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The Harbor Report: A life sailing along

February 14, 2014|By Len Bose
  • Gino Morrelli, designer and partner of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc.
Gino Morrelli, designer and partner of Morrelli &… (Len Bose )

One of our harbor's largest success stories is Gino Morrelli of Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc.

If you know the catamaran scene in Newport Beach, you already know all about Morrelli. Most recently he and his partner, Pete Melvin, were selected to write the class rules for the 34th America's Cup, and later they designed the Team New Zealand America's Cup boat.

He's spent his life in boating. Morrelli moved to Irvine just about the time he was entering high school. While attending University High he learned to sail at the Sea Scout Base in Newport Beach.

"We sailed anything we could get our hands on, from Hobie 16s, 420s, Kites and Shields," Morrelli said.

In his last year of high school, he built his first boat with his father and brother — a 33-foot Crowther trimaran — in their backyard and kept it on their mooring off the Lido Peninsula.

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After graduation, he attended Orange Coast College for a short time and then decided to become a boat builder, starting Climax Catamarans.

"My brother Tony and I started building 18-foot A Class cats in my parents' garage in Newport Shores. Soon after the neighbors started to complain about the smell, and we received a couple of orders, we opened a shop in Huntington Beach," Morrelli said.

As the 1980s approached, the boating industry slowed and Morrelli had to close his shop, deciding to sail a friend's 40-foot catamaran to Hawaii. He found a job running a catamaran for the Hyatt Regency.

It was not long after that he received a call from a friend in California to come back and build a 45-foot catamaran, the White Knuckler.

After campaigning the boat for a couple of years in our local offshore events, Morrelli gathered up all his boat photos and moved to France. There he found work designing and managing the construction of a 60-foot catamaran and spent five years racing Formula 40s in the French pro circuit.

Next he received another phone call to return to California and start building a 40-foot cat in Capistrano Beach. As 1988 approached, he was contacted by the legendary yachtsman Dennis Conner to build a catamaran and race in the America's Cup.

"That's when I stopped being a mercenary boat builder and started working out of my house in Newport Beach," he said.

After stints in Tustin, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering Inc. is now located at the Newport Harbor Shipyard.

What type of boats can we expect to see in the 35th America's Cup?

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