Key West Day One
Classic, Post-Card Conditions
(Key West, FL)- For two days prior to the start of the 24th edition of Key West Race Week, the teams practicing were treated to nearly perfect, classical Key West sailing conditions- ENE breezes blowing 10-18 knots in clear blue azure waters with temps in the 70s in the day and 50s at night. Postcard perfect, chamber of commerce weather that you can only imagine in one’s most wonderful sailing dreams. Monday’s weather forecast was nearly as good, with the wind predicted to keep oscillating further southeast in the 8-12 knots range. However, a cold front roaring in from the WNW was forecast to arrive later in the day or evening and throw in a few blast fronts of wind, water spouts and even tornados! Fun stuff! Extreme perhaps? What else is new for weather in the Keys in the middle of winter, some years its hit temperatures in the 40s blowing 25 knots on the race course!
Despite the fact an early “pulse” from the front moved through early Monday morning around 3 am and doused Key West with an inch of rain in about a half hour, the first day’s racing dawned with a good breeze and stiff chop from the ENE across all three division courses. The breeze started in the 175 to 180 degree range and slowly moved further SE during the course of the day to the 185-195 degree range. The progression meant that tacticians had to take into account the breeze was veering constantly, but could also generate solid wind streaks from the left in an oscillating-persistent shift scenario. In other words, hitting the right corner every time was not going to be a good “play” to win races. The teams that faired the best watched the oscillations, kept them in synch and stayed in contact with their competitors without hitting any corners. Furthermore, perhaps the greatest issue for anyone on the course today was “weeds”– lots of it in huge patches up to 200-300 yards long with no escape! Sailing through it was painful and slow, resembling massive patches of straw and bamboo strewn across the water.
On the Division 1 course, IRC 1 Class has the J/44 WHITE GOLD and the J/122 POWER PLAY dueling for class leadership against a very strong eight boat fleet. Currently, Jim Bishop’s WHITE GOLD is in second with a 3-2 and Peter Cunningham from Cayman Islands Sailing Club racing his first Key West regatta lies tied for third with a 2-5. Said Peter after the race, “trailing weed is slow”….they were winning the second race quite handily until they got caught in an enormous weed patch and sailed slow for over half the race.
After taking a hiatus from competition due to family and business priorities, Tom Coates (4 times Key West Champion) sailed his renowned J/105 MASQUERADE to a 2-1 to be leading the 14 boat J/105 class. Just off the pace is Adam Rosen and Jeff Marks on WASABI with a 3-3 in second place and past Key West Champion Brian Keane on the well-traveled SAVASANA is lying third with a 1-6. Fourth is Travis Weisleder with an 8-2 on LUCKY DOG and fifth is 105 Class champion Damian Emery’s ECLIPSE with a 4-8.
The J/80 class has a very competitive sixteen boat class. Star for the day was past World/ North American / Key West Champion Glenn Darden sailing EL TIGRE to double bullets, winning both races convincingly over Chris Bulger’s GOOSE with a 2-2. Lying third is San Diego sailor Jeff Brown with a 6-3 on J-WORLD SAN DIEGO. Fourth is Bruno Pasquinelli on TIAMO with a 4-5 and fifth is Ron Buzil/ Nigel Brownett on EMOTIONAL RESCUE with a 5-6.
The anticipated duel between the J/111 and the J/109 sister 35 footers is currently a dead heat. Jim Sminchak, the SAIL Magazine Best Around Buoys winners from Cleveland, OH, is tied for first with a 2-1 record for three points sailing the brand new J/111 KONTIKI V/IT. Bill Sweetser’s champion J/109 RUSH has a 1-2 (redress). Unfortunately, Bill’s RUSH had a minor collision prior to the start of the second race, hurting their chances to score better. Just off the pace is Doug Curtiss’s J/124 beautifully painted WICKED in fourth place.
The J/95s are sailing in PHRF 2 as a group and having a lot of fun. Ed Palm is a veteran Key West sailor and has raced a number of J’s, including most recently his J/105. Ed is sailing his J/95 STILL CRAZY to a 4-3 tally so far for seven points and is leading the J/95s. Second is Trudie Ficks SEVENTH HEAVEN with a 6-4, a great start for Trudie who has dreamed of sailing in Key West for years and after buying her seventh (7th!!) J Boat over time she decided that she better take her gang down for a spin around the race course and beautiful waters off Key West. Hanging in there in third amongst the J/95s is Terry McKenna’s FINN with a 7-8.
As mentioned earlier, one of the heart-warming stories of this year’s Key West regatta is the resurgent J/24 class participation with a fleet of J/24s participating within PHRF 3, literally a “class within a class”. Leading the J/24s in PHRF 3 is Mark Milnes on BLAH BLAH BLAH with a 3-3, followed by Matt Mullan on FLYING WASP with a 4-5 and Evalena Worthington on FREYA with a 6-5.
Amongst the notables at the event is Russell Coutts from Oracle Racing (4x America’s Cup winner), a former One-design I-14, J/105 and J/44 racer in various regattas over time. Said Russ, “It is great to be back in Key West. It’s good to take a week out of the calendar and enjoy the regatta in a relaxed atmosphere. Premiere Racing does a great job, and creates a very social regatta. The whole atmosphere is very laid back, and it is a great regatta. The racing is always great, and very challenging.” Among the notable owners entered in Key West is Vincenzo Onorato, whose Mascalzone Latino syndicate is the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup– Vincenzo is a former J/24 and J/39 sailor/ owner from Italy. Photo credits- Tim Wilkes- www.timwilkes.com
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