January 20, 2015

A Challenging Day at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015

During 28 years of running a regatta off Key
West, Premiere Racing has a remarkable record of getting in a complete
series. Because of the consistent conditions off the Conch Republic, there
have been very few lost race days.
However, that does not mean that race committee officials compromise
quality just to give the competitors some action. Fair and equitable racing is
the hallmark of this event and organizers always make sure to adhere to that
Tuesday at Quantum Key West 2015 brought dicey conditions that forced
principal race officers make numerous tough decisions. There were some
delays, a few false starts and even one abandonment, but by the time the
day was over all three divisions had completed two races in shifty winds that
ranged from 5 to 7 knots.
“We got two decent races and that’s pretty remarkable considering what the
race committee had to deal with,” said Bennet Greenwald, skipper of the
J/70 Perseverance. “Those guys were really on top of things. They did a
very, very professional job.”
J/70, largest class in the regatta with 54 boats, is sailing on the Division 2
course that is managed by Dave Brennan. A veteran principal race officer
and Key West stalwart, Brennan was forced to delay several times in order
to start races in stable winds.
“The breeze was very dodgy and moving through at 50 degrees so the trick
was picking the right radial to kick the race off,” Brennan said. “We want the
sailors to have a reasonably square line. Prior to Race 4, we had to
postpone three times to reset the line.”
Brennan got the Melges 24 fleet started with a heading of 150 degrees and
by the time he went into sequence for the J/70 fleet the wind had shifted to
180. He credited an experienced team of race committee volunteers for
reacting quickly with regard to moving upwind marks and posting flags.
“We made the racing as good as we could. Actually, we were very fortunate
that it was quite good,” Brennan said.
Division 1 PRO Ken Legler was forced to abandon the first race of the day
while all the boats were on the course while Division 3 PRO Wayne Bretsch
had to recall the J/111 class back to the starting area after a significant shift
made the course unfair.
Veteran sailmaker Jud Smith was the daily winner in J/70 class, placing
second in Race 3 then getting the gun in Race 4. That moved the
Marblehead (Mass.) resident to the top of the standings with a low score of
30 points, just one ahead of the aforementioned Greenwald.
Smith, who is head of Doyle One-Design, has his daughter Lindsay on the boat along with Marc
Gauthier and Will Felder. The former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year says the entire crew participates
in tactics and strategy.
Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his team aboard Embarr continue to set the pace in Melges 24
class, which has attracted 13 entries. Clarke stayed hot with a third bullet to begin Tuesday before
cooling off and finishing seventh in Race 4.
“The core group of this team has been together a while now and is excellent,” said Clarke, who
placed third and fifth at the Melges 24 World Championship. “We made good tactical calls today
and had an ability to change modes.”
Clarke, who hails from Dublin, is competing off the Conch Republic for the first time. “This has
been a bucket list item for me personally. I’ve always wished I could do this regatta. To win in Key
West would be a great accomplishment.”
Party Girl, sailed by Jens Altern Wathne of Norway, won the day in Melges 24 class with a fifth
and a second – earning the Lewmar Boat of the Day Award. Jorgen Altern Wathne is calling tactics
for his brother.
Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler steered Hedgehog to victory in Race 3 and a third place finish in
Race 4 to extend his lead in Melges 32 class to three points.
Legler kept the four classes on Division 1 out a bit later in the afternoon in order to complete a
second race. Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth steered Bella Mente to victory in both races and now
leads IRC 1 by four points over fellow 72-foot mini maxi Shockwave.
“It was a very tricky day, but our crew was very strong and managed to find the right gears,” Fauth
said. “We got great starts and just managed to keep the boat moving.”
Dutch owner-driver Peter Vroon and his team aboard Tonnere 4 enjoyed a terrific day, posting a
first and second to take over the lead in IRC 1. Kevin George is serving as tactician aboard
Tonnere, a Ker 51, is doing its first regatta under Vroon’s ownership and the crew has gotten up to
speed quite quickly.
“We are using this regatta as a trial run for our season campaign,” said Vroon, who will be heading
to Antiqua and St. Barth’s after Key West. “We are spending this week learning how to sail the boat.
Of course, we came a long way to race here so it would be nice to win while we are at it.”
Vroon, who resides in The Netherlands city of Breskens, is a two-time winner in Key West.
Tonnere 4 now also leads the High Performance Rule sub-class after also posting a first and
second under that scoring system on Tuesday.
After winning both races on Tuesday, New York skipper Iris Vogel tacked on a couple seconds on
Tuesday to remain atop the standings in J/88 class. There is a new leader in the J/111 class after
Florida skipper George Gamble (Pensacola) posted a pair of bullets on Tuesday.
Quantum Sail Design Group pro Scott Nixon is calling tactics for Gamble on My Sharona, which
holds a four-point lead over Spaceman Spiff (Rob Ruhlman, Cleveland, Ohio).
“We got great starts and did not miss a wind shift all day,” Gamble said. “The racing is amazingly
tight. We won today’s second race by about a boat length.”
British skipper Joe Woods remained the leader in both PHRF 1 and the Farr 280 sub-class.
Woods has steered Red to a solid score line of 1-1-2-2 so far and his low score of six is half as
many as Decision, another Farr 280 skippered by Stephen Murray of New Orleans.
Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry Taylor of Annapolis, is another boat that has led at the
end of each day’s racing. Chesapeake Sails professional Chuck O’Malley is tactician on Tangent,
which has won three of four races and also counts a second.