Key West, Florida Keys — Rain squalls and wind shifts couldn't put a damper on the competition during Day 2 at Quantum Key West 2014. Multiple storm bands that were quite severe at times challenged the race committees and forced delays. Ultimately, perseverance and patience paid off as Division 1 completed a race while Divisions 2 and 3 got in two each.
"We were seeing massive wind shifts – pre-squall and post-squall. The breeze went in a circle for a while," said Ken Legler, veteran principal race officer on Division 1. "We had to move the signal boat a couple times and once we got a race going we had to move the weather mark a couple times."
After postponing twice, Legler got a start away at 2:25 in the afternoon and it was a wild ride for the five classes competing on Division 1. Doug DeVos, skipper of Quantum Racing, saw 30-plus knots on the wind gauge.
"We saw just about everything out there. On a crazy day like this it's important for everyone to remain calm, which is the way it was on our boat," DeVos said. "You try to keep guessing what will happen, but you don't get too antsy when something different happens. You just have to accept that this is what we have and adjust."
Quantum Racing, with America's Cup veterans Terry Hutchinson and Ed Baird giving DeVos advice on tactics and strategy, scored its third straight victory in the professional-laden 52 Class. DeVos was all smiles to hold a four-point lead over Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, Great Britain) following two challenging days off the Conch Republic.
"We feel really good. How can you not? You just want to keep yourself in the regatta when the conditions are difficult. Our team is not only keeping us in it, they have us winning races," DeVos said.
Practice day at Quantum Key West 2014. Photo © Keith Brash for Quantum Racing
Caol Ila R, the 69-footer skippered by Alex Schaerer of Newport, R.I., took first place in the Mini Maxi class ahead of 72-foooters Bella Mente and Shockwave. It was the second victory in three races for Caol Ila R, which can benefit from sailing in clean air while the two bigger boats battle it out.
"In a way it's an advantage for them," admitted Mark Mendelblatt, a member of the Shockwave afterguard. "There are times when we can tack on them and push them back, but we also have to be aware of Bella Mente."
Decision maintained the lead in High Performance Class for a second straight day after placing second in the day's lone race behind fellow Carkeek 40 Spookie. It's a tight class with only three points separating the first and fourth place entries.
"We are very evenly-matched with Spookie and it seems like we've been swapping leads with them every leg, which is exciting," said Murray, who also praised the performance of the Farr 400 Rock & Roll and the McConaughy 38 Riot. "Really, any of these boats could win the regatta. They are all well-sailed and it's been great competition so far."
Vitesse, a Swan 42 skippered by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, has displayed superb consistency in placing second in all three races against a tough fleet in IRC 3. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, has sandwiched a pair of bullets around a seventh and stands second overall with nine points.
"We have a great crew and they are sailing the boat very well in trying conditions," Halbert said. "The wind was all over the place today – we saw everything from five to 35 knots with 30 degree shifts. It was important to anticipate the wind oscillations and change sails accordingly."
Catapult's victory in IRC 3 earned the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day award. Veteran professional Geoff Ewenson is calling tactics for Glimcher, who captured an IRC Sub-Class at Quantum Key West 2013.
IRC 3 was the most competitive class on Tuesday with the top five boats finishing within a minute of each other on elapsed time and the top eight boats inside of three minutes on corrected time.
"What a spectacular day of racing. We had a big build-up and were not disappointed," said Glimcher, who finished just 17 seconds ahead of Vitesse on corrected time. "Winning Boat of the Day is very exciting for the Catapult team."
Boat-handling was at a premium on Division 2 as the J/70 and Melges 24 classes were buffeted by the big breeze. There were plenty of knockdowns and round-ups as the sport boats with oversized spinnakers were pounded with sudden gusts.
Skipper James Allsopp and his team on Moxie showed tremendous skill and strategy in winning both races in J/70, largest class of the regatta with 60 boats. Former College of Charleston sailor Zeke Horowitz was on his game calling tactics on Moxie, which led after the first day of racing last year as well.
"We went out there with a plan and we stuck with it. Everything just kind of came together for us today," said Allsopp, who competed collegiately at the Naval Academy. "We got off the line well in both races and did a good job of managing the shifts. We had a good time today."
It was equally rough-and-tumble for the Melges 32 fleet with Tuesday race winner Deneen Demourkas reporting that all seven boats suffered a knockdown at some point. Demourkas steered Groovederci to victory with Cameron Appleton calling tactics and is two points behind Hedgehog (Alec Cutler, Bermuda) in the overall standings.
"I like the heavy air. You'll never hear me complain about it being breezy," said Demourkas, a finalist for the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award for 2013. "This is a strong fleet. Every boat has the potential to win the regatta."
Principal race officer Wayne Bretsch and his team on Division 3 worked overtime to get in two races, staying on the water until after 5 p.m. Vayu2, the defending regatta champ skippered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, got the gun in Race 3 after placing second in Race 2 and leads J/80 class by seven points.
There is a nice duel shaping up in PHRF 2 with a pair of J/111 entries – Team Fireball (Eddie Fredericks, Annapolis) and Spaceman Spiff (Rob and Ryan Ruhlman, Cleveland, Ohio) tied with seven points after three races. Team Fireball holds the overall lead by virtue of two bullets.
Skipper Bill Sweetser and the Rush crew extended their lead in PHRF 2 by posting a second and a first on Tuesday. Rush is six points ahead of fellow J/109 Heat Wave (Gary Weisberg, Gloucester, Mass.).