In fashion befitting a 30th anniversary, the celebratory regatta bristles with a plethora of racing stars from the U.S. and 10 countries, some of the most technically developed racing boats afloat and one of the largest growing classes in the world.
“The fleet is solid from top to bottom. There’s great talent and some very successful race teams. It should be a fantastic week of racing,” said event chairman John Fisher, a past commodore of the host Storm Trysail Club. “Quantum Key West Race Week always attracts the top level of the sport, because they know Key West offers great sailing conditions at a time of year where most in the U.S. have shut down their hometown sailing for the winter. There’ll be first-rate competition from all over the sailing world, great race conditions coupled with our extremely capable veteran race committee and willing volunteers.”
The daily schedule calls for up to three races per day. Registration is set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, and the warning signal for Race 1 is scheduled for 1100 hours on Monday, Jan. 16.
The fleet includes glamour classes like the 52 Super Series, featuring top professional sailors such as Ed Baird, John Kostecki, Terry Hutchinson, all past winners of the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award, and past Italian America’s Cup helmsman Vasco Vascotto.
The wildly popular J/70 Class is the largest at the event with 40 of the 23-footers entered this year. The design’s larger sibling, the 36-foot J/111, begins a season long march towards the class’s world championship in September.
ORC is the featured rating rule with nine boats entered, and classes such as the C&C 30 One-Design, Melges 24 and J/88 enhance the competitive nature of the race week fleet. ORC is also being used to rate boats in the Performance Cruising Class that is competing for its second consecutive year, and there are two entries in the Multihull Class.
While the racing at the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week will look and feel very similar to the past 29 editions, the shoreside venue will be much different. The Waterfront Brewery in the Key West Historic Seaport and Bight will host all shoreside activities related to Race Week, including daily morning weather briefings, post-race seminars, and the nightly awards party.
Post-race debriefs and seminars being organized by Quantum Sails will feature luminaries such Baird, Hutchinson and Kostecki, as well as Ed Adams, Bora Gulari and others offering insights.
“The coaching and education, along with overnight sail repairs, are key deliverables of our sponsorship,” said Quantum President Ed Reynolds. “With Ed Adams and Ed Baird heading up the daily debriefs, competitors are guaranteed insights and tips they can put to immediate use on the racecourse.”
On the water, competitors will be spread across three racing circles. The 52 Super Series returns to Key West Race Week for the first time since 2014. The class bristles with talent from the America’s Cup, Olympic Games, Volvo Ocean Race and innumerable world championships and represents the highest caliber racing in the game where every second counts.
The lineup includes Doug DeVos’ (Ada, MI) 2016 series and world champion Quantum Racing as well as longtime class members Alberto and Pablo Roemmers’s (Buenos Aires, ARG) Azzurra and Niklas Zenstromm’s Rán of Sweden, the 2016 Owner/Driver Champion. In all, eight of the 11 entries hail from foreign countries. The newest rocket among them will be Gwen and Austin Fragomen’s (Newport, RI) Interlodge, launched in the fall and making its debut at Key West with Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker driving and past America’s Cup sailor Andy Horton calling tactics.
“The sailing conditions are fantastic,” says John Kostecki (Reno, NV), who’ll call tactics on the TP 52 Platoon. “Normally you get the chance of good breeze for a part of the regatta, and each day is a new challenge. It’s great winter sailing in the U.S.”
For the fifth consecutive year the J/70 is the largest class in the regatta. Among the entrants are Carlo Alberini’s Calvi Network from Italy, the two-time defending class champion and 2015 Boat of the Week.
A third consecutive title will be hard to come by because other entrants include Tim Healy’s USA-2 from Rhode Island, the 2014 Boat of the Week, Joel Ronning’s Catapult, of Minnesota, the reigning J/70 World Champion with America’s Cup veteran Eric Doyle calling tactics, and Peter Duncan’s Relative Obscurity from New York, which placed second in the class last year.
The 2003 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Hannah Swett (New York, NY) will lead Sparkle, with 1999 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Dawn Riley (Oyster Bay, NY) counted among her crew and longtime friends Melissa Purdy and Tom Purdy, the sister and brother from Tiburon, Calif. Swett purchased a J/70 last year because of the class’s large size and this will be her first major regatta.
“Yeah, I’m a little scared at a 40-boat starting line,” said the skipper who’s won the Yngling one-design world championship and the Fastnet Race in a diverse and varied career. “I really just wanted an opportunity to go sailing with my friends, so I’m totally looking forward to it. I used to teach sailing in Key West so I have some great memories from the island. It should be fun.”
Another strong one-design presence comes from the J/111 Class, which will have 10 boats on the start line. The class includes last year’s top three finishers – Peter Wagner’s (Atherton, CA) Skeleton Key, which posted a 14.5-point victory in 2016, Rob Ruhlman’s Spaceman Spiff (Cleveland, OH) and Bradley Faber’s (Owosso, MI) Utah.
The C&C 30 One-Design, new to Race Week in 2016, has six boats in the cue, led by Dan Cheresh’s (Saugatuck, MI) dominant Extreme2, with recent Star Sailors League champion Mark Mendelblatt serving as tactician. The J/88 class returns with seven boats, including last year’s first and second-place finishers, Mike Bruno’s (Armonk, NY) Wings and Iris Vogel’s (New Rochelle, NY) Deviation, respectively. The Melges 24 class also has three entries with Vasyl Gureyev’s Barmaley, from the Ukraine, among the farthest traveling crews in the regatta.
ORC has replaced IRC as the rating rule of choice and nine boats of diverse design are entered. Hank Caldwell’s (Dowell, MD) Henderson 30 Short Bus is the smallest boat in the class and Ian Hill’s (Chesapeake, VA) XP44 Sitella the largest. Another boat to watch is Alex Sastre’s (Coconut Grove, FL) Italia Yachts 9.98 High Noise, a sistership to reigning ORC Class C World Champion Bachyachting and 2015 World Champion Low Noise II. Sastre has brought together some sailing all-stars from Italy to compete on High Noise, including reigning ORC European Sportboat Champion Enrico Zennaro.
“We’re excited to make our debut with this boat at Race Week,” said Sastre. “She has proven to be very competitive in ORC racing in Europe, and even though we will have competitors who are much larger and faster than us, we trust the rating system to be fair and for us to have good racing all week.”
The Performance Cruising Class is also using ORC handicaps and has four boats entered, including Ken Johnson’s (Stoughton, WI) C&C 121 Grateful Red, a return entry from the debut this class made in last year’s event.
Tom Reese’s (Youngstown, OH) Flight Simulator II, a Corsair 970, and Phil Lotz’ (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Arethusa, a Gunboat 60, are the two multihulls in the fleet. A new addition to the fleet this year is the Flying Tiger 7.5m. The 24-foot long sportboat has been made available for charter by the National One Design Sailing Academy of Canada and is led by Nigel Brownett, who’s raced Key West Race Week every year since 2006.
Gill NA, the official apparel company of Quantum Key West Race Week, has launched its signature line for the 30th anniversary regatta. The line features a range of clothing for men and women including technical t-shirts, polos, soft shell jackets and smocks and foul weather gear. Gill will customize any clothing for crews wishing to have their boat name embroidered in time for race week.