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Acura Key West 2008 - its a wrap

by Jeanne Kleene on 10 Feb 2008
2008 Acura Key West Tim Wilkes © http://www.TimWilkes.com
‘Chamber of Commerce’ conditions on Friday made for a spectacular three-race finale at Acura Key West 2008, presented by Nautica. “This was a classic Key West day. It was breeze on with warm weather and sunshine. You couldn’t have asked for a better final day,” Melges 24 winner Dave Ullman said.

Thanks to a little cooperation from Mother Nature and patience and careful judgment on the part of the Race Chairman and his four race committees, sixteen classes in 4 divisions all completed 8 races by the end of the week.

“I think the race committee did an amazing job this week. To hold eight races in three days is really quite amazing,” said Thomas Coates, winner of J/105 class aboard Masquerade. “It was a tough situation with too much wind on one day and too little wind on others. Peter Craig and his (Premiere Racing) team made the right decisions all week as far as when to send us out and when to keep us ashore, when to race and when not to race.”

A true national and international gathering, the southernmost city in the continental US welcomed over 2,500 sailors on boats hailing from 18 different countries and over 35 states. A record 60 foreign boats participated.
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Class Highlights

Farr 40 owner Jim Richardson used the word “ecstatic” to describe his feelings on winning the Farr 40 class for the first time in 11 trips to Key West. The Boston resident and crew of Barking Mad accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion, winning the eighth and final race to capture a tiebreaker with Mascalzone Latino. Because the Farr 40 class proved to be the most competitive and closely contested class this week, Barking Mad also earned the prestigious Acura Trophy for Boat of the Week honors. “It’s hard to win any regatta in this class and it has been especially difficult for us to win this particular regatta,” said Richardson, who has been second in Key West on several occasions.

The M30 competition was tougher than ever with a renewed 15 boat class. Deneen Demourkas’ Groovederci did, however, lead the M30 class from start to finish, winning Key West for the second time in four years. Scott Nixon of the Quantum loft in Annapolis called tactics. ‘We were doing it the hard way all week. We had to work our way up from the back of the fleet in a bunch of races, but we kept fighting. The team did an excellent job,” she said.

Competition was also extremely close in the Melges 32 class, which saw a significant increase in fleet size (27 entries) and the caliber of competition at Acura Key West 2008. Star, skippered by Jeff Ecklund of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, finished fifth or better in six of seven races that counted in edging New Wave by two points and capturing the Midwinter Championship. “This class is getting better and better all the time and this was probably the most competitive regatta we’ve ever had,” said Ecklund, who had boat builder and champion sailor Harry Melges aboard a tactician.
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California sailmaker Dave Ullman put together a tremendous final day of racing to go from fourth to first in the Melges 24 class, largest of the regatta with 46 boats. Ullman steered Pegasus 505 to a stellar line of 1-2-1 on Friday to finish three points clear of week-long leader Blu Moon (Franco Rossini, Switzerland). “Our team really likes sailing in the breeze. We are happy whenever it gets above 15 knots,” said Ullman, who has won the Melges 24 class five times in Key West. “Obviously we had a great all-around day.”

Swan 42s made their debut as a one design class, with 12 boats vying for the top spot. Andrew Fisher’s Bandit topped the field, just 5 points ahead of Mark Watson’s Tiburon. The Swan 42 class races with no discard. “It’s fantastic to win in Key West. It’s always great conditions and superb racing,” Fisher said. “I think the key for our team was that we never gave up. We battled back from adversity on several races.”

J/Boats featured very impressive J/105 and J/80 fleets. J/105’s were 34 strong this year, with entrants hailing from 12 different states, Bermuda and Canada. J/80 numbers were also up, with 19 boats. Tom Coates’ Masquerade crew successfully defended their J/105 championship. “This regatta always attracts the top programs in our class so we certainly are very pleased to have won here four years in a row,” Coates said.

John Storck Jr. in his J/80 Rumor defeated past Key West and National Champion Kerry Klingler in Lifted. “We’re really fast upwind, especially in the breeze,” said Storck’s daughter Kaity, sharing secrets of Rumor’s success. “My dad tunes the rig and sets it up really well.” 18 other J-designed and built boats competed in 5 of the handicap classes.

Corsair 28Rs, the only multi-hull class in Key West had a very tight battle between Tom Reese’s Flight Simulator and Peter Katcha’s Relentless. Despite taking three firsts on Friday, Relentless lost to the Youngstown, NY boat by a mere ½ point.

The IRC 1 class was comprised of the 10 largest boats in the regatta and Dan Meyers’ new Judel/Vrolijk 66 Numbers proved the most consistent of them all. America’s Cup veteran Hamish Pepper called tactics for Meyers, who won five of eight races in compiling a low score of 10 points – four better than runner-up Flash Glove, a J/V 52 owned by Colm Barrington of Ireland. John Kilroy’s IRC optimized TP52 Samba Pa Ti finished 3rd and also took home TP52 sub-class honors. “This result had very little to do with me. It’s a credit to the guys who put so much time into designing, building and preparing the boat,” said Meyers, who won IRC 1 last year aboard his previous Numbers (Farr 60).

IRC 2 also featured 10 boats on the line. Murka 2 (Hamble UK) sailed a consistent series with only one 4th place, which was discarded. Key West regular Jim Bishop’s J/44 Gold Digger finished 2nd.

PHRF 1 honors went to Jim Madden racing his J/122 Stark Raving Mad for the first time in Key West. He led the class from start to finish, defeating 2007 champion Pete Hunter’s Thompson 30 Wairere.

PHRF 2 was won handily by a well sailed Emocean. Will Hanckel’s J/120 Key West experience and strong tactical calls kept them on top all week. J/109 sub-class honors went to Don and Nick Filippelli’s Caminos. “We got off the line real well in every race, grabbed the lead going up the first beat and were able to cover and control the fleet,” Hanckel said.

PHRF 3 champion Robert Hibdon’s 9 point week earned his SR-33 Temptress top honors in this 8 boat light-displacement class. Bill Berges in the Evelyn 32-2 Bluto’s consistent top 3 finishes got him on the podium in 2nd place.

PHRF 4 produced the 2008 PHRF National Champion, with Robert Armstrong’s St Croix based J/100 Bad Girl taking top honors. Gerry Taylor’s Cape Fear 38 Tangent was second. “There’s a lot of good crew communication,” Armstrong said. “We all sail together and this is the farthest we’ve gone to do a race.”

PHRF 5 saw Ken Schram’s T-10 Britsar proving that these boats are as competitive as ever. Going into the last race with just a 3 point lead over John Cooper’s J/29 Cool Breeze, Schram won the last race to secure the top spot.

PHRF 6 came down to Friday. Lincoln Schoenberger’s Wyliecat 30 One Up made the last day a thriller with three firsts to clinch the overall win. Bob Fleck’s S27.9 Horizon was just one point behind going into the last day of racing. “Sailing with people I enjoy is even more important than winning,” said Schoenberger. “Winning is icing on the cake.”
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Special Awards

Boats in 6 PHRF classes competed for class honors and the second PHRF National Championship. Competition was Key West tough with 5 of the 6 classes featuring single digit winning margins. Robert Armstrong’s J/100 Bad Girl (PHRF 4) prevailed in the objective criteria established for the National Championship, winning by one tenth of a point over Will Hanckel’s
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