Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Silver Anniversary Key West- A Memorable Classic!

J/80 one-design sailboat- sailing Key West J/122 TEAMWORK Wins PHRF A/ J-Class & LE TIGRE Wins J/80 Midwinters
(Key West, FL)- It was a frantic finish for the 119 entrants at Quantum Key West 2012 as several boats snatched victory with strong performances on the final day.  It was a fitting end to the 25th Silver Anniversary Edition of Key West.  As usual, Key West delivered on an almost picture-perfect "postcard" week of sailing.  The weather conditions provided a challenge for all over the course of the five days and the creme d'la creme rose to the top in every class.

J/111 Mental sailing in perfect Key West sailing conditionsThe weekend before Race Week started was fabulous, great N/NW winds blowing 10-20 knots, sunny, flags snapping away, with gorgeous aquamarine waters sparkling in the fresh breezes.  Happy dolphins were frolicking and jumping everywhere and curious sea turtles kept poking their heads out to see strange contraptions approaching them looking for all the world like an upside-down shark.  Pelicans walked around the docks and massive 8-10 ft long tarpon swimming beneath hung around like stray dogs waiting for any scrap of food the sailors might toss them.  It was even more amazing to watch giant, sleek black cormorants dive beneath the surface to seemingly always come up with a fish stuck in their gullet-- amazing fishermen!  While the "wildlife" on the waters were appreciated by all, perhaps the most ambivalent opinions were directed at all the wild hens and roosters (not talking about sailors here!) that were scampering around the streets-- if you were unlucky, you'd have a rooster crowing really loudly near your bedroom window at around 5-6 am every morning!  Certainly not a good thing for those sailors who themselves were enjoying Key West's notorious nightlife into the wee hours of the morning!

J/80 one-design sailboats- sailing upwind at Key WestThe sailing was simply incredible.  Each day presented a new challenge and each day ultimately presented a unique set of sailing conditions-- they may have appeared to be the same, but they never are exactly the same.  Monday was the windiest day, with 18-24 knots of wind from the NNE, starting out grey but clearing as the day went on for two excellent races.  While it was forecast to be an oscillating-persistent shift veering further East, one could often play the wind shifts and make gains on the left side of the course upwind.  By Tuesday, as the fronts kept moving and the High went offshore, the wind moved into the Easterly quadrant and diminished to 8-14 knots-- again it was sunny with deliciously clear, azure-colored waters reflecting the white sands beneath the boats and the fleet was treated to three races.  Much like Monday's racing, you could not hit a corner upwind or downwind, lest you get killed by those playing the wind shifts.  As predicted, Wednesday's sailing was washed out, no wind, not even a breath of air.  Thursday and Friday's sailing were simply classic Key West "shorts & shades" sailing days- ESE winds 8-14 kts, sunny, with temps in the balmy 70s all day.  With three races on Thursday and two on Friday, it was a fitting, memorable finale for this Silver Anniversary event.

J/80 Key West Champions- Glenn Darden, Reese Hillard on Le TigreMaking the most of the conditions was Glenn Darden's J/80 LE TIGRE team from Fort Worth Boat Club, Fort Worth, Texas.  Glenn and his affable team comprised of co-owner Reese Hillard, Johnnie Gluek (Newport, RI) and Karl Anderson (Cape Cod, MA) never looked back after the first day; it was clear their experience as past J/80 World and North American Champions was keeping them out of trouble and sailing fast.  Leading the regatta from wire-to-wire, LE TIGRE walked off with the J/80 Class and were declared J/80 Midwinter Champions.  Giving them a run-for-the-money at times was Swedish J/80 Champion Mikael Lindqvist on ROCAD RACING.  Mikael's team ended the regatta on a high-note, winning the last race and tied LE TIGRE for top J/80 of the day on Friday, securing 2nd place for the regatta.  Third was Ron Buzil's VAYU 2, fourth was past J/80 North American Champion John Storck, Jr on RUMOR and fifth was Chris and Liz Chadwick's CHURCH KEY- one of their best J/80 Championship performances to-date.

J/80 SAIL BAB Team- Ryan Glaze from Dallas, TexasOf special note, the SAIL Magazine's Best Around the Buoys competition winner, Ryan Glaze from Dallas, Texas, sailed remarkably well to finish 6th on their boat SAIL BAB-Team Gringo.  In fact, after the first two days of sailing on Monday/Tuesday, Ryan and crew were lying in a solid second place overall!  However, perhaps the lay-day Wednesday and the classic Key West "daze" (e.g. late evenings) got to them as they faded from their podium position and fell out of the top five in the last two days, posting a 10-12-6-3.

J/122 Teamwork- PHRF A Champions at Key WestCompetition was fierce all week in PHRF 1 class with four different boats winning races. TEAMWORK, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, NC, fought its way through the fray to edge the J/111 MENTAL (Paul Stahlberg, Barrington, IL) by four points. It came down to the final day and TEAMWORK was up to the challenge, winning Race 9 and placing second in Race 10.  "We come down here to Key West to get the best competition we can find and boy did we this year," Team said. "We could not believe how close the racing was in this class. TRES HOMBRES, MENTAL and RUSH were all very well-sailed and pushed us from start to finish."

J/122 racer cruiser sailboat- sailing Key WestThis was the second Key West victory for Robin's TEAMWORK crew, who won in 2003 with a J/120. North Sails professional Jonathan Bartlett called tactics while fellow Annapolis residents Jeff Riedel and Kevin Ryman trimmed the jib and spinnaker. It was a particularly special win for Team since he had brother Adam and sons Alston and Coleman aboard.   "We were as well prepared as we ever have been for this regatta and it's a good thing because our competitors were really, really good," said Team, who also took top honors in the J/Class.

Rounding out the top five in PHRF A behind TEAMWORK in 1st and MENTAL in 2nd was Bill Sweetser's Annapolis, MD based team on the J/109 RUSH in fourth and Doug Curtiss's New England/ Buzzards Bay team on the J/111 WICKED 2.0 in fifth.

J/109 RUSH sailing team- Boat of the Day TuesdayIn the J-Class ToT (time-on-time) Division, behind TEAMWORK was Bill's J/109 RUSH taking second overall, interestingly enough, over a tie-breaker with Paul's J/111 MENTAL.  Fourth was Doug's J/111 WICKED 2.0 and fifth was Gary Weisberg's J/109 HEATWAVE from Boston/ Marblehead, MA.  A notable accomplishment was that Sweetser's RUSH team (see right) were the Boat of the Day after Tuesday's racing with a 1-1-2!

In the final analysis, perhaps what was most interesting about this year's 25th Silver Edition of Key West was to see the dominance of J sailors past and present who've risen to the top in other racing classes at Key West Race Week.  As the primary winter sailing event worldwide for many leaders in the sailing industry, for sailing professionals and for top amateur teams, its quite remarkable to see how many of them are alumni of the larger J/One-Design classes; proving yet again that many of the world's best sailors (legendary, famous sailors at that) have "gone to school" learning the ropes of sailboat racing on a "J".  Examples abound across the spectrum of the fleets.

In the Farr 40s, Jim Richardson (Newport, RI) raced J/24s for years, proving that he's still got it to race at the top of the game, winning the Farr 40 class in BARKING MAD.  "I wasn't too optimistic that we could win the regatta after what happened in that second race, but we just had to keep sailing with the understanding that every point was crucial," Richardson said. "We got better as the week went along and everything just sort of fell into place at the end." In other words, exactly what any good J/24 sailor would do to win.

It was a similar story in Farr 30s as skipper Deneen Demourkas (Santa Barbara, CA) and the GROOVERDERCI crew compiled an entire line of bullets. Deneen has raced J/105s with her husband "Johnnie D" for years in Santa Barbara, California on-board their J/105 ROCKIN & GROOVIN and learned the nuances of what it takes to get around the race track while minimizing mistakes and going fast, not the least of which why it's so important to have a good crew!

TP52 Wuantum Racing with Doug Devos and Terry HutchinsonThe TP/IRC 52-foot class was a bare knuckle brawl with all eight entries filled with fully professional world-class crews, the best that money can buy for these multi-million dollar campagins. Virtually every single boat had a J/Class veteran aboard steering or calling tactics to keep them going in the right direction.  Tough company for sure!  Regatta winner was former J/24 and J/44 owner Doug Devos sailing QUANTUM RACING, with J/24 World Champion Terry Hutchinson (Annapolis, MD) calling tactics.  Second was J/22 Cayman Islands owner (and former J/29 owner) Peter Cunningham racing POWERPLAY with J/24 class champion Tony Rey (Newport, RI) calling tactics (seen left here).  Third was Hap Fauth on Team BELLA MENTE with a crew loaded with J/Class sailors from Newport, RI.  Fifth was Ashley Wolfe sailing MAYHEM with Seattle J/24 champion sailor TP52 Powerplay sailed by Peter Cunningham and Tony ReyCharlie McKee calling tactics.  Seventh was Austin and Gwen Fragomen's INTERLODGE with J/24 World Champion Brad Read (Newport, RI) calling tactics and eighth was past J/24 sailor Irvine Laidlaw sailing his brand new HIGHLAND FLING XII with Caribbean J/24 Champion Peter Holmberg (St Thomas, USVI) calling the shots.  Needless to say, for a class filled with "superstar" sailors, it was the top J/Class sailors that guided all the winners home!

In the Farr 400s, the top boat RED sailed by Joe Woods and Paul Goodison are all former J/24 UK sailors.  And the rest of the fleet was dominated by top J/24 and J/105 sailors across the board, Eric Arndt from California was tactician on BLADE, Nick Turney from Ohio was tactician on SPACEMAN SPIFF, Mark Foster from Texas was calling the shots on MERIDIAN X and Kevin Miller from California was directing traffic on TEAM PREMIERE NORCAL!

In the High Performance Class, past J/24 Champion Larry Leonard (Annapolis, MD) was tactician on second place STRAY DOG.  And, former J/105 owner Patrick Eudy replaced one infamous BIG BOOTY with another "bigger BOOTY", sailing well enough to capture third.

J/24 sailor Ed Baird talking sailing at Key WestIn the highly professional, talent-laden class of Melges 32s, most of the top boats were all either past J/Class owners or had J/Class Champions calling tactics on-board.  Former J/80 sailor Ben Schwatrz (New York) sailed PISCES with J/24 World Champion and America's Cup Champion Ed Baird (St Petersburg, FL) as tactician, adding in top J/24 sailor Scott Nixon as trimmer; they led the fleet at one point and finished a solid second place.  Capturing third was past J/24 and J/39 owner Vincenzo Onorato sailing MASCALZONE LATINO (his family owns the Italian ferry-boat/shipping group called MOBY Lines).  Fourth was past J/105 North American Champion Alec Cutler (Annapolis/ Bermuda) sailing HEDGEHOG.  Sixth was past J/35 Great Lakes/ North American Champion Bob Hughes (Ada, MI) sailing HEARTBREAKER.  Eighth was CATAPULT with J/24 World Champion Chris Larson (Annapolis, MD) calling tactics along with another J/24 and Intercollegiate Champion (and 2011 Rolex Sailor of the Year) on-board- Bill Hardesty (Chicago, IL).

J/111s sailing upwind off Key West at starting lineAll in all, Key West was a fun event (a "bucket list" event for sure!) and to see the dozens of J sailing "alumni" makes for an entertaining regatta.  And, especially in Key West where sailing friends from around America, Europe, the Antipodes and points further beyond congregate for what may be one of the few events worldwide (like a Cowes, Spi Ouest, Block Island, Big Boat Series and others) that attracts a broad spectrum of sailors- industry, professional and amateur alike!  Next time, we all hope to see more J/Teams and J/Sailors participating in 2013!   Sailing photo credits- Tim Wilkes    For more QUANTUM SAILS Key West Race Week Sailing information