This week’s big sailing news comes courtesy of Florida’s Conch Republic, where Key West Race Week (January 19 to 24) is giving racing sailors of almost all stripes the opportunity to (temporarily) abandon their snow shovels and enjoy some high-quality racing in one of the country’s best winter-sailing destinations. According to reports, the winds were light for the first day of racing, requiring that the RC postpone racing for 90 minutes, but, ultimately, the event organizers were able to rifle off between one and two races per class. Not surprisingly, given the regatta’s standing as a midwinter destination regatta, racing proved competitive in all classes as sailors tried hard to establish good ground-up leaderboard results-crucial, considering the regatta’s length and its impressive talent pool.
The 52 Super Series saw some particularly close action as 'Quantum Racing' fought off her competition to take the first two bullets of the regatta with owner Doug DeVos at the helm. While there are plenty of great sailors racing in this class, 'Quantum’s' biggest challenge came from Niklas Zennström’s 'Ran Racing', who is currently sitting in second place, and who will no doubt continue to pose a substantial threat to 'Quantum' for the rest of the week.
'We were a bit lucky,' reported 'Quantum’s' tactician, Terry Hutchinson. 'The second race was a well-sailed race and we got away and then we had to gybe away because we were getting rolled by two maxi boats, which we really did not want to do. And 'Rán' was able to escape but when we came into the finish we were two lengths ahead of them, we had given up about 100 meters are that point and so it was good to win that race. But as we know it is a long series here, this is great first day for us, but it is no more and no less than that.'
Inside, get the full scoop on Key West Race Week’s opening salvo, and stay tuned to the website all week as more news from the Conch Republic unfurls.
Speaking of Florida, the 49erFX North American Championships wrapped up yesterday, with Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze sailing away with top honors. Inside, don’t miss our video and written coverage of this international event.
And while the 35th America’s Cup is still a long ways off, with no date or class of yacht yet to be firmly established, teams are betting that AC35 will be contested in state-of-the-art catamarans and are therefor using 2014 accordingly. According to reports, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) plans to rejoin the Extreme Sailing Series, with skipper Dean Barker taking the helm for five of the season’s eight regattas, leaving helming duties to 49er great Peter Burling for the remaining three events.
'We can’t wait around until Oracle releases the Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup,' said Barker. 'We need to keep developing and take every available opportunity to compete in cats.' Besides the obvious reason of acquiring more high-end multi-hull experience, ETNZ’s afterguard sees this circuit as an important way to keep the sailors sharp during these interim Cup years.
'Extreme 40 racing is unlike any other; the teams are very competitive, races are short, the action non-stop and split-second decisions are needed,' said Barker, who plans to rotate crewmembers through the various onboard jobs. 'Between the two of us [skippers] we will be able to field competitive crews through the year.'
Also Cup-related, Gary Jobson recently sat down with five-time Olympic medalist Sir Ben Ainslie, the winning tactician aboard Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup, to get his pulse on Oracle’s stunning comeback during AC34.
'We were obviously in a pretty difficult situation as a team,' said Ainslie about Oracle’s overall situation when the call was made for him to replace John Kostecki as the team’s tactician. 'My goal was to be Mr. Positive even though things were looking just about as bad as they could be, to try and get some enthusiasm going. Of course this America's Cup, I think, was always going to be a development race with the new class of boat with the AC72 multihulls and foiling and everything that goes with that. There was always a chance that we could develop faster than any other team and build some confidence from that. Ultimately that is what happened.'
Get the full interview, inside, and stay tuned to the website for the rest of Jobson’s interview with Sir Ben, later this week.
Also inside, get the full scoop on next week’s ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami (January 27-February 1), the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race and the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race. And finally, be sure to check out the report from Thomas Colville’s latest solo circumnavigation project, and stay tuned for more news from this record-breaking passage attempt, as it becomes known.
May the four winds blow you safely home,
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor - 4:15 PM Tue 21 Jan 2014 GMT
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