Competitors in the 45th Annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race enjoyed the downwind conditions that have made the race a favorite winter routine for sailors worldwide. The race started on Thursday, January 23, in ENE breeze bouncing into the low teens, giving the fleet a fast ride down the coast from Port Everglades, before giving way to deeper VMG running conditions as the fleet rounded the curve of the Florida Keys.
Tim Britton’s Seacart 30 trimaran Tobiko led the way, reveling in the punchy early conditions and extending the lead throughout to win the Multihull division. Tobiko had perhaps the easiest transition through a low pressure area that developed southeast of Key West. Those watching the race on the Kattack Tracker could see a blue hole of very light breeze extending half way across the Florida Straits, with the northern edge just crossing the race course along the Keys. Tobiko crossed it as it was forming, but the rest of the fleet was not as fortunate. The tracker also showed teams struggling to shift gears and get through the roadblock.
When the dust settled, It was Jim Grundy’s Dunning 42 Baby B crossing the line first for the monohull fleet, taking the class and fleet win in ORC. Baby B came into this third race of the 2019-20 SORC Islands in the Stream Series having had a tough time so far, but put together a stellar race to Key West to get the win. Second in ORC A was W.S. Shellhorse’s brand new Carkeed 40 Meridian XI giving Baby B a push all the way to Key West.
Joe Brito’s beautiful J-121 Incognito romped to the win in ORC B. Loaded with talent, Incognito also worked through some tough early results in the series, but now stands just two points behind series leader Rockstar, Tim Tucker’s C&C 115, going into the final race of the series, the Inaugural Eleuthera Race. Chris Lewis’ J-44 Kenai took second in class, and are one point behind Incognito for the series.
Trey Sheehan’s Melges 32 Flat Stanley legged out on the PHRF fleet, winning PHRF A class and fleet for the race. Norman Church’s venerable Morgan 41 Obsession, a veteran of many Key West Races, took the win in PHRF B, finally getting a class win, and the trophy Norm coveted. Obsession won the Dowager Trophy, awarded to the top boat in the fleet over 25 years old. The low pressure system flipped the results of the Racer/Cruiser class, with Corey Park’s O’Day 34 Jaloha taking the win from Colin Whittaker’s Hunter 42 Sempre Amantes and early leader Jeff Lichterman’s beautiful Perry 63 Dancin Bare V.
New to the race this year was the Doublehanded Class, offered to raise awareness of doublehanded offshore racing as a new mixed-gender Olympic class in 2024. Ken Read and Suzy Leech on the Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 Alchemist hit the starting line on time and with speed, and worked through the challenging race course to post the class win over Michael Hennessy and Katie Pettibone on Michael’s Class 40 Dragon.
After a competitive Conch Grinder Race on Saturday morning, (won by the Farr 395 Senara), competitors gathered at First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery for the awards party and post race celebration. Thank you to everyone who participated. The competitors make the race what it is. Thank you to sponsors Mt. Gay Rum and North Sails, and thank you to hosts Lauderdale Yacht Club and Storm Trysail Club for 45 years of fun and competitive racing to Key West. See you next year.