The Harbor Report: Top-notch sailor looks to next America's Cup

After interviewing Gino Morrelli for my column last week, I had a chance to ask the same questions of his partner, Pete Melvin, of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc.

Morrelli and Melvin are best known for their catamaran designs and their work in writing the class rules for the 34th and 35th America's Cups.

I have known about Melvin from the first time I picked up Yacht Racing & One Design magazine, now called Sailing World. He was sailing for Boston University, where he was named an All-American, in the 1980s.

"We won the dinghy nationals a couple of times and the Fowle Trophy my senior year," he said.

Some background: He was born in Jackson, Miss., grew up in Florida and earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from B.U. in 1985. He spent five years working as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach before leaving in 1990 to join Gino and our Freedom's Wing, Little America's Cup team.

He has been involved in boat design ever since, forming his partnership with Morrelli in 1992.

I do not think Melvin is in the National Sailing Hall of Fame yet, but he will be. He started sailing Optimists at the age of 7.

By the time he was going into high school, he had won the U.S. Optimist National "a few times." He also took the U.S. Doublehanded Youth Championship "a few times" and the World Youth Doublehanded Championship in 1977.

"I did a few Olympic campaigns in 470 class from 1976 to 1984," he said. "Then got a Tornado catamaran after moving to California in 1986. Won 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in Tornado in 1988 and raced in 1988 Olympics in Korea. Then sailed in the new ProSail series in 1989 (in Hobie 21 catamarans) and won that series. That is where I met Gino.

"Then the Little AC in 1991, and Tornado Olympic Trials in 1992, where we finished second (only the first place boat goes to the Games.) Then started sailing A Class Catamarans in 1996 and won A Class Catamaran Worlds in 1997 in a new M&M; designed A Class. Racing less after forming M&M; but managed to win A Class Worlds again in 2005 in another new M&M; A Class design. Continue to sail competitively."

I asked Melvin to talk about the company's plans for the next America's Cup.

"We are right in the middle of generating and reviewing the boat concepts for the next A.C.," he said. "Things that we know will change from the last A.C. are that the boats will be smaller and less expensive and that some components will be one design, and there will be a few more restrictions on how much design latitude teams will have on many of the components.

"It looks like the wing may be fairly one design, and the platform will have more geometrical restrictions than the last cup. The rules for the foils will be more restrictive in some areas and more open in others in an effort to reduce cost, improve safety and improve performance."

In the '70s and '80s, it was Hobie Cats and Wind Surfers that brought everyone to the water.

I asked, "Do you feel that the SUP boards can fill that gap in the future as an introduction step into boating?"

"Good question," he replied in regard to the stand up and paddle phenomenon. "I am not sure if we have seen a lot of crossover from SUPs to boating. It may be too early to know. It certainly cannot hurt that thousands of new people are getting on the water, and not just on the ocean but all across the world on all imaginable bodies of water."

Do you see yourselves entering the mega-yacht market as a design team?

"Yes, that is a market that we have been pushing into for a while," Melvin said. "We have about a dozen 65-foot to 90-foot cruising catamarans sailing now and have been doing design studies for a number of much larger catamarans.

"It takes a while for these markets to develop, but we are seeing a lot of activity in this area recently, which is exciting. There have not been very many 100-foot-plus, multi-hulls built, but they do make a lot of sense in terms of space, comfort and performance."

If you would like to follow the rest of our discussion, head over to

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World