(Key West, FL)- It's been said the only certain things in life are death and taxes. But, for sailors “in the know”, you gotta add to that list a full week's worth of racing in Key West. Thursday’s sailing was simply spectacular, with a classic NNE breeze blowing 10-20 kts, clear blue skies, and white caps dotting the seas over turquoise waters.
The strong northerly winds allowed for another three-race day on all courses. Hap Fauth, skipper of Bella Mente, felt exhilarated as he stepped onto the dock following Thursday's action. "We had absolutely fabulous conditions out there today," Fauth declared. "Anybody who complains about any aspect of this regatta has a screw loose. This is just fantastic sailing."
So far, Tim Healy’s HELLY HANSEN has put forth an impressive performance in the J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 60 boats. Healy, the defending class champ in Key West, has placed first or second in five races and counts no lower than a fourth in accumulating 15 points. SAVASANA, the second place entry skippered by Brian Keane, is a whopping 27 points astern.
Healy won two races on Thursday and finished fourth in the other to earn the Industry Partner Boat of the Day honor. He received the beautiful handcrafted Ship's Bell Clock trophy from Chelsea Clock. Geoff Becker and John Mollicone are teaming to call tactics while Gordon Borges works the bow aboard HELLY HANSEN.
"The big takeaway today was that you can't get too focused on one side of the course. We saw big shifts both ways and there was plenty of pressure on both sides," Healy said. "Our strategy has been to choose a side, but not be the furthest boat out there. You don't want to get pushed all the way to the edge."
Just behind the two leaders and only four points out of second is Great Britain’s Ian Atkins and his team sailing BOATS.COM. The come-back of the week award must surely go to David Ullman sailing USA 32 after their slow start on the first day of racing. Starting off with a rather humble 39-14, Ullman’s team added a 5-4-1-7-19-7 for a total of 57 pts to leap into fourth overall after ending the first day’s racing in the high 20’s. Fifth is Joel Ronning’s CATAPULT with 60 pts.
There figures to be some fireworks in PHRF 1 as four boats are still in contention with a 4.5 pts separating all of them. SPACEMAN SPIFF, sailed by Rob and Ryan Ruhlman of Cleveland, Ohio, held onto the lead for a second straight day, but is just 1 ½ points ahead of fellow J/111 Team FIREBALL (Eddie Fredericks, Annapolis). TEAMWORK, the J/122 skippered by Robin Team, is coming on strong - having won five of the last six races to get within 2 ½ points of the lead. Finally, STARK RAVING MAD, a J/125 owned by James Madden, also has a shot to win.
"It's a strong class with a lot of good boats and it's not surprising the regatta has come down to the last race," said Team, who was regretting a seventh place suffered in Race 8. "We've got to go out tomorrow and win the race. That's all there is to it."
Skipper Bill Sweetser and the crew on the J/109 RUSH have clinched victory in PHRF 2, posting a steady stream of firsts, seconds and thirds in the seven-boat fleet. Veteran pro Tom Babel called tactics on RUSH, which has built an insurmountable lead over fellow J/109 HEAT WAVE (Gary Weisberg, Gloucester, Mass.). Sweetser, an Annapolis resident who has been class runner-up in Key West four times, announced he will not race on Friday to avoid a breakdown in the big breeze or fouling another competitor.
VAYU2, a J/80 chartered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, is the runaway winner of the 12-boat J/80 class. Professionals Jahn Tihansky and Andrew Kerr are helmsman and tactician, respectively, aboard VAYU2, which has won six races and placed second in three others in totaling 12 points. After struggling at the beginning of the series, John Storck and crew on RUMOR have posted steady top five finishes to jump into second overall. The balance of the top five are all husband/ wife couple teams, led by Bob & Cheryl Hayward’s BLUE JAY in third with 40 pts. Fourth only two points back are Chris & Liz Chadwick on CHURCH KEY and fifth are Bill & Shannon Lockwood on SHENANIGANS.
Friday’s racing promises to have another epic, even windier day, with 15-25 kts wind forecasted from the NNE.
Sailing photo credits- Onne Vanderwal
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