By Bill Wagner, Press Officer
Key West, FL– With four days of racing complete, it is not difficult to identify the
stars of Quantum Key West 2013: The sun and the wind!
Even the most veteran sailors have been amazed by the fact every day of the regatta has brought spectacular conditions with warm temperatures and solid breezes. Wednesday brought 18-22 knot winds and Thursday’s breeze held steady between 14-18 knots.
“We’ve had an incredible string of great sailing days. I think that is really the story,” said Jonathan McKee, tactician aboard the Farr 40 Struntje Light. “We keep waiting for a crappy day and it just hasn’t happened. We’ve just been really lucky that each day has been spectacular.”
That good fortune is expected to continue on Friday as George Caras of Commanders’ Weather is forecasting winds in the 12-18 knot range and more sunny skies. George Collins was once a regular competitor at Key West, but hasn’t attended for many years. The 72-year-old skipper of Chessie Racing was equally amazed by the caliber of sailing throughout the week.
“What another beautiful day of racing,” Collins said upon returning to the dock in front of the Half Shell Raw Bar. “I can’t remember a week that had such consistently good breeze. There are usually one or two light days, but not this week. The Key West Chamber of Commerce gets five stars.”
Event chairman Peter Craig and his Premiere Racing team take pride in giving sailors a full week of action. Over the past 20 years, the annual regatta off the Florida Keys has lost just six days of racing. Barring some unforeseen situation, this will be another year that Premiere Racing has completed the target number of 10 races. More remarkable is that Division 2, under the direction of principal race officer Dave Brennan, is likely to get in 12 races.
It’s been a knockdown, drag out fight in IRC 2 (52 Class) all week and the winner probably won’t be decided until the last leg of the last race on the last day. Azzurra and Ran are tied atop the standings with 21 points apiece while Quantum Racing is just one point behind.
Helmsman Guillermo Parada and tactician Vasco Vascotto led the Italian entry Azzurra to victory in Race 7 on Thursday while skipper Doug DeVos and tactician Ed Baird led the American boat Quantum Racing to victory in Race 8. Ran, the Swedish program skippered by Niklas Zennstrom, also had a strong day with a second and third.
“We’re looking forward to a great final day of racing here in Key West. We have three boats, possibly four, in contention so it is going to be all on,” Ran tactician Adrian Stead said. “We’ve had fantastic racing all week in the class. Every race has been hard fought from start to finish.”
It has been a tremendous week of match racing between the 72-footers Bella Mente and Shockwave with the two trading wins. Skipper George Sakellaris and his crew aboard Shockwave won both races on Thursday and have clinched the overall victory. With two races remaining, Shockwave’s lead of four points is insurmountable.
“Great racing and great competition,” Sakellaris said. “Bella Mente is a terrific team and a real pleasure to compete against. Every race was back and forth. They would lead and then we would lead. It all depends on who picks the shifts first.”
Legendary sailmaker Robbie Doyle called tactics while former Olympian Mark Mendelblatt served as strategist for Sakellaris, a resident of Framingham, Massachusetts. Andreas Visintini was aboard as navigator. Racing was incredibly close between the Judel Vrolijk and Reichel-Pugh designs with one race being decided by six seconds and another by less than 20 seconds.
There’s a tight two-boat duel in the High Performance class between the Carkeek 40 sister ships Spookie (Steve Benjamin, Norwalk, CT) and Decision (Stephen Murray, New Orleans). Spookie was walking away with the regatta until blowing out its spinnaker in both races on Wednesday. That opened the door for Decision, which won both races on Wednesday to take the lead.
Spookie rebounded to win both races on Thursday, but Decision notched two seconds and maintains a narrow one- point lead. Spookie beat Decision by just one second in Race 7, crossing the line nine seconds behind and getting 10 seconds of time on handicap.
“The boats are very, very even so it’s been neck-and-neck, back-and-forth all week,” said Heidi Benjamin, who calls tactics for her husband. “We’re really looking forward to tomorrow. It should be very exciting racing. Johnny Lovell is a very good tactician while Stephen Murray is a very good driver so Decision will be tough to beat.”
Decision and Spookie have left the rest of the High Performance Class in the dust, leading George Collins (Miami Beach) and Chessie Racing to focus on winning the Farr 400 One Design competition. Chessie has won six of eight races within that sub class and holds an eight-point lead over Meridian X (Sled Shelhorse, Virginia Beach).
“Our crew work has been phenomenal. We’ve had very few mistakes,” Collins said. “I’m having a ball doing the starts and driving. The boats have a nice groove to them and are very quick. A little wet, but very fun to sail.”
There was some tremendous competition in Swan 42 class on Thursday between Apparition and Stark Raving Mad VI. Skipper Ken Colburn and the Apparition crew notched results of third and first to beat James Madden and the Stark Raving Mad team by one point. That effort earned Apparition The Marlow Trophy Boat of the Day honor.
When Deneen Demourkas arrived back at The Galleon Docks her husband John was waiting to hand her a mudslide. That’s because Deneen scored her first victory as a Melges 32 skipper, getting the gun in Race 7. Demourkas made her class debut at the Melges 32 World Championships last September and this is her second regatta.
“Worlds was our first event and none of us really knew the boat. We had a lot to learn so we took a lot of advice and tips from friends,” Demourkas said. “Today, we finally got off the line in good shape. Our boat speed has been fantastic so it felt good to finally get a nice start.”
Bombarda, skippered by Andrea Pozzi, posted a second and third on Thursday and remained the overall leader for the third straight day. Past class world champion Lorenzo Bressani is calling tactics for Pozzi, who holds a somewhat comfortable nine-point lead over the Japanese entry Swing (Keisuke Suzuki).
Full Throttle and hedgehog are engaged in a heated battle in Melges 24 class, second-largest of the regatta with 23 boats. Skipper Brian Porter and Full Throttle opened the series with a seventh, but have been able to throw that out and have finished no lower than third ever since. Skipper Alec Cutler and the hedgehog crew had put up a steady string of firsts and seconds before sailing their throw out on Thursday, an eighth in Race 7.
Cutler was annoyed because hedgehog had come back from dead last at the start to second place by the leeward mark, but subsequently missed a shift and lost six boats in Race 7. Full Throttle won two races on Thursday and now leads by four points.
“We can still win this thing. We just need to stay positive,” Cutler said. “Our boat speed is there and our crew work is there. We need to win the first race tomorrow then see where things stand.”
Follow the racing and shoreside action through the online portal: http://www.premiere-racing.com/KWRWLive/ USE #QKeyWest in your tags and keeping connected!
Quantum Key West 2013 is a US SAILING sanctioned event.
Event Sponsors include Title Sponsor Quantum Sails (Official Sailmaker) and Day Sponsors Lewmar/Navtec (Official Marine Hardware), Mount Gay® Rum (Official Rum), and Nautica Watches (Official Timekeeper). The Supporting Sponsors are B&G (Official Marine Electronics), Marlow Ropes (Official Rope), and Gill (Official Technical Gear).
Regatta dates are January 20 – 25, 2013.
Key West Race Week is also supported by The Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Council. The Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight is the Official Marina. The Ocean Key Resort and Spa is the Official Hotel. Sapporo USA is the Official Beer.
24 Industry Partners bring their support through a program that is now in its 12th year. Quantum Key West 2013 is a US SAILING sanctioned event.
The racing will be conducted under permit in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadow, mangrove communities and sand flats.