On March 8, 2020, Jeff Solum won the Melges 14 Midwinter Championship in Sarasota, FL. Solum was joined by his son, Ian, who placed second at the event. The Melges Team had a chance to follow up with Jeff after the event to discuss the family’s secrets to success and why they love the Melges 14.

Andy Burdick (AB): Great to see you and your son, Ian, at the Melges 14 Midwinters. We had some exciting sailing! What was the conversation like between you two once you hit the regatta venue?

Jeff Solum (JS): Well Ian and I are very competitive, so it was game-on starting on Thursday during our practice session. It was pretty windy, and we are from Minnesota so it is always good to go out and iron out the winter kinks so to speak. Upwind and reaching was a blast, but we also knew we had to spend some time on the downwinds. We had a contest to see who could stay upright in the 30+ knot gusts. The great thing about the Melges 14 is that it is easy to recover from a capsize and the cockpit remains water free after righting. We had a great time trying new gybing techniques.

The wind was up for most of the weekend, so the practice paid off. We only got one race in Friday due to high winds, but Saturday and Sunday turned out to be awesome and fun. The conditions in Sarasota rarely disappoint that time of year. Ian and I have extended family in Sarasota so attending the event is a no-brainer. The Sarasota Sailing Squadron is an awesome venue with easy sailing off the beach for the 14s. Everyone is super helpful and friendly. The race management was also great. Sarasota bay is such a great venue for one design racing.

AB: One of the great features of Melges 14 Racing is the triangle course. Racing in nice breeze on a triangle reach is exhilarating! You also have to strategize for these legs. What was your strategy or thought process?

JS: I loved the triangle in the Melges 14, the boat is at its best on a reach in breeze. Surfing on the big waves is amazing. I have to say, Ian had the reaches figured out better than I did. The key in that breeze is to sit way back in the boat and enjoy the ride. Lots of playing the mainsheet as the apparent wind is constantly shifting when surfing and playing the waves.

AB: Any other important strategy as you approached each race?

JS: With the winds this year it was quite shifty, so it was more like lake sailing where the middle always paid off by being able to take advantage of the shifts. Because there was plenty of wind on the course, there was no problem protecting the middle.

AB: You finished 1,2 overall. Describe the experience because it had to be pretty special.

JS: It was awesome to start to see the next generation grab the bug and pick up the sailboat racing torch. We really did not expect to go 1 and 2 in the event. But it was clear after Day One that we were going to be doing battle. I was ahead by one point after Day Two, but Ian won the first race on Day Three, putting me in second by one point. I pulled ahead in the second race, but Ian had a better throw-out, so we were mathematically tied going into the final race. At that point I sailed up to him and informed him of the tie. I would have been happy losing to Ian at that point, but the wind was up and I had 50 pounds on him. I played it safe and went up the middle. I think he was just a little light for the gold rig at 160 pounds for maximum upwind efficiency.

AB: You are both scow sailors. How would you describe the difference between sailing a scow and sailing the Melges 14?

JS: Well for one thing, the cockpit stays dry. Recovering from a death roll on the 14 is much easier than a C scow for instance. I love the scows, especially the MC, but the 14 is much more fun in the big waves and, of course, sailing off the beach in warm weather. The 14 offers more versatility being able to sail offshore and on the lakes.

AB: Thank you very much Jeff and Ian. Congratulations on your great sailing and thank you for both being such Melges Fans!

JS: Thank you and the team at Melges for doing such a great job with quality sailboat designs and service. Thanks for all you do! Looking forward to many more years!