Key West Wrap-Up
Key West Wrap-Up
If you were lucky enough to be at this year's Key West Race Week, the
memories should be enough to get you through the rest of the winter.
The practice days before the event were breezy, so teams went from
après holiday somnolence straight into full-contact sailing. Teams
worked out their kinks in a high-twenties breeze on Saturday, and even
stronger pressure on Sunday. For the crew of the Swan 45 Plenty, owned
by Alex Roepers of Stonington, Conn., the practice days were grueling,
but worthwhile. After a crash jibe on Sunday in 32 knots, which
resulted in a broken mainsail batten, we decided to protect our assets
and head in. We were tired, but dry and warm by the time the
Patriots/Colts game came on later that afternoon. Watching the Pats
dismantle the vaunted Indianapolis offense left our mostly New
England-based team pumped for the week of competition ahead.
Even in the lee of a couple super-sized cruise ships you could see that
it was still nuking on Monday, so there were few complaints when the
Race Committee hung out the AP for a few hours. Racing began for all
but the Mumm 30s, F-28s, and, surprisingly, the 30-something-foot
sportboats in PHRF 3, at 1:30 that afternoon. We had a pretty average
fourth-place finish that day, while Andrzej Rojek's Better Than, which
would eventually win the Swan 45 class, took first. Also on our circle
was the Farr 40 class, where the crew of Bambakou, owned by John
Coumantaros, snatched their first first-place finish of the event.
Later that afternoon, the rumor mill reported that Coumantaros would be
taking possession of the TP 52 Esmeralda shortly after the Jamaica Race.
In a not-too-surprising correlation, those who won their classes in Day
One's big breeze did well for the week. In addition to Better
Than in the Swan 45 class, Makoto Uematsu's Esmeralda in PHRF 1, George
Gamble's Pretty Woman, a Beneteau First 47, in PHRF 2, The Muller's
Pamlico, an Andrews 38, in PHRF 3, George Petrides' Avra in the J/120
class, Pegasus 575 in the Melges 24 class, the Esposito's Hustler, in
the J/29 class, Amethyst, in PHRF 7, Bill Buckles and Liquor Box, in
the Tartan 10 class, and Island Flyer, an S2 7.9 in PHRF 8, all
continued on to win their respective classes. Monday's big
breeze lay down only slightly for Tuesday's racing, and after a brief
postponement, all classes were sent out to play. All four race circles
got two races off, and everyone began settling down to the task at
hand. Eventual winners that began showing their mettle that day were
the new Melges 32 Star, sailed by Jeff Ecklund; Condor, a Corsair 28 R
owned by Peter Freudenberg and Todd Hudgins came back from a DNF on day
One to take two bullets; Hasso Plattner's Farr 40 Morning Glory took a
4,1. No matter how well or badly you went on Tuesday, everybody knew
that, with a forecast for dying breeze for the end of the week, and a
lighter breeze, but still strong on Wednesday, we'd be sailing three
races. There are few feelings as good as the one you have
once a three-race day is over, so everybody must have felt pretty
terrific Wednesday night. A slightly lesser breeze than the day before
was a godsend for crews who'd been pushing hard in big air for the past
few days, but there was still plenty of grunt in the pressure. Having
the most fun of their week on Wednesday was the crew of Tom Hill's R/P
75, who were finally able to put a speed bump in Esmeralda's path by
notching three first-place finishes. "We had good starts, good
roundings, and good tactics," said Hill to Race Week News' Bill Wagner.
"We hit a lot of shifts." Things started looking up for the crew of
Plenty as well, thanks to a 3-3-1 score for the day, we advanced to
second overall behind Better Than. Our mark roundings were clean and
our tactician, Geoff Ewenson, kept putting us in all the right spots.
Although we were five points out of first, we still looked and felt a
lot better than we had at the end of the day Tuesday. Eight
out of the 21 classes had their winners crowned at the end of
Thursday's racing. Hustler put it away with two firsts, as did Pamlico.
Rick Shaefer's J/80 C'est Nasty took a 1-8 to seal the deal, and the
tactician on the Mumm 30 turbo duck conceded to a Race Week News
reporter that while it was still mathematically possible for them to
win, it was more likely that Deneen Demourkas and her crew on
Groovederci would continue to take top-two finishes and win the class.
"We would have to win and they would have to tank, which isn't likely,"
said Nick von der Wense, reigning Mumm 30 Class Champion.
Friday was forecast to be light to the point of cancellation, but the
weather guessers were thankfully wrong. On our race circle, we saw
between 10 and 14 knots, which had us hanging on the edge between our
asymmetric and symmetric spinnakers. In the end, we used both during
the 5-leg final race. We went in to the race day five points behind
first-place Better Than, and two behind second-place Vim. We couldn't
place lower than third even if we were disqualified, but we could,
perhaps, climb a rung or two if everything went our way. It didn't. Vim
was launched and quickly sailed away from the rest of the fleet, while
Better Than looked deep. We counted scores in our heads and saw that if
better Than finished in fifth or sixth, they'd lose first place to Vim.
Knowing this, the crew on Better Than sucked it up and started gaining
places, by the end of the 9.8-mile race, they managed to claw their way
to fourth, just ahead of Devocean. The happy yells from Better Than's
crew echoed across the water to where the crew of Vim sat, waiting to
see if they'd pulled out the win. Surprisingly, the most
protests per capita (5) came from the six-boat Swan 45 class; the
second most (4) came from the 58-boat Melges 24 fleet. Close racing
with boats that have similar speeds up- and downwind saw many tight
mark roundings and finishes in the Swan class, and tossing pro match
racer Chris Law (sailing aboard Alice Martin's chartered Painkiller
3-Goombay Smash in a new, light-blue paint job) into the mix as
tactician, led to some fireworks. Two DSQs made it tough for the
otherwise quick and well-sailed Painkiller to break into the top three
spots on the podium. Showing that his talents work as well on
a Farr 40 as on an America's Cup boat was Russell Coutts, who sailed as
tactician aboard Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory. In the end it was the
German boat that clinched top spot in the 18-boat class, despite
stellar performances from Jim Richardson's Barking Mad, and Peter De
Ridder's Mean Machine, which took second and third respectively.
According to Plattner, it was his first win at a major Farr 40 event.
To see the complete results, as well as images and stories from the
2005 Key West Race Week, sponsored by Nautica, go to