Key West Log: No Complaints About the Heat

It’s hot and nearly windless as race week prep continues.

For the pre-regatta weigh-in this morning, I met up with our crew (minus our jib trimmer caught in D.C. snowstorm delay). When owner John C., who’s a fairly big guy, came in more than 10 pounds underweight, all the rest of us after him in line breathed easier. No running around Key West in foul-weather gear or sweating it out in a sauna for this crew.

While the others ate a big breakfast to celebrate, I did some errands and dropped off my rental car. It was hot, with a lifeless southerly blowing across the island, and by the time we got over to Stock Island where many of the smaller boats dock, perspiration was the common denominator among our crew.

Billy Liberty, a sailmaker for Quantum in Connecticut, had handled a general upgrade for Cool Breeze, and although the deck exhibited the filled-in-holes of any well-used J/29, the gear and rigging he’d put in place looked sweet. The mast had been stepped on Friday and shrouds tuned, but we had to set up all of the halyards and other running rigging, which was hot work, yet pleasant because so much of it was brand new, low-stretch, and lightweight. It was good brainwork, some of it, too. My favorite was figuring out how to sort out the blocks and lines for the mainsheet, which had a double-ended fine-tune. Like any desk jockey, I also enjoy any chance to use my Gerber (multi-tool), and it was in regular demand this day.

After motoring out of the Stock Island channel to the south, we set the main and light genoa to give John the feel of the helm after a long spell ashore and to look at the small re-cuts Billy had made in both sails. With only 4 or 5 knots of breeze, we didn’t set any speed records, but for a while we were within range of another J/29 and got the chance to see how we could go. For me, first, it was good to go sailing, and second, I got the chance to practice trimming a genoa--a type of sail that almost seems foreign because we don’t have them on the one-design keelboats on which I usually sail.

After 45 minutes sailing, we headed back for the barn. Billy decided on a small change in headstay length and some overnight adjustment he’d make in the tack-ring position--but in general he felt good about our setup. At the dock we took a halyard winch apart to clean out the dirt and unstick the pawls, while Billy tweaked the rig tune. Then we hosed down the boat and headed back down Rt. 1 into town with a relatively small to-do list.

Before settling down in front of a television to watch the Patriots surprise the Raiders in the snow back home in New England, I went to a party for the Mumm and Farr classes. Race Week here is truly a place where amateur sailors get to rub shoulders with the pros, and this party was a good place to start, with the likes of Chris Larson, Ed Baird, Mark Ploch, Morgan Trubovich, Ed Reynolds, and Terry Hutchinson in attendance.

When it comes to star power, this race week (Terra Nova Trading/Yachting Key West Race Week is the new, formal name) is second to none. With all the big IMS and PHRF boats, the Farrs, 1D35s, and a huge Melges World Championship fleet of 80 boats, you’ll hardly be able to turn around any time this week without bumping into a Vince Brun, Mark Reynolds, Robbie Haines, Ken Read, John Bertrand, or any of several dozen more stars.

On the water, however, in any of the fleets, the names are less important than having the solid fundamentals of speed, boathandling, and tactics. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully have enough wind (and our snowbound jib trimmer!) so we can run a good practice to work on our boathandling. Then we’ll be ready to put the rest in place when the racing starts on Monday.