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Key West Log: No Wind and the Road Home

With a capital H in the sky over head, racing was abandoned until next year.

January 27, 2002

Race Week ended as it started, with a whimper. Despite the perfect blue skies, the forecast for wind was so hopeless that after waiting only an hour and a half, the race committees on all circles abandoned for the week and sent us home. That was unfortunate for everyone who had a shot of moving up in the standings, and equally so for all of the smaller boats, for whom Monday was also a washout. But the race conditions in the middle of the week were extraordinary, and as a rule, sailors packed up their boats and gear in a good mood.

“We were competitive,”said John Cooper, skipper of our J/29 Cool Breeze.“Last year we finished second to last.”

We motored at full speed around the end of the Key towards the basin where Fast Track Yacht Management had two good-sized hydraulic cranes to haul a large portion of the fleet–and a smaller unit inshore from the dock to unstep masts. On the way in, we folded and bricked the sails, stripped the running rigging and blocks from the deck, pulled the halyards to the masthead and made their coils fast to the mast, removed the mainsheet tackle, boom, and vang, and then pulled all of the stanchions and coiled up the lifelines.

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By the time we’d motored in and taken our place in line, we had little more to do than drink the rest of the fluids on the boat (along with the water and Gatorade, somebody had mysteriously stowed several beers aboard ). We waited, and took in a revue of modern raceboat design–from the ‘70s-style slab keel of the Tartan Ten to the elliptical, high-aspect ‘90s shapes of the 1D35 keel and rudder, to the Schock 40’s fore-and-aft rudder and swing-keel configuration. It was hot and breezeless until mid-afternoon, by which time we’d been hauled and the mast was coming down. But even then the breeze we felt ashore probably didn’t have enough weight out on the racecourse to be competing. It was time to go to the final awards and head for home.

Under the tent, I found a pretty happy crowd. That’s probably because most of those in attendance were waiting to pick up silverware for top-five finishes. I joined the other paparazzi taking pictures of all the winners, and noticed that after the J/29 champs, John and Tony Esposito, helmsman Greg Smith and the rest of the Hustler crew, picked up their first-place trophy, they were the only ones to snag the second- and third-place finishers–Tomahawk’s Bruce Lockwood and Showdown’s Bijan Risani–for a class photo of the top three finishers.

The end of my Key West J/29 Log found our crew getting silly over a late meal in which Billy and John took turns choosing from Mangia Mangia’s extensive wine list. Billy would leave Sunday, towing Cool Breeze to St. Petersburg for February’s Sailing World NOOD regatta there, while the rest would disperse on Saturday to Missouri and up the East Coast. I joined Stan in the rental van for a leisurely Saturday morning drive back up through the beautiful Keys for our afternoon flights at Miami Airport. We had one scary moment, however, which was no doubt much more of an adrenaline rush for the fellow towing the J/29 Send in the Clowns, which we were following. Without warning, an oncoming pickup truck crossed into his lane and only at the last minute completed its badly miscalculated left turn. We watched the J/29 swerve across the road and back again, amazed that it didn’t tip over–and shocked at what we’d just seen.

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The moral is, I guess, if you’re heading down the road for Key West next year, don’t stint on the stability of your truck or trailer. It’s worth the trip, but take your time and keep your eyes open.

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