by Bill Wagner
At Quantum Key West, a warm and sunny Monday morning greeted the sailors. The light and shifty winds meant a 90 minute delay and time for more coffee and conversation. The voice of Race Officer Dick Neville announcing a planned start was a welcome relief as it meant there would be competition on opening day.
Dalton DeVos, Delta - Quantum Key West Race Week 2014
Within minutes of Neville's announcement that race committees were planning a 1 p.m. start on all three courses, there was a flurry of activity as sailors sprang to life and began getting boats ready to go racing.
In the 21 years that Premiere Racing has been running the annual regatta off the southernmost tip of Florida there have only been a handful of days without any action. Despite a gloomy forecast, this would not be one of them.
Ken Legler completed two afternoon races on Division one while fellow principal race officer Wayne Bretsch got one start off on Division three. Dave Brennan on Division two was not as fortunate as the breeze never stabilized long enough for his race committee to go into sequence.
'I thought Wayne Bretsch and his team exercised great patience and restraint. They waited and waited to make sure it would a fair competition then made do with what they had, 'said Jahn Tihansky, tactician aboard the J/80 Vayu2. 'It was really nice to have a race on a day when it looked like it might not happen.'
Skipper Ron Buzil and the Vayu2 team had reason to be happy after taking first in the 12-boat J/80 class for Race one. Tactician Andrew Kerr knows the waters off Key West well and made the right calls on Monday.
'Andrew is a real guru down here and he nailed it. He kept us in breeze and kept us moving, 'Tihansky said. 'We got out to a nice lead and were able to extend it. We came off the line cleanly, stayed in the middle of the course and picked up a couple puffs on the first beat that allowed us to pull away.'
Fireball, a J/111 skippered by Eddie Fredericks, earned the victory in PHRF 1. Rounding out Division three is PHRF 2 with skipper Bill Sweetser and his team on the J/109 Rush coming away victorious in Race one.
'It was certainly a challenging day. There were some big shifts and you had to kind of hunt for breeze,' Sweetser said. 'That being said, it was day that you needed an astute tactician and Tom Babel had us in the right place at the right time both upwind and downwind.'
Legler got things going on the Division one course once he was confident a four-seven knot zephyr from the south-southwest would hold. Skipper Doug DeVos and his crew aboard Quantum Racing figured things out the best in the 52 Class, winning both races. Tactician Terry Hutchinson and strategist Ed Baird combined to rally Quantum to victory in Race one after rounding the first weather mark in fourth.
'There's a fine line between luck and great strategy,' Hutchinson joked. 'We had a really nice comeback in the first race. We got two nice lifts on the second beat then found an isolated breeze on the run to the finish, 'Hutchinson said. 'Our goal was to come ashore with five points or less so we are very happy with how things worked out.'
Ran, the British entry skippered by Niklas Zennstrom, placed second in both races. Azzurra, the defending regatta champion owned by Pablo Roemmers of Argentina, posted a pair of thirds as just four points separate the top three boats.
'It was very tricky, but we ready things pretty well. Niklas got two fantastic starts and we had pretty good speed, 'said Adrian Stead, tactician aboard Ran. 'We sailed the boat about as well as we could in the conditions so we are pleased. It was a good opening day.'
In Mini Maxi class, the two 72-footers Bella Mente and Shockwave owe time to the 69-foot Caol Ila R and that made the difference on Monday. Newport skipper Alex Schaerer and his crew notched a first and a second to take a one-point lead over Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth and the Bella Mente team.
Alec Cutler took a year off from the Melges 32 class, but you would not have known it from his performance on Monday. The Bermuda skipper steered Hedgehog to victory in both races to build an early three-point lead over Dalton DeVos and Delta. Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in multiple Olympics, is calling tactics aboard Hedgehog, which earned the City of Key West Boat of the Day honor for its strong performance.
Alec Cutler, hedgehog - Melges 32 Quantum Key West Race Week 2014
'It was kind of crazy out there. We had a five-knot breeze that was up and down with 40 degree shifts. Our class caught up to the bigger boats ahead of us, which made things really tough, 'Cutler said. 'We would have been very happy with a one-four today so to put up a couple bullets it's a pleasant surprise. I thought our crew did a great job of staying patient and sticking with the wind we had instead of searching for something that may not have been there.'
Vitesse, a Swan 42 owned by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, placed second in both races to take the opening day lead in the highly-competitive IRC 3 class. Mark Reynolds, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Star world champion, is calling tactics on Vitesse.
'The forecast said the wind would go right, but it actually went left. Fortunately, we went left and it worked out,' Reynolds said. 'We had good starts and got some good breaks.'
In a class comprised of diverse designs, the top three spots in IRC 3 are held by Swan 42-footers. Massachusetts skipper Charles Kenahan steered Mahola to a pair of third place finishes and stands second overall.
J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 60 boats and the majority of skippers supported the decision to not attempt a race. Brennan, who has been running Division two in Key West for years, said he never saw more than five knots of breeze and did not feel it was stable enough.
'Key West is about high-quality racing and we just simply could not provide that with the conditions we had out there today,' Brennan said. 'We waited and waited for sailable conditions and made every effort, but it became obvious it just wasn't going to happen.'
Dave Ullman, the renowned California sailmaker who has competed in Key West many times in various classes, said it was difficult to bob around on the water for almost three hours, but applauded the race committee for not trying desperately to get in a race.
Place, Yacht Name, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points
High Performance Class (HPR - Four Boats)
1. Decision, Stephen Murray , USA - 3, 1, ; 4
2. Rock & Roll, Bernard Girod , USA - 1, 4, ; 5
3. Riot, Marc Ewing , USA - 2, 3, ; 5
Mini Maxi Class (IRC 1) (IRC - Three Boats)
1. Caol Ila R, Alex Schaerer , USA - 1, 2, ; 3
2. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth , USA - 3, 1, ; 4
3. Shockwave, George Sakellaris , USA - 2, 3, ; 5
52 Class (IRC 2) (IRC - Six Boats)
1. Quantum Racing, Doug DeVos , USA - 1, 1, ; 2
2. Rán, Niklas Zennstrom , UK - 2, 2, ; 4
3. AZZURRA, Pablo A. Roemmers , ARG - 3, 3, ; 6
IRC 3 (IRC - 10 Boats)
1. Vitesse, Jon Halbert , USA - 2, 2, ; 4
2. Mahalo, Charles Kenahan , USA - 3, 3, ; 6
3. Arethusa, Phil Lotz , USA - 7, 1, ; 8
52 Class (Super Series) (One Design - Six Boats)
1. Quantum Racing (SS), Doug DeVos , USA - 1, 1, ; 2
2. Rán (SS), Niklas Zennstrom , UK - 2, 2, ; 4
3. AZZURRA (SS), Pablo A. Roemmers , ARG - 3, 3, ; 6
Melges 32 (One Design - Seven Boats)
1. Hedgehog, Alec Cutler , BER - 1, 1, ; 2
2. Delta, Dalton DeVos , USA - 2, 3, ; 5
3. Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas , USA - 3, 4, ; 7
J 80 (One Design - 12 Boats)
1. Vayu2, Ron Buzil , USA - 1, ; 1
2. Shenanigans, Bill & Shannon Lockwood , USA - 2, ; 2
3. Courageous, Gary Panariello , USA - 3, ; 3
PHRF 1 (PHRF_ToT - Eight Boats)
1. Fireball, Team Fireball , USA - 1, ; 1
2. Spaceman Spiff, Rob and Ryan Ruhlman , USA - 2, ; 2
3. Stark Raving Mad IV, James Madden , USA - 3, ; 3
PHRF 2 (PHRF_ToT - Seven Boats)
1. Rush, Bill Sweetser , USA - 1, ; 1
2. Rhumb Punch, John and Linda Edwards , USA - 2, ; 2
3. Heat Wave, Gary Weisberg , USA - 3, ; 3