Back in Good Ol’ Key West

After a slow trip down in the Fort Lauderdale-Key West Race, a morning run with the chickens has the author in the mood for Race Week.

Sailing World

Isler368

Peter IslerOracle Racing

I love this place. I've been coming to Key West since I was a kid, and it still has that great "outside of mainstream U.S." tropical feel in some parts of town. We sailed into town a couple days ago after a pretty brutal race down the coast from Fort Lauderdale on the Rambler. We had 12 of the 21 team members who survived the capsize of the R100 in last summer's Fastnet Race. It was the first time we'd all been together since being "shipwrecked" in Baltimore, Ireland, and you can be assured that the pre-race safety briefing held special meaning for everybody on board. All night long, as we beat upwind in 20 to 40 knots, the entire crew on deck was wearing their inflatable life jackets with leg straps attached. And I would hazard a guess that everybody had their boat-issued pocket EPIRB and laser light (very cool) in their pockets. We also have new whistles that actually are LOUD!

By the time the race finished in Key West, the wind had shut off, and we had even pulled the anchor on deck a couple of times. After packing up the Rambler, I grabbed my bags and moved over to my new ride, the Shockwave, which I'll be sailing with a great crew this week in the big-boat IRC class. It should be great competition between us, Ran, and Numbers.

Anyways, back to Key West. Yesterday, I went for a dawn run through the back streets—I love the back streets of KW—and enjoyed all the wild chicken sightings. Even saw a flock of few-day-old chicks being paraded across the street by a proud mother hen. The canopy shade trees, the old wooden houses, that tropical Caribbean/Central American feel really resonates with me in this town. And at night, in the touristy parts of town, there seems to be live music coming from just about every other doorway that you pass.

But it's time for me to shift gears and focus on Race Week. Big breeze from the north forecast for at least the next two practice days. On a boat that does 20 knots in 20 knots of breeze, that makes the 2.4 mile-long racecourse feel pretty tiny. On windy days, it's only about six or seven minutes to the jibe after the top mark. There’s a reef bounding the bottom of the course, and the endless Florida banks bounding the top, so with a 16-foot draft, we really can’t sail off the course!

_ Access SW's complete coverage of Quantum Key West 2012. _