SAVASANA Wins J/105s, LE TIGRE Triumphs in J/80s(Key West, FL- Jan. 18-22)- This year's Key West Race Week was sponsored by Nautica Watches along with popular supporter Mt. Gay Rum. It was a great cocktail and recipe for success, making for many happy winners celebrating with drinks plus a new watch! Check out the photos of all the J's racing on the J/Boats Facebook page! (email us if you want high-resolution photos- contact us at J/Boats).
The weather was nearly postcard perfect, hard to go wrong sailing on aquamarine seas, sunny, with gentle breezes and 70 degree temperatures during the day. The fleet was treated to a typical cold front scenario where the incoming front pulls in SSW breezes and over the course of several days veers from NNW to SE. The fleet of 134 boats saw J/Boats having the largest total fleet of boats at the event- over one-third were J's ranging in size from the "classic" J/24 upwards through the range including J/29, J/80, J/105, J/109, J/122, J/125 and J/44. The races generally got off without a hitch due to the seasoned expert PROs like Ken Legler and others who stayed on top of the shifty, streaky breezes. Races started on time at 10:30 am and most fleets generally completed two races and were heading home by 2:00 pm.
On the Division 1 course, David Murphy's J/122 PUGWASH sailed well in IRC-B Class. At one point they had a solid lead but a few slow starts, missed windshifts and streaks rapidly jumbled the standings over the last two days. Nevertheless, David and crew managed to hang in there to get a podium finish- 3rd overall for the week. Their good fortune was counter-weighted by the roller coast rides seemingly experienced by Robin Team's J/122 TEAMWORK and Jim Bishop's beautifully repainted J/44 GOLD DIGGER. Both sailed well in a couple of races but had difficulty maintaining any consistency due to the very shifty, streaky wind conditions on Division 1 course- large black holes materialized frequently, swallowing up any unsuspecting boats and never let them go.
The Division 2 course with J/105s and J/80s had incredibly competitive racing. For the J/105s, it's Brian Keane's SAVASANA that took home the gold, finishing in first by a significant margin of sixteen points....almost not having to sail the last day because their lead was so large. However, the next three places from second to fourth was wide open until the last day. Essentially, a three-way tie exists between Ken Colburn's GHOST, Scooter Simmons BLACKHAWK and Damian Emery's ECLIPSE. In the end, it was Ken Colburn on GHOST that prevailed, finishing second for the week followed by Scooter Simmons sailing BLACKHAWK to third place and Damian Emery slowing down a bit onboard ECLIPSE on the last day to finish fourth.
The J/80 Midwinters lived up to its promise to be an indicator for the J/80 Worlds of how tough it would be to win in this closely fought class. The top five was truly a horse race with anyone still having a mathematical chance of winning with just two days (four races) to go. Each day brought a new leader to the top of the pack. The last day created a lot of anxiety for the leaders. However, Glen Darden on LE TIGRE managed to overcome an early race deficit, with Rod & Jeff Johnstone sailing LITTLE FEAT in the lead, to just catch one more boat by the finish to finish fifth and win the regatta. Rod & Jeff sailed extremely well on a challenging day to get two firsts to rapidly close the gap with LE TIGRE at the start of the day. Those efforts, however, were not enough to overcome a slow start with two 7's on the first day, LITTLE FEAT finished second by a point. Early regatta leader Will Welles on board RASCAL experienced some minor (but expensive) mistakes mid-week to fall off their consistent early showings, garnering a third overall. Conversely, Al Minella sailing RELENTLESS have a "barbell" shaped results table, with great results midweek but a few mid-pack races at the beginning and end of the week. Past J/80 World and NA Champion Kerry Klingler racing LIFTED had 1-2-3s in his record, but couldn't maintain any consistency to crack the top three, finishing fifth for the week.
LE TIGRE, co-owned by Glenn Darden and Reese Hilliard of Forth Worth, TX, Darden has competed in eight Key West race weeks, but has never taken a top win. Until now. An experienced racing sailor and collegiate champion at Tulane, Glen is a past J/105 North American Champion and has won the J/80 Worlds. This week, the team placed third or better in seven of 10 starts in capturing the J/80 Mid-Winter Championship, which was contested as part of Key West 2010. "We had a great battle with Jeff and were just able to hold on", said Darden, who had Ullman pro Max Skelley aboard as tactician.
Another Texan, Jay Lutz calling tactics on SWE 803 said, "The depth of the competition was much better than ever before". Magnus Tyremans entry (SWE 803) placed sixth in fleet, not bad for the tough, 19-boat class battle. Blake Billman was on the bow and Cal Herman worked the middle. Winning race 2, and finishing in the top ten consistently, the SWE 803 team followed the suspense of the final races between Le Tigre and Little Feat. "The lead boat LE TIGRE almost lost it", Herman said. One extra point and that would've been the case.
You can read more about what happened on the J/80 race course by reading Chuck Allen's Sailing World blog at http://tinyurl.com/j80chuckallen
The Stock Island located Division 3 course for PHRF boats saw two fantastic performances by two enthusiastic J Owners. In PHRF 1, Jim Madden's very fast J/125 STARK RAVING MAD and his fun-loving, happy-go-lucky crew from the San Diego/ LA area (including Gary Weisman and Benny Mitchell), had another great time in Key West and sailed away with PHRF A with eight bullets!
In PHRF 2, Bill Sweetser's J/109 RUSH led for most of the week but Thursday's windy day generated an uncharacteristic 4-3 for the day to drop him down to second overall by just one point. Their five firsts in ten races are an average of just over second place, it was testimony to their consistency and how well they sailed their J/109 RUSH. Perennial Key West participant, Steve Thurston's MIGHTY PUFFIN, got in some good sailing and good times during the regatta, sailing to a sixth overall.
In PHRF 3, the three J/24s stayed remarkably close to one another all week long. Mark Milne's BLAH BLAH BLAH "won" the J/24 Class award, finishing second in the overall standings. Just behind was Naroski/LeBlanc's NOJOE in third.
For Key West Race Week regatta information and sailing results.