Quantum Key West 2012 got off to a roaring start. Northeast winds that started off at 15 knots and built to 20-plus challenged crews on the opening day of the 25th anniversary regatta, organized by Premiere Racing.
'It was a classic Key West day - beautiful weather with breeze on,' said John Kilroy, skipper of the Melges 32 Samba Pa Ti. 'These are the type of sailing conditions we all come down here for. We'd love to have a few more days like this.'
That's because Kilroy and the Samba Pa Ti team performed extremely well in the heavy air, winning both races in the talent-laden 19-boat fleet. The California entry got a great start and led wire-to-wire in Race 1 then won a great battle with Hedgehog and Pisces in Race 2.
'We seem to have real good speed and our crew is sailing the boat well,' said Kilroy, who has Italian Lorenzo Bressani aboard as tactician. 'The second race was a real fight and we had a kite wrap that cost us some boats, but we were able to use our speed to come back.'
Samba Pa Ti was among eight boats that posted a pair of bullets on Monday. Quantum Racing began the regatta in impressive fashion by topping the eight-boat IRC class, comprised entirely of state-of-the-art 52-foot racing machines. Skipper Doug DeVos did a superb job of driving the Botin Partners design while veteran professional Terry Hutchinson called tactics.
'You can't win the regatta on the first day, but you can certainly lose it. We're happy to have put up some good results to start off,' Hutchinson said. 'We have a great group of guys sailing the boat and they were spot-on today. We sailed really well in both races.'
Quantum beat Vesper in Race 1 and PowerPlay in Race 2. Vesper, which won the 2009 Audi Med Cup while owned by Quantum Racing, has been optimized to the IRC rule by owner Jim Swartz and tactician Gavin Brady and showed great downwind speed. However, Vesper was unable to hoist a genoa in Race 2 and finished sixth.
'We've got a huge advantage on Quantum downwind so hopefully we can maximize that moving forward,' said Brady, adding that shore crew had already fixed the headsail issue.
Breakages were common in the 52-foot class as Interlodge did not start the second race while Highland Fling did not finish it.
Ran, a Judel-Vrolijk 72 owned by Niklas Zenstrom of England, set the pace in the Mini Maxi class. British tactician Adrian Stead said this is the team's fourth season sailing the boat and the crew work was flawless.
'All of our maneuvers were very good. The lads really did a tremendous job,' Stead said. 'I thought we got the most out of the boat both upwind and downwind. We're just very pleased with our performance overall. You can't ask for more than two wins.'
Members of the Ran shore crew who were on the water in a support boat were the true heroes of the day as there was a scary incident during Race 2. Keith Glynn, bowman aboard the Farr 40 Barking Mad, was thrown overboard when the boat got rocking in lumpy seas. Glynn knocked his head on a stanchion on the way over the side and was woozy in the water.
Troy Kennedy was piloting the Ran support boat and was in the vicinity near the downwind mark when word came over the radio about a man overboard. Teammate Barney Depledge spotted Glynn in the water just in time as the Irishman had been struggling and started going under. Depledge did not hesitate and dove into rescue the young man, who was taken to a medical center in Key West for observation.
'(Glynn) was exhausted and had swallowed a lot of water. If Barney hadn't jumped in he may not have made it,' Kennedy said. 'It was a pretty close call, but (Glynn) recovered on the way back to port and was in pretty good spirits.'
New Zealand skipper Willem Wester has Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe Bekking aboard his Grand Soleil 46 as tactician and the two combined to sail Antilope to victory in both races. Meanwhile, British skipper Joe Woods and the Red team got the gun twice to take the early lead in Farr 400 class, which is making its debut at Quantum Key West 2012.
Other double winners on opening day were Groovederci (Deneen Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Cal.) in Farr 30 and West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes (Bora Gulari, Detroit, Mich.) in Melges 24 and the J/122 Teamwork (Robin Team, Lexington, N.C.) in the J Boats subclass.
Another Groovederci, a Farr 40 sailed by John Demourkas, was named Nautica Watches Boat of the Day. Groovederci overcame some problems to finish fourth in Race 1 then got the gun in Race 2 and leads by virtue of tiebreaker over the German entry Struntje Light (Wolfgang Schaefer). Linda Calvert presented the Boat of the Day trophy on behalf of Nautica Watches, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary as an Industry Partner for Key West Race Week.
'We had issues in the first race. I did a double tack and then we fouled the Turkish boat and had to do a 720. We were way, way back, but I had the best downwind run of my life and we rebounded to finish fourth, which really saved the day,' said Demourkas, who has Cameron Appleton aboard as tactician. 'Fortunately, I got over the jitters and sailed much better in the second race.'
Forecasts call for strong winds again on Tuesday and organizers are hoping to complete three races, which would get the five-day regatta halfway to the stated goal of 10 races.
Key West Race Week website