Key West, Fla — Wednesday has always been critical at this annual race week off
the Florida Keys. By the time Wednesday is complete, the racing is usually more
than half over. Event veterans have even given it the moniker of “moving day.”
This year, Wednesday brought what is predicted to be the strongest winds of the
five-day regatta, challenging crews to really ramp up their performance. There were
some sail and gear failures in the heavy air, which held steady between 18 and 22
Several teams made major moves on Wednesday at Quantum Key West 2013 –
none more dramatic than that pulled by Decision in the High Performance Class.
Spookie, skippered by North Sails professional Steve Benjamin, opened the regatta
with four straight victories – all in convincing fashion – and it appeared the rout was
on. However, Decision, skippered by Stephen Murray of New Orleans, turned the
tables big-time on Wednesday by winning both races. Meanwhile, Spookie finished
last in Race 6 after shredding its spinnaker on the last downwind leg.
“We were really getting frustrated,” admitted Murray, whose team opened the
regatta with three straight seconds. “But we knew if we just hung in there and
caught some breaks that we could beat them. Today, we sailed really well. We had
clean mark roundings and clean sets.”
Decision and Spookie are identical HPR Carkeek 40 designs with the former
having been launched in March and the latter in September of last year. Murray said
the boats, which have subtle differences in terms of sails and crew weight, have
been evenly matched this week.
“They are a bit faster upwind and we may be a click faster downwind. All around,
they are awfully close in performance,” he said.
Suddenly, Decision now holds a three-point lead over Spookie with two days and
four races remaining. “We certainly feel better about our chances now, but there is
still a lot of racing to be done. With no throwouts, you’re one bad race away from
going from the penthouse to the outhouse,” Murray said.
Another climber on Wednesday was Arethusa, which moved from third to first in
Swan 42 class. Skipper Philip Lotz (Newport, RI) steered Arethusa a first and a fifth
on Wednesday and now leads the seven-boat fleet by virtue of tiebreaker over Stark
Raving Mad VI (James Madden, Fort Lauderdale, FL).
“Conditions were great today. The breeze was enjoyable, but very shifty and hard
to figure out, which was a challenge,” Lotz said. “A premium was put on boathandling with a higher level of breeze and the tactician was kept very busy in this
highly competitive fleet.”
There was also a lead change in IRC 2 – the 52 class – as Azzurra overtook Ran
after posting a pair of seconds on Wednesday. Guillermo Parada of Argentina is
steering while Vasco Vascotto of Italy is calling tactics aboard Azzurra, which
suffered a sixth in Race 2 after snagging a lobster pot. Now Azzurra is winning a
tiebreaker with Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, Sweden) by virtue of having two first place
“Moving Day” at Quantum Key West 2013 continued
“We were not worried about the last place because we knew it was a long regatta. We just had to keep chipping away
and learning every day,” Parada said. “We are in a better position now, but there is still a long way to go.”
Azzurra, which is actually owned by Alberto Roemmers, has a very international crew comprised of Argentinians,
Italians, a Croatian and an Englishman. Parada said English is spoken onboard until a crisis situation and all sorts of
languages break amid the excitement. Quantum Key West 2013 is first stop on the 52 Super Series circuit, which Azzurra
won last year.
“We have a good blend of sailors, a very organized program and Vasco is one of the best tacticians in the world,”
Parada said. “We have the talent and craziness of the Latin culture.”
It appeared there was a new leader in J/70 class after racing concluded on Wednesday. Newport-based pro Tim Healy
and his Helly Hansen team won Race 6, finished third in Race 7 and threw out a 23rd suffered in Race 1. That briefly
allowed Helly Hansen to overtake Moxie for the overall lead in the regatta’s largest class with 39 boats.
However, Healy lost a protest and was hit with a penalty that changed the seventh race result to 19th and dropped Helly
Hansen to fourth in the overall standings. Moxie, sailed by brothers Cole and James Allsopp (Annapolis, MD), remained
the leader for the second straight day with 34.5 points, 1 ½ better than Relative Obscurity (Peter Duncan, Rye, NY).
Healy was disappointed with the protest decision, but remained confident his crew could wind up on top at the end.
“We’re going to give it our best shot. We just have to keep plugging away,” he said.
There is a tight duel in the 23-boat Melges 24 class between the hedgehog and Full Throttle teams, which are now tied
with 11 points. Full Throttle, skippered by Brian Porter (Lake Geneva, WI), wins the tiebreaker on the strength of three first
“Those guys are like a bad piece of corn. We can’t get them out of our teeth,” hedgehog skipper Alec Cutler said of
Porter and crew. “We started right next to each other in both races today and it was a drag race upwind and downwind.
Sometimes they’re quicker and sometimes we’re quicker. It’s really close, competitive racing.”
Full Throttle was named Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day after posting a third and first in what was declared the most
competitive class on Wednesday. Cutler (Pembroke, Bermuda) had high praise for his rival who erased a four-point deficit
“Those guys have been sailing together for 20 years and that is very evident by the fact they don’t have any crew
mistakes,” he said. “They are also true gentlemen and a pleasure to sail against. We’re in a good battle, but we enjoy the
people we’re battling against.”
Barking Mad, skippered by Jim Richardson of Newport, didn’t rest on its laurels after capturing the Lewmar/Navtec Boat
of the Day honor on Tuesday. With renowned pro Terry Hutchinson making the tactical calls, Barking Mad tacked on a
third in Race 5 before scoring its second bullet in Race 6 and now leads the Farr 40 class by six points over Groovederci
(John Demourkas, Santa Barbara, CA).
“It’s tough sailing out there, kind of like a heavyweight fight,” Richardson said of the competition among the six Farr 40s.
“We may only have six boats, but five of them have won world championships. It’s just a real solid fleet. It’s a game of
inches and we just have to keep sailing consistently well in order to maintain this lead.”
Bombarda, with owner Andrea Pozzi driving and past world champion Lorenzo Bressani, calling tactics, remained atop
the 11-boat Melges 32 class for the second straight day thanks to a first and second on Wednesday. Bombarda leads
fellow Italian entry Mascalzone Latino (Vincenzo Onorato) by three points.
Bill Sweetser has been racing his J/109 Rush in Key West since 2004 and has been class runner-up more times than he
cares to remember. The Annapolis resident moved one step closer to finally being crowned champion by holding his lead
for a third straight day. Conditions were not ideal for Rush, which excels in moderate winds, but Sweetser posted a third
and second to remain seven points ahead of another Annapolis boat – Gerry Taylor’s Cape Fear 38 Tangent.
“We knew with the high winds that we couldn’t show the full capability of our boat. Our goal was to survive and live to
fight another day, which we were able to do,” said Sweetser, noting that Rush did not lose any points to Tangent.