From today’s Australian:
Australians are used to American yachtsmen arriving for the annual Rolex Sydney to Hobart race with the world’s newest, largest and most expensive ocean racers and making off with the silverware after leading the fleet into Hobart.
It started with Huey Long and Ondine I in 1962 and again with Ondine II in 1968 and then Ondine III in 1974. Jim Kilroy arrived with Kialoa II in 1971 and then set an elapsed time record that lasted for 21 years with Kialoa III in 1975.
America’s Cup great Ted Turner won with his converted 12 Metre class yacht American Eagle in 1972 and Larry Ellison won twice with Sayonara in 1995 and 1998.
More recently Jim Clark with Comanche and George David with Rambler 88 have kept the locals honest.
But this year there is a rather different American in the fleet. Joe Mele, a 53-year-old physician from Manhattan, is sailing a relatively modest 17-year-old, 44-foot sloop that bares the extraordinary name of Triple Lindy.
Fans of Roger Dangerfield movies will know the Triple Lindy as a remarkable dive, bouncing off three springboards, that Dangerfield’s character, Thornton Melon, used to win a college diving competition in the 1986 comedy Back to School.
“I used to do a version of the Triple Lindy when I was much younger,” Mele explained yesterday at the CYCA marina. “It wasn’t quite as complicated as Dangerfield’s, but I did it so quickly that no one noticed.”
Mele’s amateur career as a trick diver came to a rapid halt when he was 30 and his then recently acquired father-in-law saw him perform.
“He made me promise never to do it again but it gave me a name for my boats,” Mele said.
“If no one from my family is watching, I might give a reprise off the Constitution Dock in Hobart.”
The Hobart race will mark the midway point in a remarkable 16-month jaunt that will see Mele and his 10 crewmen compete in every major offshore race and regatta around the world. “We are not getting any younger, so we decided this was the time to do all the big races,” Mele said. “We are shipping the boat from country to country and then flying in to race.
“Wives and children often come along too, so I think we will have a party of about 30 waiting for us in Hobart,” he said.
Mele started sailing in his early 20s on the waters around Newport, Rhode Island.
“My early racing was all cruising but later I changed to ocean racing and kept buying larger and larger boats,” he said. “I purchased this Swan 44 Mk II in 2004 and have been racing her seriously ever since.
“She is a cruiser-racer rather than an all-out race boat but she is a terrific boat in all conditions. She even does surprisingly well in light airs for a heavy old fibreglass boat.
“My crew has been with me for years, so we know the boat well. She is in terrific shape and we could do well as anyone on handicap in the right conditions.
“To a certain extent, every race is a crapshoot. You have to sail as well as possible and you have to make the right navigational decisions. If you do, everyone thinks you’re a genius; if you don’t, no one knows.”
Mele said stories of how tough the Hobart race could be were being told to him by everyone he met but he is confident Triple Lindy and his crew can handle whatever comes.
“I never look at weather forecasts until two or three days before the start because they are almost never right. It is more sensible to wait and see what happens. In this year’s Newport to Bermuda race about a third of the fleet pulled out in the 24 hours before the start because of the weather forecast. We raced and it was one of the easiest trips to Bermuda ever.”
After cruising around southern Tasmania with his family after the Hobart race, Mele will ship Triple Lindy to Britain for next year’s Fastnet Race.
“I thought that might be the end of our wanderings but after some very good Australian red at a crew dinner last night I think I promised we would do another series in the Mediterranean after that,” he said.
“At this rate the boat may never get home again.”