Key West Race Week always draws a crowd, particularly at the first mark in a one-design class of 40-footers.
A five-day regatta filled with some of the most competitive sailors in the hemisphere is tough enough. Place the event in the oft whacky and party oriented Conch Republic of Key West and you have a week-long celebration of sail on and off the water. And just to be sure the competitors remembered where they were and why they come from around the world to sail in the Florida Keys, Mother Nature threw in one last challenge for the 261-boat fleet on Friday.
The cold front which raced down the state late Thursday awakened the sailors with a 10-degree air temperature drop into the sixties and a modest increase in the wind strength. While the gusts rarely topped 20knots, the wind direction bounced back and forth sometimes with 25 and30-degree shifts, and there was plenty at stake as more than half of the 16 divisions would not be settled until the closing race.
Taking the cautious approach at the GMC/Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week, Steve Liebel's Sarasota-based Henderson 30 Speed Racer locked up the overall championship in PHRF Division 2 with a fourth-place finishing the closing race.
"We had a 10-point lead going into today (Friday) so we played it conservative," helmsman Scott Liebel said at the awards ceremony. "It took a lot of patience, and really good crew work, to win." Citing the powerful wind conditions which tested the fleet on three of the five days of racing, Liebel said, "Living in Florida, we don't get that much of heavy air. I felt better in the light air, but today was probably the fastest we've ever had the boat going."
Bruce Lockwood's Connecticut-based J/29 Tomahawk didn't have the luxury of a comfortable points lead when Friday's starting gun fired. He and Titillation, skippered by Paul Andersen of Deltaville, VA, had been locked in a points battle throughout the week and Lockwood led by only one point when the closing race began. Whoever won the last race won the regatta since Andersen would win the tie-breaker if he had a bullet in the last race.
J/29s Joint Venture (left) and Liverpool Jarge battle for position on a downwind run.
"They (Titillation) got ahead of us on the fourth leg," Lockwood said. "On the last leg we saw more wind on the right side of the course. We got to it before they did."
After eight tough races over five days, Tomahawk beat Titillation by five seconds and captured the overall J/29 Class C trophy, their first Key West victory after four years of trying.
In the 21-boat ID35 Class, Robert Hughes' Holland, MI-based Heartbreaker held a slim five-point lead over John Wylie's Tabasco from San Diego, CA. Breakdowns, either mental or boat-wise, were possible in the shifty and gusty conditions Friday morning. Heartbreaker kept the competition at bay, finished fourth for the day and locked up the ID35 Class with a three-point edge over Tabasco, who finished second in Friday's lone race.
Confirming the intensity of the ID35 Class, Heartbreaker's overall win and solid performance for the series also earned them the Yachting Boat of the Week honors.
For racers and spectators alike, one obvious element at Key West Race Week is the diversity of the fleet. It's a venue which brings to get the monstrous boats like the 70-foot Santa Cruz Chessie Racing, the CM60s,and showcases newly launched designs like the all-carbon fiber Farr 52S cream which raced its first races at Key West this week.
Vladimir "Kuli" Kulinichenko of Tampa was aboard the 60-footer Rima, one of two huge CM60 designs in the IMS class for the larger boats, and his team finished second overall for the week.
Accustomed to racing on smaller boats, Kulinichenko said, "You're like on the third floor, looking down at everyone else it was an interesting experience."
And the venue entices the less spectacular boats as well. PHRF classes made up more than 25% of the fleet and those teams push just as hard without the high roller approach to racing.
Sailing out of the Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa, FL, Jack Cavalier's vintage C & C 40 Creola struggled in the light winds during the middle of the week. Then they blew out a spinnaker and bent the spinnaker pole in Thursday's first race, but finished the regatta with a respectable fifth-place finish in the PHRF 6 Division.
Smiling as he recalled the loss of the sail, Cavalier said, "It was a big, expensive mistake." Cavalier, who splits his sailing time between the northeastern sailing scene and Florida, was racing a slightly faded orange boat which was built in 1979 but he is accustomed to doing well despite the age of the boat.
Bodies for ballast as the breeze kicks up.
"This is the first regatta in four years which we entered that we haven't placed," Cavalier added. "But we come down here to mix it up with the best in the world."
Key West Race Week, now in its 13th year, has become the premier winter regatta in the U.S. and attracted 261 entries and several thousand sailors and support crews for the week-long series. Many of the same high performance boats will remain in Florida for the next major winter regatta, the Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC), which will be held the first week in March in Miami.
Key West's aqua waters provide the playing field for 261 raceboats with a strong breeze pushing the fleet downwind on a rock 'n roll ocean.
Final Results - GMC/Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week (Top 3)
CLASS A - IMS (9 Boats)
1. Highland Fling/Irvine Laidlaw (Isle of Man, England)
2-1-1-1-2-2-6-1 -- 162. Rima/Isam Kabbani (Newport, RI) 1-5-3-7-1-4-4-3 - 28
3. Virago/Bache McE. Renshaw (Portsmouth, RI) 8-2-4-5-3-3-1-5 -- 31
CLASS B - PHRF 1 (10 Boats)
1. Chessie Racing/George Collins (Gibson Island, MD) 4-1-1-1-1-3-3-1 -15
2. Fatal Attraction/F. Gray Kiger (Norfolk, VA) 1-4-2-2-3-2-2-3 - 19
3. Uarshek/Ennio Staffini (Annapolis, MD) 2-2-3-7-5-1-1-4 -- 25
CLASS C - Farr 40 (27 Boats)
1. Atalanti XI/George Andreadis (Greece) 3-9-1-1-2-5-2-2 -- 25
2. Mascalzone Latino/Vencenzo Onorato (Italy) 4-1-8-12-8-3-3-5 - 44
3. Raging Bull/Richard Marki (Bristol, RI) 5-5-7-5-1-8-9-4 -- 44
CLASS D - 1D35 (21 Boats)
1. Heartbreaker/Robert L. Hughes (Holland, MI) 10-7-3-4-5-1-1-4 - 35
2. Tabasco/John Wylie (San Diego, CA) 1-5-4-2-11-11-2-2 - 38
3. Smiling Bulldog/Garth Dennis (Ithaca, NY) 4-4-9-8-3-6-4-1 -- 39
CLASS E - PHRF 2 (14 Boats)
1. Speed Racer/Steve Liebel (Sarasota, FL) 3-7-1-2-1-2-1-4 -- 21
2. Ceres Group/Peter Nauert (Lake Geneva, WI) 2-2-2-1-11-1-5-1 - 25
3. New Wave/Michael Carroll (Clearwater, FL) 6-1-7-3-5-4-3-3 - 32
CLASS F - PHRF 3 (11 Boats)
1. White Trash/Greg Smith (Mobile, AL) 1-3-1-3-2-3-1-5 - 19
2. Brainstorm/Rojek/Gutin/Zaleski (Stamford, CT) 2-1-5-2-5-2-2-1 - 20
3. The Wall/Gordon Schiff (Tampa, FL) 5-2-2-4-1-4-3-2 - 23
DIVISION 2CLASS A - PHRF 4 (12 Boats)
1. Snake Eyes/T.L. Ballard (Annapolis, MD) 1-1-3-1-1-2-1-1--11
2. Frigate/H. Albert/R. Reedy (Mandeville, LA) 3-2-2-2-3-1-4-2--19
3. Ragamuffin/R. Harris (New Orleans, LA) 2-3-5-3-4-3-2-6--28
CLASS B - PHRF 5 (10 Boats)
1. Ultra Violet/D.&D. Prucnal (Pasadena, MD) 1-1-2-5-4-1-1-4--19
2. Nemesis/G. Longenecker (San Diego, CA) 2-2-5-6-5-2-2-1--25
3. Owslarah/J. Melino (Alameda, CA) 3-4-4-4-8-4-4-2--33
CLASS C - J/29 (13 Boats)
1. Tomahawk/B. Lockwood (Ludlow,VT) 1-4-4-1-3-2-1-1--17
2. Titillation/P. Anderson (Deltaville, VA) 4-1-3-5-1-1-2-2--19
3. Fast Lane/J. McArdle (Milwaukee, WI) 6-3-7-4-6-4-8-3--41
CLASS D - J/80 (12 Boats)
1. Syzyey/J. Lutz (Houston, TX) 1-1-1-7-1-1-1-1--14
2. Monster Lady/M. Kald (Pt. Washington, NY) 2-2-3-1-3-2-2-4--19
3. Kicks/D. Balfour (Austin, TX) 3-3-2-4-4-4-3-2--25
CLASS E - PHRF 6 (11 Boats)
1. Hustler/J.&A. Esposito (City Island, NY) 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1--8
2. Savage/A. Townsley (Palisades, NY) 2-2-2-3-2-5-2-2--20
3. Scrambled/G. Fisher (San Diego, CA) 5-4-4-2-4-3-4-6--32
CLASS F - PHRF 7 (13 Boats)
1. L'Outrage/B. Gardner (Annapolis, MD) 4-2.9-2-1-3-4-2-4--22.9
2. Liquor Box/C.Simon/B. Buckles (Key West, FL) 3-2-6-6-4-1-1-2--25
3. Think Blue/G. Disbrow (Sandusky, OH) 1-8-3-3-5-2-4-1--27
CLASS G - PHRF 8 (8 Boats)
1. Rugger/J. Sampson (Detroit, MI) 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-DNC--16
2. Challenge/D. Johnson/C. Nielson (Racine, WI) 2-4-3-3-3-2-2-1--20
3. Fresh Kill/K. deHam (Seabrook, TX) 3-3-4-4-2-4-4-2-26
CLASS A - Mumm 30 (26 Boats)
1. Villede StRaphael/Jean Pierre Dick (FRA) 14-1-1-3-6-3-4-6-- 38
2. Trouble/Phil Garland (Barrington, RI) 3-5-12-9-1-2-5-3 -- 40
3. Turbo Duck/Bodo von der Wense (Annapolis, MD) 2-8-3-1-3-11-15-12 --55
CLASS B - Melges 24 (46 Boats)
1. Full Throttle/Brian Porter (Lake Geneva, WI) 8-1-1-2-8-2-1-2 --25
2. Zenda Express/Harry Melges (Lake Geneva, WI) 4-6-6-3-4--4-2-3 -- 32
3. RockN'Roll/Argyle Campbell (Newport Beach, CA) 2-7-11-5-2-1-8-8 - 44
CLASS C - J/105 (18 Boats)
1. Plum Crazy/Andrew Skibo (Ocean City, NJ) 1-2-2-3-3-5-2-1 -- 19
2. Phantom/Geoffrey Pierini (Perth Amboy, NJ) 2-3-3-4-5-4-8-4 -- 33
3. Wonder Wagon/Rick Wright (Marblehead, MA) 4-6-9-2-1-1-3-9 -- 35
Sailmaker Jay Lutz of Houston, TX, posted seven bullets in eight races to capture top honors in the 11-boat J/80 class aboard his black hulled Syzygy.