Quantum Key West Race Week 17: Easy Tiger Out

No one Key West Race Week is the same, but the rewards remain unique.

Key West Race Week
To better help sniff out the shifts on the final day of Quantum Key West Race Week we brought in the hound.Dave Reed

As I sit here on the front porch of the little condo at the Truman Annex before heading off to the awards show for Quantum Key West Race 17, I can’t stop thinking about hard it was to get a third-place overall in the seven-boat Flying Tiger fleet. Yes, we earned our third on a tie breaker, having had to eat 16 points by missing the first two races on the first day. It’s perhaps the many, many hours on the water we spent to get this result that seems hard to get my head around. These weeklong regattas seem an eternity at first, but when they’re over, you’re left wanting one more day, another race, another shot. The routine is established: race, eat, sleep, repeat. Come Friday, this routine just seems natural. As we started to strip the boat at the dock, our main trimmer Dickey Mays said, “I sure wish we had one more day. I’m not ready to leave.”

I’m with Dickey.

But the pack-up is happening all around us: at the hoist, at the ramp, at the condo as TP52 crews roll out with wheelie bags to catch private planes and outbound flights, leaving the boat work to the shore crew. The rest of us remain for the party, the awards, and finally a chance to blend in with the Duval Street circus.

Onboard Easy Tiger, we had a tough day, but we’re happy with the end result. Yesterday we put up our worst finishes. We were slow in the light stuff, dragging weed around the course, and simply unable to get the boat up to speed when we needed to. Racing an unknown charter boat can be a maddening exercise in frustration, trying to figure out the problems and solutions. Is it the keel, the rig, the boat, any number of things, or just us? It’s impossible to precisely because the boat is so foreign to us. Without the ability to adjust the rig each day to try a different set up (event rules), we simply have to test ourselves in different ways. We have to sail the boat we are given as best we can and not use it as an excuse. Everyone else in the fleet is in the same situation.

After yesterday’s disappointing finishes we gathered for a team taco dinner, laughed late into the night (but not too late) and went into today with a genuine lighter outlook and a simple goal: to just sail our own race and let the results do as they may.

Our fifth in the final race was a bit of downer given how hard we sailed to get it, but it gave us our podium finish. On the sail in, we reviewed our positives: It was unanimous that our boat was quieter, more relaxed, settled and polished. Our boat handling was at its best in the corners, and even our speed off the start was better. As we went around the boat, one by one sharing, what we felt was the one thing we’d take away from the regatta there were common themes: the importance of boat prep, of routines, of doing your, of resetting when the boat doesn’t feel right.

When it came my turn, I had a hard time identifying the one thing I’d done well because I kept thinking of how we, six random people who had never sailed with each other, let alone knew each other, seemed like longtime friends after only six days of sailing. So many laughs, great conversations equaling an experience that will forever stay with us. I offered up that our crew movement and weight awareness through the lulls and gusts was the most notable improvement, but the one true takeaway for me was the reminder of how much fun it is to sail coed and to sail with new friends. I’d race with our Easy Tiger six pack again — in a heartbeat. Mays Dickey, Laura Graham, Beth Whitener, Rachel Bryer, and Mike Marshall . . . it was excellent week of racing. I only wish we had another day and another race. Long as it may be, with the great weather and superb races, this regatta must live on.

Key West Race Week
Deploying Phillip the hand-bearing hog, tactician Mike Marshall checks the course in the pre-start.Dave Reed