At Quantum Key West Race Week, brisk tradewinds that stayed true to the same NE’ly direction throughout the five days of racing, proved the perfect showcase for the Farr 400 One Design class whose boat owners enjoyed the double bonus of racing within the nine-boat HPR class.
Although it was George Collins and his highly experienced crew on Chessie Racing, which emerged with the top award for the Farr 400 class, in fact line honours were shared across the class of five boats from both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed it would be fair to say that in terms of performance and results, each of the Farr 400’s had their own time in the sun.
Racing was always close and in the 15-20kts breezes the Farr 400 put the crews through their paces delivering fast, exciting downwind sailing and excellent tactical upwind sailing. In the gusty, puffy and shifting winds a high premium was not only placed on fast sailing on the runs, but there were often big gains to be made in the gusts and shifts, which peppered the race track which was shared with the Mini Maxi, 52 Super Series, Farr 40 and Swan 42 classes.
Collins’ team proved consistent across the wind range. His crew includes three past members of the Stars & Stripes America’s Cup programmes, Ian Gordon of Farr Yacht Sails being one of the lynchpins on board Chessie Racing at Key West.
'Our crew work has been phenomenal. We've had very few mistakes,' commented Collins. 'I'm having a ball doing the starts and driving. The boats have a nice groove to them and are very quick. A little wet, but very fun to sail.'
And while Chessie Racing emerged triumphant they were challenged throughout the week, especially by the Scandinavian team of Claus Landmark on Santa, which was led by Danish double Olympic gold medalist, Jesper Bank and Star/49er Olympian, Michael Hestbak.
Despite their professional set up not allowing them to part of the overall Farr 400 class results, Landmark’s team loved the racing and was a great benchmark for all, not least for Collins’ crew who took some satisfaction at overcoming the strong Scandinavian Vikings with a final match race.
One of the early pacemakers in the regatta, who found their form as the breeze increased was Hannes Waimer, who runs Premier Composite Technologies, and his crew on Team Premier. Though his company co-founded the Farr 400 and build the boat, Waimer’s schedule means that he had done very little sailing on the boat. However, despite this Waimer and his team, which included former Volvo/Whitbread sailor Gordon Maguire doing tactics, put in some strong early performances.
But it was one of the very many lobster pots dotted around the Florida Keys that put a premature end to their regatta. During a fast downwind leg in Race 5 they were pulled to a very sudden halt, from 18 knots to zero in seconds, by a pot line. They discovered very quickly that their rudder had been severed by the line sadly meaning they could not return to the race course again.
'Personally for us although the outcome for Team Premier wasn't so positive as a result of our crab pot collision at 18 knots, it was a very positive outing for the Farr 400, showcasing the boat and the class in an important grand prix arena, in great conditions.' Recalled Waimer of Team Premier.
' The racing was very close racing and in the end it was a well known amateur helmsman who won against the professional helmsman of Santa under HPR.' Continues Waimer, 'And for both Chessie Racing and our own Team Premier this was actually the first time we raced the boats. We were both immediately competitive after two days of practicing. This alone speaks volumes for how easy it is to set up the boat and get it going.'
'The new HPR rule works well for boats like the Farr 400.' Comments Waimer, 'It just needs some tweaking on ratings for the different HPR boats - especially the ones that were not designed or built specifically for the rule. We are expecting a more competitive rating in Miami in March when the Farr 400 will next race a major regatta under HPR.'