Tuesday, September 27, 2011

25th Key West "J/Fest" Ready to Roll!

J/111 one-design sailboat- sailing around mark at Key West Race Week (Key West, FL)- America's premiere midwinter big-boat regatta, Key West Race Week sailing January 16-20, 2012, has much to celebrate. It's the 25th anniversary of the event, it has Quantum Sails as a title sponsor, and J sailors will again help create what has become a "de facto" J/Fest every winter in January down in the sunny, warm, near tropical trade-winds that are typical in the lower Keys at this time of year.

The tradition all started with the J/24 Midwinters in 1978, a week of sailing after the traditional "SORC feeder-race" known as the Lauderdale-Key West Race.  The first year was a resounding success, attracting most sailing industry luminaries you hear/ read about today in a 21 boat J/24 fleet- Tom Whidden, Vincent Brun, Dave Ullman, Dave Hirsch, Mark Ploch, Larry Leonard, Augie Diaz, Gary Weismann, Ed Reynolds, Jimmy Allsop, Dave Curtiss, Bob Barton, Bill Allen, Gordy Bowers, John Southam, Jimmy Scott, Scott Allan, John Kolius, Neal Fowler, Rick Grajirena, Carter Gowrie, Charlie Scott and so forth.  In less than five years, YACHTING magazine's Charlie Barthold was so inspired by the success of the J/24 Midwinters event in Key West they created Key West Race Week to incorporate not just one-design classes, but handicap classes, too.  The rest is history.  Later, as the baton was passed onto others, now under the leadership of Peter Craig at Premiere Racing, the event has continued to both prosper and survive the "best of times, the worst of times".

This coming year, a new innovation for 2012 will be J/Boats specific handicap classes.  “We are really excited about the prospects of developing J-specific handicap classes at Key West next January,” said Jeff Johnstone. “The concept is to group together different J designs of similar speed to provide both excellent class racing, as well as to open up the possibility for sub-class one-design racing. An example would be the J/111s and one or two other models racing together with a tight rating band. We are already projecting as many as six J/111s next year.”

In addition, the J/105s and the J/80s are again expecting solid turnouts for their 2012 Midwinter Championships in Key West with twenty or more boats expected in each class.  Most importantly, for both the J/105s and J/80s, there are "winter circuits" that enable sailing once a month from Jan-Feb-Mar-Apr leading up to the spring season on the Chesapeake!   Sailing photo credit- Ken Stanek.com  For more 25th Anniversary Key West Race Week sailing information.