January 21, 2015

Breeze and Sunshine at Quantum Key West Race Week

Based off early morning forecasts, it appeared a
lay day might be in the cards for competitors at Quantum Key West Race
Week 2015. Some sailors might have already been making plays to play
tennis or go fishing during an hour-long dockside delay.
However, organizers with Premiere Racing saw a small pocket of sailable
conditions and sent the fleet out to the three race courses. Division 1
completed two races while Divisions 2 and 3 both got in one to keep the
regatta moving along.
“We actually had pretty good pressure coming off the northerly beach,”
said Scott Nixon, tactician aboard the J/111 My Sharona. “It was about
seven to eight knots from the northwest and we had a decent race.”
Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1, had a building breeze on
his course and decided to hold a second race on Wednesday. It proved a
wise decision as the wind piped up later in the afternoon.
“We saw seven to 10 knots in the last race today, which was kind of
surprising,” said Alec Cutler, skipper of the Melges 32 Hedgehog.
Dave Brennan, principal race officer on Division 2, said the decision to
send the boats out on the water came after organizers received live onwater reports from boats that had been sent out to determine exactly what
conditions were.
“We were cautious because the forecast was not very promising,” said
Brennan. “We had boats out on the water and were watching the progress
very carefully. We felt there was a good chance the breeze would stick and
that we could give the sailors a race.”
Brennan said conditions on his course, which includes the Melges 24 and
J/70 classes, were perfectly fine for Race 5. However, the breeze steadily
died and dipped below five knots, which is the threshold Brennan believes
is necessary to start a race.
“We got in one good race on a day we didn’t think we would have any so
that’s a plus,” he said. “This regatta has always been about quality over
quantity and we didn’t think a second race today would be very good so we
decided not to get greedy.”
Some of the best racing of the regatta has come in IRC 2, which includes
the five boats competing in the High Performance Rule sub-class. Tonnerre
4, a Ker 51 that owner Peter Vroon is racing for the first time here in Key
West, continues to lead IRC 2 after posting a third and a sixth on
Wednesday. However, Tonnerre is winning a tiebreaker with the Ker 43
Otra Vez, which also has 19 points.
Skipper William Coates steered Otra Vez to a second and a fourth erase a three-point deficit
to Tonnerre 4 and earn Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day honors. True (Kernan 47, Leo van den
Thillart) and Spookie (Carkeek 40, Steve Benjamin) have also sailed well and are trail the leaders
by just four and six points, respectively. continued
“We’ve been having some wonderful racing out there with both classes. There are a lot of good
boats on the course,” Benjamin said. “I, for one, like that we are being dual-scored. I think it shows
that both systems are working.”
Tonnerre 4 is winning the HPR sub-class with a low score of 15 points, just one better than Otra
Vez and Spookie. Benjamin, who helped develop the HPR rule, said conditions make a big impact
on the results as all the boats perform differently in various wind ranges.
There are three Swan 42-footers in IRC 2 and those boats also comprise a sub-class. Impetuous,
owned by Paul Zabetakis, is tied with John Halbert and his team on Vitesse. All five boats in the
Melges 32 class have proven to be well-sailed and things are tight after three days with skipper
Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog leading the father-son tandem of Dalton and Doug DeVos
by two and three points, respectively. Dalton DeVos is skippering Delta, which is currently in
second place by one point over his father on Volpe.
“We have a small fleet, but everyone is either a world champ or a national champ or the College
Sailor of the Year,” said Cutler, the latter title being held by Argo skipper and Yale All-American
Graham Landy. “I don’t think there has been more than 30 seconds between the first and last boats
in any race so far.”
Canadian professional Richard Clarke is calling tactics for Cutler, the defending Key West champ
who has not finished lower than third in any of the six races. “We’ve gone from first to third a couple
times and we’ve gone from fifth to third a couple times. It’s real easy to gain or lose in a hurry.
Today, it all came down to who was able to get into that little vein of wind.”
Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his crew on Embarr continue to increase their lead in Melges 24
class. Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes, who are mounting an Olympic campaign together, are
serving as helmsman and tactician aboard Embarr, which won Wednesday’s lone race and now
counts four bullets.
Jud Smith remained the leader in J/70 class for the second straight day, sailing Africa to sixth on
Wednesday and adding two points to his advantage over Bennet Greenwald and Perseverance.
Trey Sheehan steered Hooligan to third on Wednesday and is now tied with Perseverance on
“Everybody is working together very nicely and the boat is moving real well,” said Michael
Sheehan, who is crewing for his brother. “We were saying on the way back into the dock that we
are not going to change anything. We are just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Brad Boston is tactician on Hooligan, which has a home port of Put-in-Bay, Ohio and a team
comprised of close friends who grew up together in the greater Cleveland area. Hooligan is part of
the Flat Stanley Racing program, which also includes a Melges 32.
“We’ve been able to get off the line clean and we haven’t taken any flyers,” Michael Sheehan
said. “Brad is really sharp about looking up the course and seeing what we’ve got coming.”
Skipper Iris Vogel and her team on Deviation along with skipper George Gamble and his crew
aboard My Sharona have been leaders of the J/88 and J/111 one-design classes at the end of each
day’s racing.
Veteran Quantum professional Kerry Klingler is calling tactics for Vogel, who has finished first in
three races and second in the two others. This is the first one-design regatta for any of the J/88s
competing here in Key West and Vogel said she’s somewhat surprised to be the pace-setter.
“We’ve only being doing PHRF racing so we really don’t know how we good we were,” Vogel
said. “It’s exciting to be here competing against other J/88s and finally finding out if we’re fast or
Nixon, an Annapolis-based Quantum professional, said the My Sharona team put in a lot of time
practicing prior to the regatta and that effort is paying off. “We’ve been pretty fast in all conditions,”
he said.
Rob Ruhlman, skipper of second place Spaceman Spiff, has been impressed with My Sharona’s
ability to accelerate off the start line. “My Sharona is killing it off the line. Today they got out there
with clean air and just launched on the whole fleet. We have to do a better job of starting if we want
to have any chance of beating them,” Ruhlman said.
Tangent has been the dominant boat in PHRF 1, which is somewhat surprising since the Cape
Fear 38 is a heavy displacement boat that doesn’t normally perform well in light air. However,
skipper Gerry Taylor and tactician Chuck O’Malley have handled the conditions well.
“I give all the credit to Chuck and the crew. They are accustomed to sailing in light wind on the
Chesapeake Bay and that experience has helped us here so far this week,” Taylor said. “We’re
very happy to be in this position and are looking forward to Thursday and Friday when the wind is
supposed to be about 15 knots or more, which is right in our sweet spot.”
Single digit winds are also not the preference of sailors aboard the GC 32 catamarans, which
need a bit more breeze in order to foil upwind. Skipper Jason Carroll and the Argo team have been
the most consistent of the four entries, winning three races and placing second in two others.
“I just think we have a little bit more time in the boat than the other three teams,” Carroll said. “The
light air has been a bit of a game-changer, but the boats are still fast and fun even in the conditions
we’ve had so far.”
Skipper Alex Jackson kept Leenabarca ashore on Wednesday because of damage to a carbonfiber sprit. Repairs were made and that GC 32 will be back on the course Thursday when the wind
should be ideal for the high-tech cats.