Key West Race Week Comes Down to Final Race

With just one race to go, four classes are still on the line, with leaders separated by just a few points.

key west race week
Peter Wagner's J/111 Skeleton Key won Boat of the Day.Quantum Key West Race Week/PhotoBoat.com

Four classes are up for grabs with one race remaining at the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week. Today's lone race for all classes will decide the winner in the 52 Super Series, J/111 Class, J/70 Class and the ORC Class.

Two races were held yesterday - Marine Partners' Day - in light winds between 6 and 9 knots from the southeast. These were held after a harbor postponement this morning that was signaled to allow the light northeasterly wind to shift around to the forecasted southeasterly.

After posting finishes of 2-1, Peter Wagner's (Atherton, CA) Skeleton Key was named Boat of the Day. Skeleton Key also took over the lead in the J/111 Class with the low score of 24 points.

Skeleton Key won the class last year but got its defense off to a slow start with an 8th in Race 1. Since then the crew from Northern California has steadily climbed the leaderboard while the early series leader, Rob Ruhlman's (Cleveland, OH) Spaceman Spiff, has been dropping. In the past four races Skeleton Key has finished 1-3-2-1 while Spaceman Spiff has finished 3-9-3-5.

"Today was all about being flexible. It was a very challenging day," said Wagner, a two-time All-American sailor in the late 1980's. "We're always very confident in our boatspeed, the trick is to put ourselves in position to use it. We didn't see a bias on the racecourse to one side or the other, so we tried to maintain tactical flexibility. That allowed us to benefit from boatspeed."

Spaceman Spiff trails Skeleton Key by 4 points and now has to keep an eye over its transom at Jeffrey Davis' (Cleveland, OH) Shamrock, which has 29 points.

"I have a lot of respect for the Spaceman Spiff guys. They sail their boat very well," said Wagner. "The conditions were so challenging today that it was easy to come out on the wrong side of events. We were fortunate to be able to improve our position today and that's all that we could hope for."

The challenging conditions led to a shuffling of the order in the 52 Super Series and J/111 classes, and a tightening of the order in the ORC Class.

Ergin Imre's Provezza IX from Turkey, with Peter Holmberg (St. Thomas, USVI) driving and Tony Rey (Middletown, RI) calling tactics, took over the class lead. Provezza IX posted a 5-3 today and leads with 40 points. Doug De Vos (Ada, MI) helmed his Quantum Racing to finishes of 2-1, good for low point boat of the day in the class, and moved into a three-way tie for second in the standings, 2 points behind Provezza IX.

key west race week
Tim Healy's New England Ropes has wrested away the lead in the J/70 Class with one race to go.Quantum Key West Race Week/PhotoBoat.com

Quantum Racing is tied with Harm Müller Speers' Platoon from Germany, which had led since Monday, and Alberto and Pablo Roemmers's Azzurra from Argentina. Niklas Zennstrom's Rán from Sweden is also in the mix, placed fifth with 43 points.

"It's all about team. We win together and we struggle together. The big thing is to stick together and come through it," said De Vos, the 2016 52 Super Series champion. "We had a little delay this morning so we spent a little time thinking about what we could do to improve in each and every area of the boat. As we came in we said, 'Hey, we did all those things, we made those little improvements and it showed.'"

In the J/70 Class, Tim Healy's (Jamestown, RI) New England Ropes overtook rival Calvi Network, owned by Carlo Alberini of Italy. Both crews were challenged in the lighter winds and found themselves wrestling with the pack rather than free and clear at the front of the fleet.

New England Ropes moved into the lead after finishing 9-7, which included and OCS in the first race. Calvi Network finished 4-22 to fall 9 points in arrears. Calvi Network was buried at the start of the second race and never found a lane to dig out of the pack.

The ORC Class is also up for grabs. J.D. Hill's (Houston, TX) Second Star (J/122) found the going a bit more difficult in the lighter winds and finished 3-5 while Alex Sastre's (Coconut Grove, FL) High Noise (Italia Yachts 9.98m) finished 1-2. One point separates the two in the battle for the class victory.

Two other class leaders joined Dan Cheresh's (Saugatuck, MI) Extreme2 in locking up their classes. Laura Weyler's (Williamsville, NY) Hijinks holds an 11-point lead in the J/88 Class and Nigel Brownett's (Long Beach, CA) Hogfish Racing leads the Flying Tiger 7.5m Class by 8 points. With only one race left to sail, neither can be overtaken. Extreme2 locked up the C&C 30 One-Design Class yesterday.

Todd Stuart's (Key West, FL) White Rhino (Swan 56) won its fourth consecutive race in the Performance Cruising Class and also locked up that class.