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Chris Larson - Melges 24 2009 World Champion
(November 9, 2009) Chris Larson lives in Annapolis, MD, and when both the J/24 and Melges 24 classes scheduled their 2009 World Championships on his home waters, he decided to be there too.
He just missed winning the J/24 Worlds in the spring, but went on to dominate the Melges 24 Worlds, securing the title with a race to spare. Scuttlebutt checked in with the winner:
How long have you been racing in the class?
Iíve been sailing on and off in the class for the past 10 years. My first serious campaign was back in 2006-7 with Scott Holmgren and the Rosebud team. We won the 2006 Melges 24 US Nationals and 2007 Pre-Worlds, and placed 10th at the 2007 Worlds in Santa Cruz. Since then, Iíve been sailing a couple of events a year. I love sailing the boat.
Did you approach this Worlds any differently?
I approached this event the same as I always do for a World Championship. I tried to make sure we had the best boat, equipment, sails, and people. Leave no stone left unturned.
Tell us about your team.
Sailing with me were three Canadians: Richard Clarke (Olympian - Finn 1996, 2000, 2004), Mike Wolfs - (Star Silver in 2004), and Curtis Florence - (current Farr 40 and Farr 30 World Champion bowman). Both Mike and Curtis sailed with me last year at the M-24 North Americans. We knew we needed to improve and become more tactically sound. Richard was a natural choice due his experience and time in the M-24 class. He was a key ingredient with Shark Kahn winning the 2003 M-24 Worlds. They spent something like 80 days preparing for the event which I knew would be very helpful to us. Richard came aboard and it was as if we had already sailed for years together.
How much training did you do prior to the event?
Leading up to the Worlds we practiced for 10 days before the championship. Richardís schedule was very tight and we only had 4 days on the water with him. He flew in for the Sail 22 Tune-Up event and we were fortunate enough to win that one. He then flew back the morning of the first race of the Worlds and itís history now.
What did you see as your strengths and weaknesses coming into the event?
I knew going into the Worlds we would be a very strong team. Our speed, boathandling, and tactics would be up to the challenge. For me, the biggest issue was making sure I got off the starting line well. Luckily, I had a good week and didnít put Richard in a position where we had to play catch-up after the start. We were able to execute our game plan and he made incredible calls throughout the week.
With the light winds and meandering current, most teams struggled with consistency. How did your team overcome this?
Once again, getting off the line was a huge factor. Richard, Curtis, and Mike spent 100% of the time between races looking upwind. In the end, I think this was invaluable. It seemed as if we always knew where the first shift was going to come from. Popping out in the front pack of each race allowed us to be consistent and avoid the big one.
Was there a defining moment for your team during the Worlds?
Strangely enough, I think Day 4/Race 7 was a turning point for us. It was our worse race, a 12th place, but we felt like we had survived the storm. The race was a very tricky, light air affair making it very easy to take a big score. I think the race committee called something like 22 boats OCS. We graveled very hard and came away gaining points on Gabrio Zandonaís Joe Fly team (second overall) and the rest of the fleet. It was a confidence booster.
How long have you had this boat?
I bought USA 655 about a year and half ago specifically to make a run at the Worlds in Annapolis. Itís been a great machine and Iíve really enjoyed sailing it.
You are heavily branded for an American boat.
Iím lucky enough to have some of the best sponsor/supporters in the WORLD! West Marine Rigging, New England Ropes, McLube, and Harken along with the Downtown Annapolis Partnership stepped up to the plate and made it financially possible for me to put the campaign together. We worked hand in hand with each company developing and improving the products which we used at the Worlds.
Explain your relationship with North Sails.
I started working with North Sails and North Sails One Design back in 1991. Itís been a great relationship selling sails and working with some of the best designers in the world. Whether itís a Farr 40, Swan 45, M-32, or J/24, North produces the best sails available.
Explain how the class fits into your sailing schedule.
Sailing in the Melges 24 class is great therapy for me. I donít get many opportunities to steer a boat with my own team. Most of my sailing these days is sailing with other programs helping them achieve their goals. Itís just a fantastic boat and class.
As a professional sailor, how are you adapting to the current economic climate?
Professional sailing is going through tough times as is the rest of the World. We have to be creative to make it though this downturn. Things will get better when the Americaís Cup sorts itself out and the economy rebounds. As the saying goes, only the strong survive.
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