rapidly deteriorating wind conditions made it near impossible for those OCS boats to clamor their way back. Having a clear start, Midnight Blue was able to jump ahead and knock out their second bullet of the day shifting from fourth to second place in the event.

For newcomer Brad Gibbs and the team on Hope, Nationals has been an unforgettable experience. As a teacher, his young team was comprised of his former students and college sailors from Brown University alongside Stu Hebb who sailed the Melges IC37 last season. “The class was super welcoming,” said Gibbs. “Everyone was eager to lend a hand and it was wonderful having the Class Coach out there helping us get up to speed. It was also great having a bunch of dinghy sailors on board as they were super cognizant of weight transfers and how the boat was moving.”

It was Gibbs’s first season onboard the Melges IC37, and he’s fairly certain he’ll be returning. “I got the email to charter earlier this summer and had mixed feelings about sailing during a pandemic, but my wife said it was important to have something to look forward to,” said Gibbs. “I’m really glad we were able to have fun and compete in a safe manner.”

Teamwork, consistency, and practice were the primary facets of the Pacific Yankee program. “We’ve had almost the entire team together for the past year and it takes a team to win on this boat,” said Freides. Freides strongly attributes their success to the talent onboard remarking how well they work together and perform in their roles. “We spent a lot of time trying to make the boat fast and we found a number of techniques to keep the boat flat. Like the Melges 20, you have to keep the boat flat and depowered, especially in the waves, so that’s what we strived for.”

The Melges IC37 Class and the New York Yacht Club worked diligently to make the Nationals happen amidst the current climate. While there were no social gatherings after racing, there were ample displays of camaraderie on the docks and on the water.