by Joy Dunigan
Key West Race Week Melges 32 Champion Doug Douglas and his colorful Goombay Smash team has a round of special congrats in order. Douglas and tactician, Chris Larson along with crew members Marco Constant, Andy Escourt, Stu Pollard, Travis Wilson, Chris Welch and Chelsea Davison sported day-glo-flamingo pink duds for the final showdown. They beat out top, fellow competitors Steve Howe on Warpath (Morgan Larson, tactician) in second overall and Alex Jackson on Leenabarca (Rob Greenhalgh, tactician) in third.
Melges 32 Fleet Action, Start of race 1 - Key West Race Week 2011 - Day 5
'These are such fun boats.' said Douglas after receiving his award. 'The racing this week was so close. Obviously, I would have had more fun if it would have been a little more windy, but we had kind of a bad day the other day. So, that's why we wore the pink. It was our punishment.'
Larson is perhaps now one of the most sought after tacticians in the Melges 32 class. During December 2010, he led Rod Jabin's Ramrod to his second consecutive Gold Cup Championship. Just a little more than a month later, he's back in victory circle with a completely different team. 'Both events were really a lot of fun, but the other thing to note is that both programs are already very, very good. They are organized and realize what it takes to win. That is very true with the Goombay Smash program.'
Guaranteed, the last day of Key West was bound to be eventful from a competitive standpoint, but no one predicted the electric, Floridaesque Goombay Smash fashion ensemble that illuminated the Melges 32 course. The race committee squeezed in another three races under sunny blue skies with some nice breeze arriving at the start. Three high-contention teams - Warpath, Goombay Smash and Leenabarca were clearly ready to go head-to-head for the win, and that's just what they did.
Race one revealed Douglas rallying hard to win the start, then forced to dip behind Howe, enabling Warpath and Jackson to get off the line well. This effected Goombay very little as Douglas was aggressive upwind rounding the top in first with Jackson closing in fast for second, Howe in third. Douglas was quick downwind passing through the gate and blistering the course for an almost one minute lead, leaving Jackson and Howe to battle it out for position. Goombay easily took the win, Jackson won second place over Howe only moments before crossing the line.
Race two was a Course 4, at 195 degrees and a distance of 1.4 nm with the breeze beginning to build ever so slightly, skies becoming overcast as rain off to the west moved east. Great Britain's Peter Rogers on Highlife (Ruairdah Scott, tactician), Joe Woods on Red (Paul Goodison, tactician) and Joel Ronning on Catapult (Bill Hardesty, tactician) took charge of the fleet. Rogers held his own as Douglas struggled to get ahead, Jackson was right behind trying to close the points gap. Rogers won, Woods was second and Ronning finished third. Howe suffered a major blow being called OCS at the start, yet only getting back up to finish 13th.
With thunderstorms approaching, the breeze shifted further right for the final race of the day. Howe got back in the groove taking an immediate lead, launched off the pin end. He led the fleet around the marks with Alexis Michas aboard Zetiana (Mark Mendleblatt, tactician) chasing right behind. Further back, the battle continued between Douglas, testing the right for pressure and Jackson, on the left looking for speed. Things just worked out for Douglas as he gained three positions, not only beating Jackson in the final race, but beating Howe for the regatta title. Howe won the last race of the day. Michas led his team around the course and across the line for second place. Martin Knetig's Black Mamba came across in third.
Melges rocks like nothing else! This year both the Melges 24s and Melges 32s enjoyed some of the best racing ever as well as some great parties. A very special thank you to Guy Mossman and his Battle Rhythm team for inviting everyone over for a wonderful Keg Party on Thursday night. The story and focus of the evening went well beyond the racing. Prior to the start of Thursday's races, the host team found themselves anywhere but where they needed to be (the PHRF Course to be exact) in the very foggy conditions and without a GPS. Obviously embarrassed, they had to get the assistance of the race committee over the radio to find the correct course. Just prior to the party, Battle Rhythm sent out the appropriate GPS coordinates to ensure everyone would arrive at the party on time and no one got lost. For further kicks, just before racing on Friday, Battle Rhythm reassured the Race Committee that they no longer needed assistance in finding the starting line.
It's been another great year for the Melges fleets at Key West Race Week. Special thanks to Peter Craig and his entire staff at Premiere Racing for delivering yet another amazing event.
Melges 32 Fleet Action - Key West Race Week 2011
Melges 32 Fleet Action - Key West Race Week
Light air downwind Melges 32 fleet action - Key West Race Week 2011
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