Most of the marquee classes at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 came down to the last day of the regatta, which delivered the toughest conditions of the week. Howling winds and rough seas challenging the competitors on Friday, forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory.
That was certainly the case aboard Bella Mente, the mini maxi skippered by Hap Fauth of Minneapolis. Fauth steered the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer to first place in both races on Friday to hold off a stiff challenge from skipper Gunther Buerman and his team on Numbers.
“Our plan was to be in position to win going into the last day and that is what happened. The wind Gods cooperated today and gave us great racing. We rose to the occasion and were able to win both races,” Fauth said. “I thought the whole crew did an impeccable job. We sailed hard in both races.”
Bella Mente wound up winning six of 10 races in posting a low score of 19 points, two better than Numbers, which had four-time America’s Cup winner Brad Butterworth aboard as tactician. Fauth captured his fourth victory in Key West despite a grounding incident on Wednesday that caused the team to absorb seven points in two races. Bella Mente was unable to finish Race 5 then limped to third in Race 6 due to a damaged keel bulb.
“We basically tanked two races and that was very hard to overcome, especially against this caliber of competition,” Fauth said. “Numbers is very quick and very well sailed. Gunther, Brad and their guys did a terrific job and really pushed us the whole way.”
Veteran professional Terry Hutchinson, who was recently named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for the second time in his career, praised the performance of Fauth and the rest of the crew. Hutchinson, an executive with Quantum Sail Design Group, is a relative newcomer to the Bella Mente program.
“Hap has a lot of experience racing this boat and does an outstanding job on the helm,” Hutchinson said. “The one constant we had all week was superb starting and tremendous boat-handling. Every member of the crew really did a great job.”
Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing. Sailors aboard the GC32 catamarans were hanging on for dear life all day as the high-tech speedsters were bouncing off waves and coming completely out of the water. Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1, said the foiling catamarans completed a downwind leg in just six minutes.
Skipper Flavio Marazzi led the Swiss entry ARMIN STROM Sailing to a one-point victory over ZouLou, the French entry skippered by Erik Maris. Keith Swinton served as tactician while Diego Stefani was headsail trimmer aboard ARMIN STROM, which finished first or second in eight of 10 races. Argo and Leenabarca were unable to compete in the last race after sustaining rudder damage in the rough conditions.
“The last two days were really fun. These are very cool boats and they were absolutely flying,” Marazzi said. “Today was a bit tricky because of the swell. It’s hard to find the fine line between pushing and backing off. It is very exciting, but also very dangerous.”
Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog carried a three-point lead into the final day and decided to cover the second place boat in Race 9. Cutler finished fourth, but forced Dalton DeVos and the Delta team to absorb a fifth. That gave Hedgehog the breathing room it needed and Cutler repeated as class champ by a two-point margin over Argo, skippered College Sailor of the Year Graham Landy of Yale.
“All five boats were very good so the competition was real tough,” Cutler said. “Every boat won a race and we were the only boat that didn’t finish last. It was real close racing and you could lose two or three boats in a hurry with the slightest mistake.”
Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in the Olympics several times, called tactics for Cutler. Adrian Stead, a veteran professional from Great Britain, was aboard as strategist.
Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 was the first regatta for Tonnerre 4 under the ownership of Peter Vroon of The Netherlands. It didn’t take the crew very long to figure out how to make the Ker 51 go fast as the Dutch entry led IRC 1 class for the final four days.
“We are very pleased to win such a strong class. I have an excellent bunch of sailors on the boat and they do all the work. My contributions are ballast and writing the checks,” Vroon joked. “Obviously, the bigger breeze of the last two days was good for our boat.”
Kevin George served as tactician for the 84-year-old Vroon, who won Key West for the second time. “It was just a case of putting the building blocks together and gaining momentum. We focused on getting good starts and just tried to sail a clean regatta,” George said.
Tonnere also won the High Performance Rule sub-class, which consisted of five of the IRC 1 entries. Tonnere edged the Ker 43 Otra Vez (William Coates) in IRC 1 and the Carkeek 40 Spookie (Steve and Heidi Benjamin) in HPR. Impetuous, skippered by Paul Zabetakis of Stuart, Florida, topped the Swan 42 sub-class.
J/70 was the largest class of the regatta with 54 boats and featured a slew of top professionals. It was a week-long dog fight that saw constant changes at the top end of the standings. Skipper Carlo Alberini and his Italian team on Calvi Network emerged as overall winner thanks to single-digit finishes in nine of 11 races.
Branko Brcin served as tactician while Sergio Blosi and Karlo Hmeljak handled the trimming aboard Calvi Network, which closed the regatta with a second after posting a steady string of fourths and fifths. That remarkable consistency in such a competitive class earned Calvi Network the ultimate prize at Quantum Key West Race Week – Boat of the Week.
“The talent level in this class is very high. We came to Key West because we are very excited about the J/70 fleet and want to race against the best boats,” said Alberini, who won the European Championship last year. “To win here is the best feeling. This might be the most important win of my career because we beat the world champion on the water.”
Calvi Network totaled 49 points, eight better than the Mexican entry Flojito y Cooperando that is skippered by Julian Fernandez Neckelmann. Italian pro Vasco Vascotto called tactics on Flojito, which closed the regatta strong with a first and second on Friday. Tim Healy, the reigning J/70 World Champion and two-time winner here in Key West, finished third after pushing the line and being ruled on-course side (OCS) in the last race.
Gannon Troutman, the 12-year-old skipper of Pied Piper, was the talk of the regatta after finishing fifth in the talent-laden J/70 class – winning a race while also posting a second and third. San Francisco skipper Jim Cunningham captured the Corinthian Division of J/70 class, which had 20 boats.
Irish skipper Conor Clarke competed in Key West for the first time and came away with an impressive victory in Melges 24 class, winning eight of 11 races and beating the second place boat by 23 points. Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes, who are mounting a 470 Olympic campaign together, were helmsman and tactician aboard Embarr.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to win in Key West,” said Clarke, a Dublin resident who’s had the regatta on his bucket list. “Today’s sailing was just amazing. We had perfect conditions… just what the brochure said it would be like.”
J/88 class was decided on Friday with Rob & Sandy Butler sailing Touch2Play Racing to victory in both races. That clutch performance gave the Canadian entry the same amount of points as Deviation, skippered by Iris Vogel of New Rochelle, N.Y. Touch2Play won the tiebreaker by virtue of more first place finishes.
“We kind of put the pressure on (Deviation) by winning the last race on Thursday. We still trailed by two points so we knew we had to come out and win both races today,” Rob Butler said. “Our crew was really dialed in and we had very good boat speed. I’m proud of the team for doing what we had to do in order to win the regatta.”
J/111 also had a one-design class and Florida skipper George Gamble steered My Sharona to a wire-to-wire victory. Quantum pro Scott Nixon called tactics on My Sharona, which displayed superb boat speed in all conditions in winning five races and placing second or third in four others.
British skipper Joe Woods and his crew on Red set the pace in PHRF 1 from the outset and led at the end of each day’s racing. Dave Lenz served as tactician aboard the Farr 280, which won five races and placed second or third in four others.
“Joe has sailed a Melges 24 and a Melges 32 so he’s used to being on sport boats,” Lenz said. “This entire crew has sailed with Joe on the 32 and that familiarity seemed to give us a slight edge from day one. We just had a little extra click of speed than everybody else.”
Red closed the regatta with a pair of bullets and received the Quantum Sail Boat of the Day award. Woods was also the runaway winner of the Farr 280 sub-class, which had four boats.
Gerry Taylor secured his third class victory in Key West, steering Tangent to a wire-to-wire victory in PHRF 2. Veteran sailmaker Chuck O’Malley called tactics while headsail trimmer Jay Corcoran anchored a strong crew aboard the Cape Fear 38, which won every race but one.
Event Website and full results: http://wwww.premiere-racing.com