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Southernmost Regatta: Gorgeous, challenging sailing at Key West

by J/Boats 29 Jan 11:00 PST 15-19 January 2024
Southernmost Regatta at Key West © Felipe Juncadella

At the end of a 113.0 mile-long Florida Keys, the Southernmost Regatta offerred sailors amazing weatehr, surrounded by shimmering turquoise waters.

Forgetting the offshore battles in Key West, the roosters roaming the streets have the right of way ashore and truly rule the roost... announcing every sunrise, and crowing at the crack of dawn to ensure you don't miss your morning Cuban "cafe con leche". Everything moves a bit slower down there, which is just how everyone likes it. Yet again, at the southernmost point of the United States, the Southernmost Regatta presented by Sailing Inc. just came to a close.

Six classes raced in the fourth edition of the event. A wide range of conditions ensured the best teams found their way to the top of the leaderboard after a week of racing.

Sailors enjoyed the laidback island lifestyle in the Florida Keys. Each day after racing, sailors gathered for awards at the Galleon Resort & Marina's Sunset Tiki Bar, with live music and Mount Gay aplenty.

"This is the fourth year we've organized racing in Key West," said Rob Ruhlman, skipper of the J/111 SPACEMAN SPIFF. "This year saw a noticeable increase in professionalism all due to the team Chip assembled: highly organized, yet personal and friendly."

J/111 Class

Tight competition characterized the J/111 racing for the half-dozen boat fleet. After five races, just one point separated the top two boats between Andrew & Sedgwick Ward's BRAVO and Rob Ruhlman's SPACEMAN SPIFF. The "tale of the tape" saw the Ward's BRAVO team (that included World Champion sailor Bill Hardesty as tactician) punch out a steller closing three-race tally of 1-2-1 to win with just 10 pts net. Meanwhile, the Ruhlman's SPACEMAN SPIFF could only manage a 3-4-2 to close with a total of 15 pts.

After the first three races, Bill & Jackie Baxter's FIREBALL was right in the hunt for the top of the leaderboard and with their 2-3-1 were just two points off the leader- BRAVO. However, the ensuing three races didn't go so well, posting a 4-4-4 record to drop them into fourth place. Then, by winning the 7th race and closing with a 3rd, they climbed back onto the podium to take a well-deserved bronze medal with an 18-point net.

J/70 Class

Douglas Newhouse's YONDER team from New York Yacht Club put on a show in the J/70 fleet with six bullets out of eight contests... it was a runaway victory for them with just 8 pts net. Rounding out the podium, and the only other team to win any races (2), it was Callisto Racing's HESTIA that took the silver with 13 pts net. Then, rounding out the podium taking the bronze was Boris Luchterland's UPPER LEFT with 19 pts net.

ORC Performance

Bill Hanckel's J/120 EMOCEAN had a fantastic time with their family-oriented crew and made a strong showing during the week, winning nearly all the races. It was Jon Weglarz's J/105 THE ASYLUM who had the last laugh though, winning the final race!

ORC Navigator Doublehanded

Taking the silver medal in this doublehanded class was Joe Kurta's J/105 SLEEPER from the NEKA Sailing Team in Glen Cove, NY.

Fifty races, including three distance races, were completed over five days. Regatta Chair Marty Kullman, Principal Race Officer Chip Till, and their teams rolled out the red carpet for sailors. The Southernmost Regatta Powered by Sailing Inc. extends its deep gratitude to the vision of the Ruhlman family, Evolution Sails, Chicago Yacht Club, Mount Gay Rum, Harken Inc., J/Boats, La Leyenda Mezcal, EWE Spirit Foundation, AA Dive Services, Sunset Tiki Bar, and the City of Key West. Media coverage was provided by Hannah Lee Noll, Sharon Green's Ultimate Sailing, and Up-Top Media.

The Mount Gay was flowing, the breeze was blowing, and the Southernmost Regatta had cemented itself as the place to be in January. Plan on joining the fun next year — onward & upward!

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