Cult America’s Cup: Buddy Melges, the ultimate American winner.


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Back in that far-off 1992 America’s Cup regattas. were broadcast on Tele Monte Carlo, Paul Cayard was at the helm of the Moro di Venezia, and in Italy we had deluded ourselves, after the victory over Team New Zealand (the first and only time an Italian boat eliminated the Kiwis), that we could win the America’s Cup. It was a bitter illusion, for the Moor found the very fast America Cube and the ruthless Buddy Melges on his way. Our column devoted to America’s Cup cult characters returns, with the last American skipper to win the Old Pitcher.

Buddy Melges and Olympic victories.

Born in 1930 in Wisconsin, who passed away in 2023, Buddy Melges grew up with boats built by his father Harry Melges Sr at the family boatyard, Mel-Ban Boat Works founded in 1945, which became Melges Boats in 1948. Buddy was very talented from a young age, making his mark, and as an adult he raced in Flyng Dutchman with which he won an Olympic bronze medal in 1964, while winning gold in Soling in 1972. He also races in the Star class, with which he won two world championships in 1978 and 1979.

Buddy Melges and the America’s Cup

The challenge between the Moro di Venezia, in red, and America Cube helmed by Buddy Melges

The 1980s for Buddy Melges marked the beginning of America’s Cup experiences as a coxswain, the first in 1987 where he was defeated by Dennis Conner in the U.S. defender’s internal selection. The second as skipper and helmsman of Bill Koch’s America Cube, which defeated Moro di Venezia 4-1 in the America’s Cup final in San Diego in 1992.

No one could have imagined that that would be the last victory of an American skipper in an American boat. Indeed, since that distant 1992, no U.S. helmsman has succeeded in winning the Cup on a star-spangled boat, almost a curse. Indeed, it should be remembered that Oracle, although an American consortium, had Australian James Spithill at the helm, and as tactician in 2013 British Ben Ainslie. Ed Baird, on the other hand, also an American, won the Cup, but with Alinghi at the Valencia edition.

The 1992 victory earned Melges induction into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 2001.

The Melges shipyard

The Melges 24

During these decades parallel to his sailing career he pursued an entrepreneurial one at the helm of the Melges boatyard, specializing in the One Design world. Melges Boats has produced some of the most iconic and long-lived racing monotypes, one above all the legendary Melges 24, described by many as the perfect One Design.



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