There was plenty of final day drama at Quantum Key West 2014 as the winners of several classes were determined during the last race. And conditions could not have been better for those winner-take-all scenarios with the southernmost point of the United States delivering the strongest winds of the regatta.
North-northeasterly breezes in the 18-24 knot range made for some spectacular racing on all three courses and enabled all 10 classes to complete 10 races for the five-day event.
No class was more closely watched all week than IRC 2, which featured six 52-footers crewed by a who's who of the professional ranks. Quantum Racing, skippered by Amway president Doug DeVos of Ida, Mich., began the day with a three-point lead and did what was necessary to secure the 52 Class championship by placing third in Race 10.
"What a great week!" DeVos exclaimed upon returning to the dock following Friday's lone race. "Great competition, great weather, great race management and great sailing conditions. This is really a fabulous event from top to bottom."
America's Cup veterans Terry Hutchinson and Ed Baird served as tactician and strategist, respectively, aboard Quantum, which wound up winning five of the 10 races. Juan Vila was aboard as navigator for the entry fielded by the sailmaking company that is title sponsor of the event.
Quantum Racing practice. Photo by Keith Brash. More great photos and video on Facebook.
Ran Racing, the British entry skippered by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, finished second in the final race, but wound up two points behind Quantum for the regatta. Ran, the reigning TP 52 World Champion, won two races and placed second or third in six others to finish 5 ½ points ahead of the Italian entry Azzurra, which captured class honors at Quantum Key West 2013.
"It was a fantastic week of sailing and we are very pleased with the regatta in terms of how the team and boat performed," Zennstrom said. "It's a good start to the season, a good start to the series."
Ran and Quantum held first and second for most of Race 10, but Azzurra sailed a great last leg and skipped past both to get the gun. Vasco Vascotto (tactician), Francesco Bruni (strategist) and Guillermo Parada (helmsman) comprised the afterguard aboard Azzurra, which earned the Quantum Sails Boat of the Day award.
An anticipated final-day duel between the top two boats in Melges 32 class never materialized as skipper Dalton DeVos and the Quantum-powered Delta team had an on-course-side start and were never able to challenge owner-drive Alec Cutler and the Hedgehog crew.
"We wanted to get a great start and pushed the line. Unfortunately, we were just a tad early and had to turn around," DeVos said. "Hey, that's sailboat racing. They don't let you get a head start."
Team Delta. Photo by Keith Brash.
The Quantum-powered Hot Mess, skippered by Rob Britts of St. Petersburg, Fla., was crowned as Corinthian champion of J/70 class. Britts posted six wins and three seconds within the 14-boat sub-class comprised of all-amateur crews.
Skipper Bill Sweetser has been bringing his J/109 Rush with Quantum® sails to Key West for 11 years and been runner-up on four occasions. The Annapolis resident sported a huge smile on Friday morning after clinching the class championship in PHRF 2 on Thursday. Sweetser steered Rush to victory in five races and placed second or third in fourth others in building an insurmountable lead that allowed him to stay ashore on Friday.
"It feels fantastic to finally win here in Key West! You could say we got the monkey off our back, or maybe it was a gorilla. I was tired of going home and hearing people say 'Too bad you got second again.' The whole bridesmaid talk was getting old," Sweetser said. "Everybody is so ecstatic. We can't wait to get the whole crew up on stage at the awards party."
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Quantum Key West 2014 Top Results
52 Class (IRC 2) – 1st
1 – Quantum Racing, Doug Devos
4 – Interlodge, Austin and Gwen Fragomen
Melges 32 – 2nd, 3rd
2 – Delta, Dalton Devos
3 – Helly Hansen Inga from Sweden, Richard Goransson
Melges 24- 2nd, 3rd
2 – Tramp, Thomas Ritter
3 – Zingara, Richard Reid
J/70 – 1st Corinthian
1st Corinthian, 7th overall – Hot Mess, Rob Britts
6 – Heartbreaker, Robert Hughes
8 – Menace, Kerry Klingler
PHRF 2 – 1st
1 – Rush, J/109, Bill Sweetser
Full results here.