Friday, February 8, 2013

"The Key West Scrolls"- Sailing World Blogs

Tim Healey and Dave Reed sailing J70Sailing World Blogs- the Most Excellent Key West Experience
(Key West, FL)- During Quantum Key West Race Week, there was more than enough activity and perspectives on life, love, friends, family and "simply messing about in boats" to fill an encyclopedia.  To that end, Sailing World's Dave Reed and Stu Streuli and others like Don Finkle, long-time J sailor and dealer and Jonathan McKee, long-time family friend from Seattle, WA provided unique insights on "why" people enjoy the "Woodstock of Sailing"-- Key West Race Week-- a gathering of friends from around the world to start the "New Sailing Year".  Yes, there are others that are similar that bring together sailors from a wide variety of classes and from all four corners of the compass; like Cowes Week, Cork Week (Ireland & Canada), SPI Ouest France, NYYC Race Week, Big Boat Series, Long Beach Race Week, Bacardi Miami & Charleston Race Weeks (NKOTB's), Kieler Woche, Block Island Race Week, Whidbey Island Race Week, Delta-Lloyd Race Week, Marseille and Palma Mallorca's newly famous shindig- PalmaVela, just to name a few, but the grand-daddy of the big-time winter events that gets the ball rolling for the new sailing year simply happens to be "Key West".  Here are some perspectives from those who experienced it first-hand.

"Musical Chairs"- by Dave Reed
Sailing World Editor Dave Reed was embedded with Tim Healy's J/70 HELLY HANSEN for an insider's look into the class's first major event.  Here are some excerpts:

Sunday, January 20- The Beginning of Time
"Tim Healy, John Mollicone, Geoff Becker. These guys are what you’d call 'The Starting Three'. As J/24 champions many times over, they know what they’re doing. Together, they’d be pretty darn close to an ideal combined weight for the J/70 class, rumored to be around 600 pounds or so, but no one really knows. Then there’s myself. Over the next five days of racing I could either be the extra (excess) weight in this program, or just the right difference when, and if, it gets really windy. I’m OK with being an extra set of hands and a little more righting moment. I’ve got one of the best seats in the house.

It’s all new, this J/70 thing. Most of the teams in the fleet are still assembling boats, sailing them for the first time, and debating over headstay length, rake, and whether to race with three up or four up, and then where to put them and who does what. In the fleet of nearly 40, the talent and crew combinations are all over the map. Where there’s a few big guys, there’s a petite fourth. There are big-three Etchells-type teams, and plenty of foursomes."

Friday, January 25- The End of Time
"The Final Four- A week ago, as you may recall (if not, see above), I joined 'The Starting Three' in Key West, full of uncertainties. A new boat, a new team, zero practice days, and a lot to figure out: who does what, who sits where, what’s the right headstay length, and on and on.

Our first two starts were terrible, and in light winds, comebacks don’t happen easily. That’s where the double-digit points came in. The next day, we went 3,3,1. 'The Tim Healy' (as labeled on his recyclable metal water bottle on the boat), shook off whatever it was that was occupying his mind, and started like the expert he is. After winning the last race of the day, he joked with a wry smile, “Well, at least I know I don’t suck."   Read more about Dave's adventures being the "cog in the wheel" on what is, at least for the moment, one of the world's fastest J/70s.  Plus,  see Facebook sailing video for good downwind sailing technique on Tim's boat here.

Don and Tim Finkle sailing J70s"The Finkle Files"- by Don Finkle
Long-time J/Sailing Veteran, J/Dealer and leader at RCR Yachts enjoyed his first J/70 regatta with his son Tim and friend Morgan Paxhia-- it was a family affair.

Sunday, January 19
"When the editor asked me to write a blog for Quantum Key West Race Week, he failed to tell me that the other storytellers he chose were Jonathan McKee and Steve Hunt. I’m not sure I would have agreed to do this if I knew I was in such accomplished company. But even 'ham-and-eggers' like me have stories, so here we go.

Quantum Key West 2013 started for Team Junior last Monday as my wife Heather and I pulled out of Youngstown, N.Y. (near Niagara Falls) with our J/70 in tow.  So began a three-day drive, which was enjoyable for me but less so for her. The fog in the mountains of the Appalachians made for some hairy driving conditions. Plus, I had no idea there were so many 18-wheelers on the roads. We passed a couple of them in the ditch, which was even less reassuring to Heather….

One of the reasons for my downsizing from my 36-footer to the J/70 was the ability to travel more easily. My favorite part of sailing is doing travel regattas. To that end I wanted to tow down and back myself for the experience. We had already done that in November to Annapolis for the Fall Brawl Regatta, but that was only a one-day trip. Key West is a much bigger deal, but so far, it’s been well worth the trip---

Another reason I moved into the J/70 was so that I could sail with younger people, especially my family, who frankly have more fun on a sportboat. I’m 65 years old, and I’ve always sailed with multiple generations on our boats. I find sailing with younger people gives me energy. I’m clearly the weak link on our crew this week, but that is OK, the boys seem happy to put up with me-- at least so far.

Our youngest son Tim is the trimmer. His long-time friend Morgan Paxhia, who is family to us, is our driver. These two started sailing against each other in the Youngstown YC junior sailing program when they were about 10 years old and have been school classmates, buddies, and sailing friends for 20 years.

Morgan went off to sail in college at the University of Rhode Island, and Tim went to Connecticut College where he played hockey and lacrosse. The three of us sailed together on the J/70 in Annapolis in November and had a ball, but figured we'd be light for Quantum Key West so Morgan tabbed his former teammate from URI, Joey Mello, to be our fourth. Joey has been heavily involved in the 'Ninkasi' Melges 20 and Melges 32 programs. He’s our tactician, and that leaves me with the all-important tasks of passing up water and sandwiches, helping on the hoist and douse, making sure the Velocitek has batteries, and so forth. It all worked well on the practice day, now we get to see how we do when the fur starts to fly in earnest!"  Read more here about the Finkle's dramas and adventures (or lack thereof) on the Sailing World blogs.

Jonathan McKee sailing in Key West"McKee's Key West Minute"- by Jonathan McKee
Jonathan and his brother Charlie have all grown through their experiences racing a variety of boats, including J/24s and other various J's over time.  Jonathan is not just a remarkably talented sailor, he's also a great person with an interest in helping grow the sport overall along with friends Dave Ullman, Carl Buchan and others who grew from their experiences in various one-design classes.  Here's Jonathan's amusing commentary:

Sunday, January 20
"It is so great to be back in Key West. I missed it last year and somehow my whole year was not the same. The combination of sunny warm weather, beautiful emerald water, great racing, and a unique colorful town is unmatched by any other regatta.

Key West always provides ample down time, and causes me to reflect on what a fortunate life I have. Not only do I get to race on a beautiful high-tech race boat with a well-trained crew, practicing my craft against the best sailors in the world, but there is time to catch up with old friends from previous campaigns. I always run into people I have not seen for years, sometimes decades. Memories flood back of races and good times past.

Coming as it does at the beginning of a new season, Quantum Key West is a fresh start, but also a time for reflection, a chance to give thanks for all this sport has provided to me over the years, and all the funny and wonderful people I have had the pleasure of knowing. Now onto the racing."

Thursday, January 24
"One of the many great things about Key West is the live music. There must be at least 20 bands and musicians playing at any time. I have never seen anything like it. Nearly all the venues are open to the street, and there is no cover charge. So it is very easy to drift from band to band and check out several musicians in a short time. Personally I get quite inspired by watching music performed live, so I really love this aspect of the Key West experience. In fact, I am listening to a grisly old singer/guitar player right now, crooning an old Leon Russell tune in the Schooner Wharf Bar. Beats working!  The amazing thing is most of the musicians are really good. I guess if you are traveling musician, Key West in January is not a bad gig. Most of the music is sort of folk or blues oriented, with the odd rockers and jazz types. Not a lot of hip-hop here in Key West. I guess this reflects the demographic, which is predominantly white and middle age. Although, maybe I’m not ferreting out the alternative venues well enough."

The Editor was pleasantly amused by Jonathan's perspective.  On Wednesday, the night before he wrote his impressions of the local music scene, Jonathan happened to walk into a famous local "wine bar" called Virgilio's, an open-air patio behind the equally famous Italian restaurant on Duval St called "La Trattoria".  A three-piece band was playing-- two guitars and a drummer.  After catching up for awhile about family, friends, life, the band resumed its next set and we were simply blown away by the sound and improvisation of this trio. There you go Jonathan, we certainly found another great "alternative venue", if not entertainers!  To next year!  And, with you and Elizabeth sailing a J/70!
Read more about Jonathan's sailing experience here on SW's Blogs.