It probably won’t be a late night on Duval Street for the sailors competing on Division 2 and 3 at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015. After doing three races in strong winds on Thursday, there are no doubt a lot of sore muscles, aching bones and tired bodies.
Not that anyone was complaining. Light winds on Wednesday led to just one race on Division 2 and 3, and organizers with Premiere Racing were keen to make up for that on Thursday. So the six classes competing on those two courses were sent out an hour early so the race committee could take advantage of east-southeasterly winds that held steady between 10 and 15 knots.
“The wind was absolutely gorgeous, and also quite stable. We never moved a mark during a race all day,” said Wayne Bretsch, principal race officer for Division 3. “It was just a beautiful day for sailboat racing. The only way I would have enjoyed myself more is if I was racing.”
Bradley Faber, skipper of the J/111 Utah, said it was a long day on the water and the crew aboard his boat enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was an exceptional day out there. Classic Key West conditions,” Faber said. “We came here to go racing so the more, the better.”
Utah got the gun in two of three races on Thursday, finishing third in the other only because of a blown out spinnaker. That strong performance earned Utah the Industry Partner Boat of the Day award and also enabled the Michigan entry to put pressure on My Sharona, which has led the J/111 class at the end of each day’s racing.
Skipper George Gamble and his team on My Sharona takes a four-point lead into Friday, which is forecast to have similar wind conditions as Thursday. Race organizers plan to hold two races on divisions one and three and they should reach the 10-race series that was scheduled. Division two can have as many as 12 races and they will come close to that with an earlier start and three races planned for Friday.
“We had a really great day. The boat and the crew both performed very well,” Faber said. “We still believe we can win this thing. We’re ready to do battle with My Sharona and see what happens.”
Faber said Wally Cross, a professional with title sponsor Quantum Sail Design Group has made a big impact on his program. “We have a pro onboard who has really helped us a lot on how to sail the 111. Wally is doing a great job of teaching us the dynamics of the boat,” Faber said.
Light winds that had predominated during the regatta were frustrating for Teamwork, the J/122 that has struggled to save its time on the smaller, lighter Farr 280s in PHRF 1. Skipper Robin Team was thrilled to see the breeze pipe up to double digits then went out on the water and took full advantage. North Sails professional Jonathan Bartlett is calling tactics on Teamwork, which won all three races on Thursday.
“Heavy air resuscitated us! The conditions we saw today were a definite advantage to the 122,” Team said. “It feels extraordinarily good to have a day like this.”
Teamwork jumped from fourth to second in the overall standings thanks to the three bullets. Red, a Farr 280 skippered by Joe Woods of Great Britain, still holds a commanding 11-point after placing first or second in all five races held Monday through Wednesday.
“It’s mathematically possible for us to win, but we would need a lot of help from the other boats in the class,” said Team, who won PHRF 1 in 2013 and finished second in 2014.
It was surprising to see reigning J/70 World and North American champion Tim Healy sitting in 15th place two days into the regatta. Perseverance skipper Bennet Greenwald predicted that Healy would battle back to be there in the end and he was spot on.
Healy and his crew aboard Helly Hansen have steadily climbed into second place in the 54-boat fleet, making a major move on Thursday thanks to a tremendous score line of 2-2-1. Tactician Geoff Becker, trimmer John Mollicone and bowman Gordon Borges comprise the crew aboard Helly Hansen, which trails class leader Calvi Network (Carlo Alberini) by three points.
“Our starts weren’t great and some things didn’t go our way,” Healy said when asked about the slow start. “We’ve dug our way back by doing a little better job of playing the shifts and passing boats.”
Healy, president of North Sails One-Design, captured J/70 class at Quantum Key West in 2013 and 2014. The veteran professional said the fact he had to fight back into contention is further evidence the fleet is getting deeper and stronger.
“People are learning the boats while the crews are getting better with more experience,” he said.
It’s basically a battle for second place in the Melges 24 class as Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his crew aboard Embarr have built a commanding 18-point lead. However, the runner-up position is very much up for grabs with Canadian skipper Richard Reid and his crew on Zingara holding a two-point lead over Mojo (Steve Rhyne, Kemah, Texas) and Team RRH (Jan Frederik Dyvi, Oslo, Norway).
Heavy air made for some spectacular racing in the GC 32 class with the foiling catamarans simply flying up and down the course. French skipper Erik Maris said his boat achieved 25 knots of speed while foiling downwind.
“These are the most fun boats I’ve ever sailed because of the incredible speed,” Maris said. “When you are up on the foils and going 20-plus knots, the feeling is incredible. We go by the mini maxis like they are dead in the water.”
Maris steered ZouLou to results of first and second on Thursday to take the overall lead away from skipper Jason Carroll and the Argo team. Those two entries both have 16 points, but ZouLou wins the tiebreaker based on posting the most recent first place finish.
“I’ve had many, many sailboats and this is just the best. It is very different than anything I’ve ever been on before,” said Maris, who resides in the city of Junal les Pins. “It is a totally new dimension because of the speed, which can be a bit scary.”
Flavio Marazzi, skipper of the Swiss entry ARMIN STROM Sailing, said Thursday’s winds were not quite enough to enable the GC 32s to foil upwind. However, Marazzi said the high-speed cats can easily fly a hull and hit 14 knots of speed while sailing the same similar angles as the maxi monohulls. Competition within the class continues to develop and on Thursday there was only 30 seconds between the first and fourth finishes.
Competition in IRC 1 class tightened up before the three mini maxis left the dock on Thursday. Bella Mente, the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer skippered by Hap Fauth of Minneapolis, had received redress from the International Jury on Wednesday night after running aground on a shipwreck.
That redress hearing was reopened on Thursday morning and new facts were presented that prompted the Jury to reverse its decision to award average points to Bella Mente for Races 5 and 6, reinstituting the did not finish and third place results the boat originally posted and propelling Numbers into a tie for the overall lead.
Bella Mente and Numbers remain tied after both posted a first and second on Thursday. Gunther Buerman, a resident of Highland Beach, Florida, has chartered Numbers for this regatta and is very pleased to be battling for the victory going into the last day of racing.
“It’s very exciting to be here and the racing has been quite fun,” said Buerman, who has fuor-time America’s Cup champion Brad Butterworth as tactician. “The racing has been very, very close and every second matters. What happens tomorrow will depend largely on the breeze and the length of the courses. There are a lot of factors with these boats and the results can be very weather dependent.”
Things have come down to the wire in Melges 32 class as well with Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog maintaining the lead for the fourth straight day. However, Michigan skipper Dalton DeVos and the Delta team are just three points astern and those two boats will duke it out for overall victory for the second straight year at Quantum Key West.
“It is very similar to last year. Alec is a great sailor with a great team and that boat doesn’t make many mistakes,” said Dalton DeVos, a 23-year-old college student. “We just have to go out and sail our own race, go as fast as we can and try to make sure we are on the right side of the shifts.”
Tonnere 4, the Ker 51 skippered by Peter Vroon of The Netherlands, held onto first place in IRC 2 with a pair of bullets on Thursday. Tonnere 4 is getting pushed hard by skipper William Coates and his team on the Ker 43 Otra Vez, which was second in both races on Thursday and trails by two points in the overall standings.
“We have a little bit of an advantage because we are the biggest boat in this division so we are able to get clear air and have control of our closest competitors,” said Kevin George, tactician aboard Tonnere 4, which leads Otra Vez by four points in the HPR sub-class.
Event Website and full results: http://www.premiere-racing.com