by Bill Wagner
Key West Race Week 2013 has already reached its halfway mark on Wednesday, which brought the strongest winds so far of the five-day regatta.
Melges 32 fleet at Key West Race Week 2013
Wednesday has always been critical at this annual race week off the Florida Keys. By the time Wednesday is complete, the racing is usually more than half over. Event veterans have even given it the moniker of 'moving day.'
This year, Wednesday brought what is predicted to be the strongest winds of the five-day regatta, challenging crews to really ramp up their performance. There were some sail and gear failures in the heavy air, which held steady between 18 and 22 knots.
Several teams made major moves on Wednesday at Quantum Key West 2013 - none more dramatic than that pulled by Decision in the High Performance Class.
Spookie, skippered by North Sails professional Steve Benjamin, opened the regatta with four straight victories - all in convincing fashion - and it appeared the rout was on. However, Decision, skippered by Stephen Murray of New Orleans, turned the tables big-time on Wednesday by winning both races. Meanwhile, Spookie finished last in Race 6 after shredding its spinnaker on the last downwind leg.
'We were really getting frustrated,' admitted Murray, whose team opened the regatta with three straight seconds. 'But we knew if we just hung in there and caught some breaks that we could beat them. Today, we sailed really well. We had clean mark roundings and clean sets.'
Decision and Spookie are identical HPR Carkeek 40 designs with the former having been launched in March and the latter in September of last year. Murray said the boats, which have subtle differences in terms of sails and crew weight, have been evenly matched this week.
2013 Key West Race Week - J70s
'They are a bit faster upwind and we may be a click faster downwind. All around, they are awfully close in performance,' he said.
Suddenly, Decision now holds a three-point lead over Spookie with two days and four races remaining. 'We certainly feel better about our chances now, but there is still a lot of racing to be done. With no throwouts, you're one bad race away from going from the penthouse to the outhouse,' Murray said.
Another climber on Wednesday was Arethusa, which moved from third to first in Swan 42 class. Skipper Philip Lotz (Newport, RI) steered Arethusa a first and a fifth on Wednesday and now leads the seven-boat fleet by virtue of tiebreaker over Stark Raving Mad VI (James Madden, Fort Lauderdale, FL).
'Conditions were great today. The breeze was enjoyable, but very shifty and hard to figure out, which was a challenge,' Lotz said. 'A premium was put on boat-handling with a higher level of breeze and the tactician was kept very busy in this highly competitive fleet.'
There was also a lead change in IRC 2 - the 52 class - as Azzurra overtook Ran after posting a pair of seconds on Wednesday. Guillermo Parada of Argentina is steering while Vasco Vascotto of Italy is calling tactics aboard Azzurra, which suffered a sixth in Race 2 after snagging a lobster pot. Now Azzurra is winning a tiebreaker with Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, Sweden) by virtue of having two first place finishes.
'We were not worried about the last place because we knew it was a long regatta. We just had to keep chipping away and learning every day,' Parada said. 'We are in a better position now, but there is still a long way to go.'
Azzurra, which is actually owned by Alberto Roemmers, has a very international crew comprised of Argentinians, Italians, a Croatian and an Englishman. Parada said English is spoken onboard until a crisis situation and all sorts of languages break amid the excitement. Quantum Key West 2013 is first stop on the 52 Super Series circuit, which Azzurra won last year.
'We have a good blend of sailors, a very organized program and Vasco is one of the best tacticians in the world,' Parada said. 'We have the talent and craziness of the Latin culture.'
It appeared there was a new leader in J/70 class after racing concluded on Wednesday. Newport-based pro Tim Healy and his Helly Hansen team won Race 6, finished third in Race 7 and threw out a 23rd suffered in Race 1. That briefly allowed Helly Hansen to overtake Moxie for the overall lead in the regatta's largest class with 39 boats.
2013 Key West Race Week - J70s
However, Healy lost a protest and was hit with a penalty that changed the seventh race result to 19th and dropped Helly Hansen to fourth in the overall standings. Moxie, sailed by brothers Cole and James Allsopp (Annapolis, MD), remained the leader for the second straight day with 34.5 points, 1 ½ better than Relative Obscurity (Peter Duncan, Rye, NY).
Healy was disappointed with the protest decision, but remained confident his crew could wind up on top at the end. 'We're going to give it our best shot. We just have to keep plugging away,' he said.
There is a tight duel in the 23-boat Melges 24 class between the hedgehog and Full Throttle teams, which are now tied with 11 points. Full Throttle, skippered by Brian Porter (Lake Geneva, WI), wins the tiebreaker on the strength of three first place finishes.
'Those guys are like a bad piece of corn. We can't get them out of our teeth,' hedgehog skipper Alec Cutler said of Porter and crew. 'We started right next to each other in both races today and it was a drag race upwind and downwind. Sometimes they're quicker and sometimes we're quicker. It's really close, competitive racing.'
Full Throttle was named Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day after posting a third and first in what was declared the most competitive class on Wednesday. Cutler (Pembroke, Bermuda) had high praise for his rival who erased a four-point deficit to hedgehog.
'Those guys have been sailing together for 20 years and that is very evident by the fact they don't have any crew mistakes,' he said. 'They are also true gentlemen and a pleasure to sail against. We're in a good battle, but we enjoy the people we're battling against.'
Barking Mad, skippered by Jim Richardson of Newport, didn't rest on its laurels after capturing the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day honor on Tuesday. With renowned pro Terry Hutchinson making the tactical calls, Barking Mad tacked on a third in Race 5 before scoring its second bullet in Race 6 and now leads the Farr 40 class by six points over Groovederci (John Demourkas, Santa Barbara, CA).
'It's tough sailing out there, kind of like a heavyweight fight,' Richardson said of the competition among the six Farr 40s. 'We may only have six boats, but five of them have won world championships. It's just a real solid fleet. It's a game of inches and we just have to keep sailing consistently well in order to maintain this lead.'
Bombarda, with owner Andrea Pozzi driving and past world champion Lorenzo Bressani, calling tactics, remained atop the 11-boat Melges 32 class for the second straight day thanks to a first and second on Wednesday. Bombarda leads fellow Italian entry Mascalzone Latino (Vincenzo Onorato) by three points.
Bill Sweetser has been racing his J/109 Rush in Key West since 2004 and has been class runner-up more times than he cares to remember. The Annapolis resident moved one step closer to finally being crowned champion by holding his lead for a third straight day. Conditions were not ideal for Rush, which excels in moderate winds, but Sweetser posted a third and second to remain seven points ahead of another Annapolis boat - Gerry Taylor's Cape Fear 38 Tangent.
'We knew with the high winds that we couldn't show the full capability of our boat. Our goal was to survive and live to fight another day, which we were able to do,' said Sweetser, noting that Rush did not lose any points to Tangent.
KWRW Division 1 Course
High Performance Class (HPR - 9 Boats)
1. Decision, HPR Carkeek 40, Stephen Murray , New Orleans, LA, USA, 2-2-2-4-1-1; 12
2. SPOOKIE, HPR Carkeek 40, Steve and Heidi Benjamin , Norwalk, CT, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-8; 15
3. Santa, Farr 400, Jesper Bank / Michael Hestbek (T) , DEN, 3-3-3-8-6-2; 25
IRC 1 (Mini Maxi Class) (IRC - 2 Boats)
1. Shockwave, Reichel/Pugh mini maxi, George Sakellaris , Framingham, MA, USA, 1-2-1-1-1-2; 8
2. Bella Mente, Judel-Vrolijk Mini Maxi, Hap Fauth , Minneapolis, MN, USA, 2-1-2-2-2-1; 10
IRC 2 (52 Class) (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Azzurra, TP 52, Alberto Roemmers , Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy, 1-6-4-1-2-2; 16
2. Rán, TP 52, Niklas Zennstrom , Southampton, Hampshire, UK, 5-2-1-2-3-3; 16
3. Quantum Racing, TP 52, Doug DeVos , Ada, MI, USA, 4-1-5-3-1-4; 18
IRC 2 (52 Super Series) (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Azzurra (SS), TP 52, Alberto Roemmers , Buenos Aires, Caba, ARG, 1-6-4-1-2-2; 16
2. Rán (SS), TP 52, Niklas Zennstrom , Southampton, Hampshire, UK, 5-2-1-2-3-3; 16
3. Quantum Racing (SS), TP 52, Doug DeVos , Ada, MI, USA, 4-1-5-3-1-4; 18
IRC Sub-Class (IRC - 4 Boats)
1. SPOOKIE (IRC), HPR Carkeek 40, Steve and Heidi Benjamin , Norwalk, CT, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-4; 11
2. Catapult (IRC), Ker 40, Marc Glimcher , New York, NY, USA, 3-3-2-2-1-2; 13
3. Decision (IRC), HPR Carkeek 40, Stephen Murray , New Orleans, LA, USA, 2-2-3-4-2-1; 14
Farr 400 One Design (One Design - 4 Boats)
1. Chessie Racing (OD), Farr 400, George Collins , Miami Beach, FL, USA, 3-1-1-1-1-3; 10
2. Meridian X (OD), Farr 400, W.S. Shelhorse , Virginia Beach, VA, USA, 2-4-2-3-2-2; 15
3. Spaceman Spiff (OD), Farr 400, Rob Ruhlman , Cleveland, OH, USA, 4-3-4-2-3-1; 17
4. Team Premier (OD), Farr 400, Hannes Waimer , Dubai, UAE, 1-2-3-4-5/DNF-5/DNS; 20
Farr 40 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Barking Mad, Farr 40, James Richardson , Boston, MA, USA, 1-4-2-3-3-1; 14
2. Groovederci, Farr 40, John Demourkas , Santa Barbara, CA, USA, 2-2-3-6-5-2; 20
3. Struntje light, Farr 40, Wolfgang Schaefer , Lueneburg, GER, 5-1-1-5-6-3; 21
Swan 42 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Arethusa, Swan 42, Philip Lotz , Newport, RI, USA, 6-4-1-3-1-5; 20
2. Stark Raving Mad VI, Swan 42, James Madden , Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA, 5-2-4-5-3-1; 20
3. Apparition, Swan 42, Ken Colburn , Dover, MA, USA, 7-3-2-1-4-4; 21
KWRW Division 2 Course
Melges 32 (One Design - 11 Boats)
1. Bombarda, Melges 32, Andrea Pozzi , Milano, ITA, 1-8-6-1-6-1-2-; 17
2. Mascalzone Latino, Melges 32, Vincenzo Onorato , Milano, ITA, 6-10-1-2-4-4-3-; 20
3. Swing, Melges 32, Keisuke Suzuki , Nishinomiya, Hyogo, JPN, 5-4-8-4-2-3-5-; 23
Melges 24 (One Design - 23 Boats)
1. Full Throttle, Melges 24, Brian Porter , Lake Geneva, WI, USA, 7-1-2-3-1-3-1-; 11
2. hedgehog, Melges 24, Alec Cutler , Pembroke, BER, 2-2-3-1-2-2-2-; 11
3. West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes, Melges 24, Bora Gulari , Detroit, MI, USA, 6-4-1-4-4-4-
J 70 (One Design - 39 Boats)
1. Moxie, J 70, Cole / James Allsopp , Annapolis, MD, USA, 5-10-14-4-3-8-4.5-; 34.5
2. Relative Obscurity, J 70, Peter Duncan , Rye, NY, USA, 19-6-7-9-5-3-6-; 36
3. Savasana, J 70, Brian Keane , Weston, MA, USA, 15-25-1-19-2-2-1-; 40
J 70 (Corinthian) (One Design - 12 Boats)
1. B Squared (COR), J 70, Brian Elliot / David Hyer (T) , Sayville, NY, USA, 1-1-9-1-4-2-2-; 11
2. Nostalgia (COR), J 70, Blake and Lud Kimbrough , Newport, RI, USA, 4-6-1-7-2-1-1-; 15
3. Spring (COR), J 70, David Franzel , Somerville, MA, USA, 3-5-4-2-1-3-7-; 18
KWRW Division 3 Course
J 80 (One Design - 4 Boats)
1. Vayu 2, J 80, Ron Buzil , Evanston, IL, USA, 1-1-1-2-1-1; 7
2. Participant III, J 80, G. John Krediet , Stamford, CT, USA, 2-2-3-1-3-2; 13
3. Courageous, J 80, Gary Panariello , Manhasset, NY, USA, 4-4-2-3-2-4; 19
PHRF 1 (PHRF_ToT - 6 Boats)
1. Teamwork, J 122, Robin Team , Lexington, NC, USA, 1-2-1-2-2-1; 9
2. White Gold, J 44 MOD, James D. Bishop , Jamestown, RI, USA, 3-1-5-1-1-6; 17
3. Lake Effect, J 111, Robert Hesse , Youngstown, NY, USA, 2-3-2-4-3-3; 17
PHRF 2 (PHRF_ToT - 8 Boats)
1. Rush, J 109, Bill Sweetser , Annapolis, MD, USA, 2-1-2-1-3-2; 11
2. Tangent, Cape Fear 38, Gerald Taylor , Annapolis, MD, USA, 5-5-1-2-2-3; 18
3. Alliance, Summit 35, John Borowski / John Cooper , Springfield, MO, USA, 3-6-4-4-4-5; 26
Key West 2013