Key West, Florida Keys – Some of the world’s finest professional sailors will be
crewing for captains of industry in the 52 (IRC 2) class, which is one of the
headliners at Quantum Key West 2014.
Ran, the current 52 class world champion, is skippered by Skype founder
Niklas Zennstrom of Great Britain. Quantum Racing, winner of the 52 Super
Series last year, is skippered by Amway president Doug DeVos.
DeVos is also the primary investor in Quantum Sail Design Group, title
sponsor of the regatta for the third consecutive year. As owner-driver of the
Quantum entry, DeVos is blessed to have three renowned professionals
providing assistance with Terry Hutchinson as tactician, Ed Baird as strategist
and Juan Vila as navigator.
Those three are among a horde of pros with America’s Cup or Volvo Ocean
Race experience competing in IRC 2, which is comprised of six 52-foot racing
machines that are highly technical.
“This is some of the best racing in the world. You have the top sailors, the
best designers and builders, and with that you get the greatest competition,”
DeVos said. “It’s an incredible class that gives the pro sailors a chance to
develop and takes the whole sport forward.”
Azzurra, owned by Argentinian pharmaceutical mogul Pablo Roemmers
(Laboratorios Roemmers), captured the 52 class at last year’s Key West
regatta. Vasco Vascotto and Francesco Bruni, teammates on numerous Italian
challengers for the America’s Cup, serve as tactician and strategist,
respectively, aboard Azzurra.
“It is a tough fleet and it will be very difficult to repeat. All the boats are
capable of winning,” Vascotto said. “We are well-prepared and looking forward
to a great week of sailing.”
Key West is one of the few regattas on the 52 Super Series in which the
amateur owners drive their own boats – a unique element the professional
crews enjoy. “We love having Doug driving the boat. He’s the leader of the
whole program and brings great energy to the team,” Hutchinson said of
Quantum Key West 2014 will feature five days of racing in 10 classes on the
aqua-colored waters off the coast of the Conch Republic. From the
professional-laden 52 Class to the family-oriented programs in the PHRF
classes, there is something for everyone.
Newport-based professional Tim Healy will be back to defend his title in J/70
class, which has attracted a whopping 60 boats. Runner-up Brian Keane
(Weston, Mass.) and third place finisher Bruno Pasquinelli (Dallas, Texas) will
also be back as the J/70 class contests its Midwinter Championship.
Ready to Race at Quantum Key West 2014 – continued
“We’re excited to be back in Key West and hoping we do as well as last year. There are a lot of really good
teams here and it’s really hard to say which ones are the top contenders,” said Healy, who has John Mollicone
and Geoff Becker aboard as co-tacticians and trimmers. “As usual, consistency is the key and you have to keep
fighting all the way around the course. There are gains to be made on every leg and every point will count at the
Spectators on the water will be thrilled by the sheer size and speed of the racing machines in the Mini Maxi
class (IRC 1). Shockwave, skippered by George Sakellaris (Framingham, Mass.) will look to defend its title
against fellow 72-footer Bella Mente (Hap Fauth, Minneapolis, Minn.) and the 69-foot Caol Ila R (Alex Schaerer,
Newport, R.I.). It was a match race situation last year with Shockwave defeating Bella Mente by four points. The
addition of a third boat, although three feet smaller, adds some intrigue.
“The more the merrier. We’ll probably still race head-to-head with Bella Mente, but the smaller boat could wind
up beating us both on corrected time,” Sakellaris said. “It should be a lot of fun. We love racing here in Key West.
It’s great weather, great wind and a great regatta.”
Decision defeated sister ship Spookie in the High Performance Class at Key West 2013 and the two Carkeek
40-footers figure to duke it out again. Spookie won seven of 10 races a year ago, but suffered an eighth after
wrapping the spinnaker around the keel and that enabled Decision to score a one-point victory.
“It was a bit of a heartbreaker last year. We had a disaster in one race that really cost us the regatta,”
Benjamin said. “We view Decision as very fair competition and are also looking forward to testing ourselves
against the Farr 400 (Rock & Roll) and McConaghy 38 (Riot).”
IRC 3 is shaping up as one of the most competitive classes with 10 boats and a diverse group of designs.
Catapult, a Ker 40 skippered by Marc Glimcher of New York, captured the IRC Sub Class last year, but will be
challenged by an influx of new entries such as a Sydney 43, Ker 43, Mills 43 and four Swan 42s.
“We’re very happy about the makeup of the class. There is a broad range of boats in there, some real fast
boats,” Glimcher said. “When you look at the 10 entries, there are some really competitive programs. Personally,
I’m very excited about the competition we’re going to face this week.”
Groovederci, skippered by Deneen Demourkas of Santa Barbara, Cal., placed third at the 2013 Melges 32
World Championship and headlines a strong eight-boat fleet in Key West. Hedgehog, skippered by Alec Cutler of
Bermuda, was the runner-up at the 2012 worlds while the Brazilian entry Phoenix (Sergio Rocha) has five-time
Olympian Santiago Lange aboard as tactician.
“Every boat in the class is capable. There are no weak sisters,” said Cutler, who did not race his Melges 32 last
year while focusing on his Melges 24 program. “It’s a big adjustment going back into this class. This is a very
different boat than the 24 in terms of feel of the helm, angle of heel and target speeds. I’m having to relearn
Teamwork, a J/122 skippered by Robin Team of Lexington, N.C., will be seeking a rare three-peat in PHRF 1.
North Sails professional Jonathan Bartlett will once again be calling tactics for Team, who will also have his two
sons aboard. Team is looking forward to duking it out with another J/122 (El Ocaso, Rick Wesslund) and knows
the four J/111 entries can do well in certain conditions. PHRF 1 also features a modified 1D35 and a J/125.
“We are a group of good friends who love to sail together and we come down here to have fun,” Team said. “Of
course, winning is a key component of having fun. I think the competition in our class will be tougher than ever.
We are going to be challenged by some very strong teams.”
Rush, a J/109 skippered by Bill Sweetser of Annapolis, has been a runner-up in Key West four times. Sweetser
hopes to get over the hump this year while competing in PHRF 2, a seven-boat class that also features a Farr
30, Olson 30, J/88, Seascape 27 and Sabre 426.
Ready to Race at Quantum Key West 2014 – continued
The consensus is that a three number PHRF handicap system provides for closer, more fair racing in a
disparate fleet. This year Key West Race Week is employing a three-tiered rating system that is based on wind
speed. Each boat’s handicap can vary slightly different depending on whether the wind is light, moderate or
J/80 class has tripled in size since last year and will have 14 boats on the line as it contests its Midwinter
Championship. Vayu2, skippered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, will defend its Key West crown against several
seasoned teams, including former North American champion John Storck Jr. on Rumor.