by Bill Wagner
Key West Week 2011 - Every race counts at a highly-competitive, week-long regatta such as Key West 2011, presented by Nautica. Light winds allowed for only one race on Wednesday, but it proved crucial as there were changes atop the standings in some classes while others found the top boats consolidate their leads.
Key West Race Week - Day 3 - Div 1
Fitting the former category is Barking Mad, which increased its advantage in the Farr 30 class by winning Wednesday's race. Marty Kullman, tactician for skipper Jim Richardson, pointed out that crucial points are on the table every time the boats are on the course.
'This was a day in which you left the dock knowing that there was a high likelihood that you could have that one bad race that could cost you the regatta,' Kullman said. 'You couldn't win the regatta today, but you could certainly lose it with a high points race that really hurts.'
Tonnerre de Breskens 3, The Netherlands entry skippered by Peter Vroon, took a commanding lead in IRC 2 class by winning Wednesday's race. The Ker 46 now has bullets in four of five starts and leads second place White Gold (James Bishop, Palm Beach, Fla.) by 10 points.
Steve Howe and the Warpath team transformed a one-point lead in Melges 32 into a seven-point advantage by taking second in Wednesday's start. That's because the boat that was in second after Tuesday's action - Leenabarca (Alex Jackson, Riverside, Conn.) - finished ninth in Race 5.
'We're sailing fairly consistently and that's the key in a long regatta like this,' said Howe, a resident of Portland, Ore. 'We've been good at fighting our way back to the front whenever we have a bad start or a bad leg.'
Meanwhile, Bill Sweetser and the Rush team found out how one race can prove costly. Rush led PHRF 1 at the end of racing on both Monday and Tuesday, but dropped to second on Wednesday after suffering a fourth place result.
'The wind started off around 10 ½ knots and we were leading boat-for-boat at the top mark, but the breeze steadily dropped out and that's not good for us,' Sweetser said. 'It's no fun to be the slowest boat in the class in a dying breeze.'
Kontiki V, skippered by Jim Sminchak of Cleveland, Ohio, won Race 5 and overtook Rush by two points. Sminchak, who received a free ride in Key West as winner of SAIL Magazine's Best Around The Buoys contest, said the J/111 provided by J/Boats has proven quite responsive in the light air.
'It's been a very tough battle between our boat and Rush. It tends to go back-and-forth in each race, sometimes every leg,' Sminchak said. 'Now we're all looking over our shoulders at the Beneteau 44.7, which has been untouchable in the light air.'
Sminchak was referring to Galilee, the Canadian entry skippered by Jean-Pierre Turgeon of Quebec who at the time appeared to have three straight bullets after starting the regatta with a last place result and a retirement. (Turgeon was disqualified following a protest hearing.)
Three other classes - Melges 24, J/105 and IRC 1, saw a change atop the leader board. Anema & Core, the Judel Vrolijk 52 owned by Ennio Staffini of Annapolis, has really found its groove and reeled off three straight first place finishes to seize the lead in IRC 1. Italian Tommaso Chieffi is calling tactics aboard Anema & Core while fellow professionals Richard Bouzaid (Doyle New Zealand) and James Daggs are trimming the main and jib, respectively.
'Ennio has spared no expense in getting the boat prepared for Key West,' said Chuck O'Malley, who owns the Doyle loft in Annapolis and has sailed with Staffini for more than a decade. 'The boat captain has worked hard to give us a good platform and Richard has designed a really good set of sails.'
Vela Veloce, skippered by Canadian Richard Oland, led the class of 52-footers for two days, but is now tied on points with Anema & Core.
UKA UKA Racing and Blu Moon were tied going into Wednesday, but the Italian team is the new leader in Melges 24 class after winning Race 5. UKA UKA Racing, which earned Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day honors on Tuesday, currently owns two bullets and a couple thirds in five races. Tactician Jonathan McKee believes Blu Moon (Franco Rossini, Switzerland) has a slight edge in boat speed, but that has not borne out by the results.
'We do have very good speed, but today we really stuffed the start. We had to tack away immediately and fell way behind by the first mark,' Blu Moon helmsman Flavio Favini said. 'We feel fortunate to have fought back to third because it could easily have been an eighth or worse. The guys on UKA UKA are very good and always going well so we cannot afford to make any more mistakes.'
Masquerade, which led J/105 class upon conclusion of racing on Monday and Tuesday, suffered the disastrous result of which Kullman spoke. The San Francisco entry, skippered by Thomas Coates, finished 13th in the 15-boat fleet and fell to fifth overall. That opened the door for two-time defending champion Savasana (Brian Keane, Weston, Mass.) to move from second to first with a four-point advantage over Wasabi (Adam Rosen/Jeff Marks, Crystal Beach, Fla.).
Mascalzone Latino, the Italian team skippered by Vincenzo Onorato of Milano, remained the leader in the talent-laden RC44 class by placing second in Race 5. Team Aqua, which was tied for first after two days of racing, took third to fall one point off the pace. Lurking in third, just two points behind the leader, is Oracle Racing. Four-time America's Cup champion Russell Coutts is calling tactics for Oracle, which won Wednesday's lone race.
'I think the racing has been very competitive and it is quite clear that any of the top three boats can win the regatta,' said Coutts, who is assisting helmsman Chris Museler. 'It certainly has been a fun regatta so far. The weather has been fantastic and the conditions have been varied and challenging.'
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