About 80 people gathered at the Balboa Bay Resort last week to honor two innovative leaders in boat design and the marine industry.
The Newport Sea Base and the Orange County Council of Boy Scouts of America presented Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin of Morrelli and Melvin Design and Engineering, Inc., with the Good Sea Scout Award at a luncheon on Nov. 19.
The proceeds from the luncheon benefit the base.
“We as a group are indebted to them for moving our sport forward and making our lives more interesting,” said Newport Sea Base Executive Director, Thomas Hartmann. “We are truly lucky for their efforts.”
The Newport Beach-based company designs “creative, sound, safe, energy efficient, fun and fast multihulls and monohulls.”
It’s a great honor to receive the scout award, both Morrelli and Melvin noted.
“We’re just thrilled to be able to support the Sea Scout Base,” Melvin said.
“It’s really a pleasure to be awarded this today,” Morrelli added.
The Newport Sea Base has played an important role in his life and career, he continued.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the base,” Morrelli said as he choked up.
He started sailing at the base in high school in the 1970s. He was encouraged by Ralph Rodheim, who was his senior faculty advisor for the sailing club.
Morrelli got involved with the base through the high school program, he explained, which required them to take sailing lessons.
“That’s where I met my wife,” an emotional Morrelli recalled.
“At the time, I don’t think she liked me,” Morrelli joked.
Many years later they met again and began dating, he noted.
“Learning how to sail here was very integral to learning how to build boats,” Morrelli continued.
At the time, they practically had to “steal parts off of three boats to get one boat to work,” he joked.
He and his brother would sneak down to the base during their off days and go sailing.
“In the course of that, we learned how to build boats and we learned a lot about how to get things done,” he said.
During that time, he met a lot of other people who have been involved in his life through all the years.
When he was 20, Morrelli started a catamaran company.
Later, he was a part of the team that built the catamaran that raced and won in the 1988 America’s Cup in San Diego.
A few years after that he met Melvin and they became partners.
They started their company in1992 in Tustin, where it stayed for about eight years, he said.
“We ran it out of our house,” Morrelli explained. “We ended up moving our office, finally, out of the bedrooms down into Newport.”
“We’ve had some great experiences since then,” Melvin added.
They’ve had many wonderful clients over the years, Morrelli said. They’ve also worked on a few teams for the America’s Cup, including Oracle in 2010, he added.
Melvin spoke about several other America’s Cup teams they were involved with in past years and a bit about the design concepts and rules they’re working on for 2017.
He also mentioned their involvement with the 125-foot Cheyenne, formerly known as PlayStation. During it’s time as PlayStation that they both worked on and were frequent crew members of the large catamaran, currently moored in Newport Harbor.
It was a key project, Melvin said.
At the time, it was owned by businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett, who was a big Boy Scout supporter and an Eagle Scout.
“We were extremely fortunate to meet Steve back in the mid-1990s,” Melvin said.
“He was a huge inspiration to us,” he continued. “Personally, I learned a ton from him.”
Fossett had never really sailed before and the first boat he bought was a 60-foot trimaran, which he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean a few years later, Melvin said
Melvin and Morrelli worked with Fossett and his team to design and build PlayStation.
“He had eight or 10 records he wanted to achieve with the boat,” Melvin explained, most of which he accomplished. “He wasn’t really into racing at all, he was more into record-setting.”
“Then he was done with the boat and went on to his next adventure,” Melvin recalled.
Melvin also talked about several of the boats they’ve designed, including the Hobie Wave. Although it’s the shortest and slowest they’ve ever made, it’s the most popular, he explained, with more than 15,000 boats built to date.
“It’s almost an allegory for the Sea Base,” Melvin said, “it’s a great way for newcomers to get into sailing.”
Both men also spoke about the history of their company and their involvement with the scouts.
Several members of the M&M team were in attendance, including Erik Berzins, Trip Ivey, Mark Peters, Ferdinand Van West, Andrews Bloxom, and Kim Sorrenson.
He also mentioned their family involvement with the company.
Melvin’s wife, Kathy, works in business administration, Morrelli’s wife, Laura, works in employee benefits administration, and Melvin’s son James, 19, has been interning with the company.
Morrelli’s son, Giovanni, was a boy scout and an Eagle Scout, and his wife, Laura, was a troop leader for their daughter’s girl scouts group.
“So we’ve been vicariously involved with scouting through all these years,” he said.
The Sea Scout Base is an important part of the marine industry, Melvin added.
“It’s a support system for our whole industry,” Melvin said, “It supports the lifestyle that we love, being on the water.”
For more information, visit newportseabase.org and morrellimelvin.com.