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Eight Bells: Buddy Melges Passes Away at Age 93

Legendary sailor and boat builder Harry Clemons “Buddy” Melges Jr. passed away on May 18, 2023. Tributes and reflections are being shared across the internet as sailors remember racing against and sharing sailing stories with the man who was “considered to be one of the greatest competitive sailors in the sport of sailing.”

Although Buddy was predominantly a Midwest sailor, many on the West Coast, particularly here in the Bay, have enjoyed (and still enjoy) his legacy through the Melges 24 and Melges 20, among the Bay’s favorite racing boats.

Brian Porter’s Full Throttle works upwind at the 2009 Melges 24 Nationals held on San Francisco Bay.
© 2023 Ellen Hoke

Comments shared on social media include:

“If this doesn’t bring you to tears, we’re not sure what will. What a legend. What a legacy we carry … with every race, with the Melges 24! In never-ending gratitude … Thank you Buddy!” — Melges 24/Facebook.

“Eight Bells: Buddy Melges. A legend has been lost. Harry Clemons “Buddy” Melges Jr., considered to be one of the greatest competitive sailors in the sport of sailing, passed away on May 18, 2023. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy as one of the most accomplished and revered sailors in American history.” — National Sailing Hall of Fame/Facebook.

“Sad to hear that Buddy Melges has left us. He was an incredible sailor, liked and admired by everyone.”— Russell Coutts, SAilGP.

Our own Latitude 38 crewmember Jean Ouellette had this to say about Buddy: “He was regarded as a genial and gracious person ashore, when he wasn’t savaging the competition on the racecourse. RIP.”

Buddy Melges
RIP Buddy Melges.
© 2023

The Melges family has published an obituary for Harry Clemons “Buddy” Melges Jr. Read here.



  1. Susie Woodrum 1 year ago

    I crewed for Buddy on a C-Scow on Lake Okoboji when I was 16. All he wanted from me was my 100 lbs on the rail and to keep quiet.:) It was life changing experience to crew for such an amazing skipper. RIP Buddy

  2. Paolo Sheaffer 1 year ago

    Buddy Melges was not a “predominantly East Coast sailor” He was a Midwest sailor who among other events, won the Star Worlds on San Francisco Bay, notably defeating defending champ DC. Melges also brought his Americas Cup Challenge to San Francisco for three months over Winter of ‘85-‘86 training with Canada II & Blackaller’s USA 49. Melges later brought his new 12 meter US-51 to Santa Cruz for our final training push before moving to Fremantle.
    The Melges 24 & 32 classes have both held World Championships on the Bay.
    Research much??

    • John Arndt 1 year ago

      Paolo – thanks for the correction. That was a slip and has been corrected.

  3. Doug Hosford 1 year ago

    I remember a Blue Chip regatta on Lake Ray Hubbard in the later days of wooden scows. I was with most of the fleet in a drifter when I noticed Buddy Melges’s boat way to the west and wondered “Why is he way the hell over there?” Later it became obvious.

  4. Tom Carr 1 year ago

    I had the pleasure of working with Buddy on the ‘92 Americas cup with the American 3 team. I worked for Doug Brouwer of Even Keels and we made 13 different design 40,000 pound keel bulbs for them that year. We were happy to be part of the success of that team. Those were some very freaky boats. The hulls only weighed 5,000 pounds!

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