Key West Race Week delivers an environment impossible to compare with any regatta in the world. Personally, it felt like someone dragged Reno, Nevada to the oceanfront, and ran one of the most amazing spectacles in sailing: bull riding, carny activities, jet pack rides, pirates heckling you on the street. . . I found myself in the middle of the spectrum between “Mad Max” and “The Real World.” For our team, West Marine Rigging, it became a story of amazing success and survival.
There is something to be said for sailors and athletes that can be thrown into any situation and come out victorious. No matter how hard it gets, or how trying it is, these are the type of athletes who rise to the challenge and reach higher limits and develop new potentials. This year at Quantum Key West, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by four of these incredible athletes.
Throwing together a new crew and having to make a last minute substitute, only five days prior to the event, is not exactly an ideal way to start off a regatta. Developing synergy between a new team can take weeks, and we were already lacking time–especially with the focus and time we demand for testing and tuning new gear at every regatta.
Also, combining the factors of a “Premiere Racing Regatta” with one of the U.S.’s major party towns, along with a young team of unfamiliar personalities, made the perfect setting for the next great reality TV show: “The Real World,” or “Survivor” meets “The Jersey Shore.”
Onboard the Melges 24, we had Andrew Wills of Oakcliff Sailing Center, Kelly Stannard, a.k.a. “Biscuit,” from U.S. Sailing and current member of the Roger Williams Sailing Team, Sam Rogers of 42 Marine, and Bora Gulari, U.S. Sailor of the Year.
Fortunately, Bora and I had sailed together one time before this event. However, our brief sailing experience together didn’t make up for the fact that we had a completely new team, and were about to throw ourselves into one of the most competitive fleets at Key West.
We started out our week by finalizing our sail development program with North Sails designers Vince Brun, Andreas Josenhans, and Chris Williams, helping from Milford. After some hard days of testing and tuning, we finally got to the start line on Monday, and shocked ourselves with a string of bullets. We almost continued this for the remainder of the week, except for scaring ourselves on Tuesday morning with a 6th.
But, it wasn’t easy. We started the week struggling to douse and gybe, had a disastrous race four (which I’m not even going to talk about), and had some docking issues throughout the event. Other than these ‘minor hiccups’ it is was some nice NASCAR sailing – a little rough around the edges, yet still very professional, exciting, and adrenaline-filled.
Now, Key West is a foggy haze, and it’s back to the real world. As I sit here at my desk looking out at a frozen New England, I wish it wasn’t over. Key West is an amazing regatta, and I urge everyone to attend what is now surely to become a yearly pilgrimage for me. See you at the next event!
_ Access SW‘s complete coverage of Quantum Key West 2012. _