At Key West Race Week, the prognosticator 'extraordinaires' of all things weather were, for one of those rare moments, remarkably accurate in their predictions for a light air day with next to no wind or just enough wind to make it happen. As it turns out, the light southerlies driven by a 'pancake flat' mini-High shadowing the Florida Keys and into the Straits of Florida that border Cuba to the south were enough to get two of the three race courses racing on the first day.
J Class action at 2014 Key West Race Week
While Division 1 managed to sail two races on super-shortened courses (with breezes fluctuating wildly from 3.2 to 4.4 kts and swinging from 220 to 270 degrees), the other fleets on Division 2 and 3 had even less to contend with. Neither the gradient breeze nor the sea-breeze along the coast fully developed during the day. The J/70 fleet with 62 boats strong sat around for 5+ hours on the water and the RC PRO wisely canceled racing for the day. Nevertheless, there’s a fun blog being written by UK J/70 sailor Ian Atkins sailing 'boats.com' with a number of his mates who’ve raced with him on the Solent off Cowes (read more here)
Aside from D-1, the other 'lucky dogs' for the day were the Division III teams sailing on the course that is further east along Key West. Waiting until at least 1530 hrs, their RC PRO managed to squeeze in a race for all three classes— the two PHRF fleets and the J/80s.
Amongst the J/80s competing for the Midwinter Championships, it was Ron Buzil’s team on Vayu 2 with John Tihansky skippering and Andrew Kerr calling tactics that showed their transom to the rest of the fleet. Relative class newcomers, Bill and Shannon Lockwood of J/29 national championship fame from New Jersey, sailed a strong race on Shenanigans to take second. Third was long-time Key West veteran Gary Panariello on Courageous (also a past Key West class winner). Rounding out the top five was Bob and Cheryl Hayward on Blue Jay in fourth and Randy St James sailing Claire to fifth.
In the J/PHRF handicap world, it was the J/111s that were the class leaders in PHRF A, with Kirsten’s Robinson’s gang on Team Fireball from Annapolis/ Edgartown taking top honors followed by Rob and Ryan Ruhlman’s Spaceman Spiff from Cleveland, OH. Third was Jim Madden’s J/125 Stark Raving Mad IV, a past Key West champion multiple times. Last year’s class winners, Robin Team’s J/122 Teamwork took fifth overall.
As anticipated in PHRF 2, the J/109s set the standard with Bill Sweetser’s Rush taking the lead followed by Gary Weisberg’s crew on Heat Wave taking third on their first day of racing.
For the rest of the week, most weather models are in agreement that Tuesday will see a building breeze for the rest of the week with plenty of sunshine.