Melges Boat Works, Inc. was founded by Harry C. Melges, Sr. in 1945. He became an instant leader in Scow boat design, production and delivery in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest. Harry, Sr. initially built boats out of wood. The first boats produced were flat-bottomed row boats, which provided a core business to keep his vision and the company alive. It wasn't long before he branched into race boat production delivering the best hulls, sails, spars, covers and accessories to ensure that his customers stayed on the competitive cutting edge.
Melges (pronounced mel•gis), is one of the most reputable, recognized and respected family names in the sailing industry. The devotion, generosity, perseverance and passion that surround the name are undeniable. The Melges name will forever be a legendary symbol of quality, excellence and experience that is second-to-none.
Early on, Harry Sr.'s son, Harry "Buddy" Melges, Jr. was involved in operating the family boat-building business. Over time, Buddy established an impressive collection of championship titles and Olympic medals. During the 1964 Olympics, Buddy won a bronze medal in the Flying Dutchman and in 1968 won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games. In 1972, he won a gold medal in the Soling in Kiel, Germany — the Soling's official debut in Olympic competition. In the years that followed, Buddy won more than 60 major national and international sailing championships. They include: the Star in 1978 and 1979; 5.5 Metre in 1967, 1973 and 1983; International 50 Foot World Cup in 1989; Maxi in 1991 and the National E Scows in 1965, 1969, 1978, 1979 and 1983. Buddy has won the International Skeeter Ice Boat Championship a record seven times — 1955, 1957, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1980 and 2001. He was named Yachtsman of the Year in 1961, 1972 and 1983; and One Design Sailor of the Year in 1978 and 1979.
Buddy Melges is an internationally known and very well respected yachtsman. But perhaps he is most recognized for his America’s Cup accomplishments. Among the 1987 America's Cup Challengers, he represented the Chicago Yacht Club at the helm of Heart of America. He raced against Dennis Conner sailing Stars & Stripes. Unfortunately, Buddy did not win. In the end, Conner described Buddy as "one of the great sailors in the world."
In 1992, success for Melges was at an all-time high. The America’s Cup Challenge donned a high-tech look and a high performance attitude. In a boat designed in part by Reichel Pugh Yacht Design, Buddy Melges captured the America's Cup title alongside Bill Koch. Their campaign symbolized the last successful defense of the Cup by an American team.
The Melges 24 was designed by Reichel Pugh that same year in December. Shortly thereafter, sail tests were conducted in the snow on Lake Geneva. The boat was formally introduced to the market place in 1993. In 1994, it was named ‘Boat of the Year’ by Sailing World Magazine. This incredible Sportboat takes advantage of high-tech engineering advancements utilized at the America's Cup level. With the development of the Melges 24, Melges set the standard in the high-performance Sportboat category.
In 1996, Melges Sails, Inc. joined forces with the number one sailmaker in the world — North Sails. With Melges' already established sail loft of 28 years and North's commitment to making sails that are faster, lighter and longer lasting, it was the perfect partnership as they share a passion for racing and dedicate their work to helping customers maintain a competitive advantage. Today, North Sails Zenda is one of the most active sail lofts in the Midwest, servicing cruisers, day-sailors and racers alike.
Harry Melges, III proved that racing runs in the family when he won the 2002 Melges 24 World Championship in Travemunde, Germany. Harry became President of Melges Performance Sailboats and North Sails Zenda in 1995. Under his leadership, the company has maintained a course of progress that includes innovation and a deep passion for building the best boats and distributing top-notch sails that meet and exceed the expectations of sailors everywhere. Melges continued his campaign of growing the family sailboat-building business by acquiring Johnson Boat Works' Scow Building Division. The acquisition made Melges the only builder of high-performance Scows in the world.
In 2005, in addition to officially evolving the Melges Boat Works name to become Melges Performance Sailboats and fully rebranding the business' corporate identity, Melges joined forces once again with Reichel Pugh Yacht Design and introduced two new products — the sporty Melges 17™ Scow and the impressive Melges 32™ Sportboat. Within six months, these brand new racing fleets celebrated their first national championships. To this day, they maintain robust international regatta schedules.
In late October 2006, Melges appointed Northshore Yachting, trading asMelges Asia Pacific, to build the Melges 24 and distribute the Melges 32 in the Asia Pacific Rim. Some nine months later, in May of 2007, Melges extended its global market reach once more to Milan, Italy, with the founding of Melges Europe — an exclusive sales, service and distribution center for the Melges 32. Simultaneously, Melges added more talent to the team with Federico Michetti as president.
The European sailing community was immediately attracted to the Melges 32 as a record-breaking 20 boats were sold in just five months. Adding to its growing success, one of the world's leading performance automobile manufacturers, Audi, established the 2008 Audi Melges 32 Sailing Series — an intense racing series consisting of five events hosted at some of Italy's most prestigious sailing venues and yacht clubs.
To further Melges Performance Sailboats' unwaivering campaign to further support and encourage the sport of sailing on a worldwide scale, the development of the Audi Melges 20™ was announced in September of 2007. Destined to be another successful Melges/Reichel Pugh venture, the Audi Melges 20 championed a new philosophy that offered something to everyone — pro, novice, young or old, male or female.
Considered the next generation in sophisticated sailing, the Audi Melges 20 quickly gained International momentum and by 2012, became one of the most sought after sportboats in Europe, Canada and North America. Only three years after its official introduction to market, the Audi Melges 20 boasted 40 boats at its world-championship calibre Gold Cup Regatta.
Furthering Melges' unwavering support to bring more great racing to youth and junior sailors across the USA, in July 2011 Melges Performance Sailboats became the North American builder, sales and service support provider to the International 29er, 29erXX and 49er.
More than six decades later Harry Melges, Sr.'s legacy still survives. The factory is still family owned, operated and in the very same location. Innovation is the focus. Every boat manufactured, from the ultra-modern fiberglass hulls to the technologically advanced sails developed by North, a forward thinking approach supports each design ultimately making the boats a smart buy, easy to rig, sail and trailer with a fun factor that is irresistible and addictive. Melges' goal is to continue to build better boats, distribute the best sails in the world, provide outstanding product support and service, and promote youth sailing programs while excelling in the area of high-performance, one design sailboat engineering.