Key West Report: A Good Start is Nice, A Good Finish Even Better

A bad start can ruin a race, but it doesn't have to, as one Farr 40 team learned once again at Key West.

KeyWest 07 Tuesday
Stuart Streuli

KEY WEST, Fla.-It's stating the obvious, but being called over early is never a good start to the race. In the Farr 40 class, however, it's often a death sentence. While the rest of the fleet spreads out and feasts on the open lanes, those singled out to start again are left picking at the scraps, watching the leads leg away in clean air. Evan and Helmut Jahn's Flash Gordon was one of three boats called over in the first race of the second day of 2007 Acura Key West Race Week.They were last around the first windward mark. But while the Flash Gordon crew knew the caliber of the teams in front of them-there's no creampuffs in this 17-boat fleet-they also knew that anything could happen. On the first run, they got their break and perhaps more importantly, they were ready to take advantage of it."Nobody ever gave up on the boat," says Evan Jahn, the younger half of the father-and-son duo. "That was really the biggest thing. Out of four starts we've had one good one, but everyone has stayed positive. The biggest key [in Race 3] was hitting the left-hand side going downwind and getting the 30-, 40-degree shift. We were the farthest left boat and we just cruised down on top of everybody. We went from last to, I don't know exactly what we rounded, sixth. But then we went backwards on the next weather leg. And then, same thing, we battled back downwind. The fleet now is so compressed, so dense, in the Farr 40s, 3 or 4 places are taken or swapped each leg. It's exciting because you're never out of a race."Flash Gordon finished that race, the third in a nine-race, no-throwout series, in second. A seventh in the second race of the race gave them the third lowest total of Day 2 in the Farr 40s and moved them into fourth place, just four points off second. In the lead in this class is Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi. With America's Cup tactician Brad Butterworth calling the shots, the Swiss boat has been one of the strongest boats so far in Key West Race Week. Yesterday Bertarelli picked up Boat of the Day honors after a second and a first. Another first and a fifth today has him firmly in control of the class, leading Wolfgang Stolz's Opus One by 12 points. In third is Lang Walker's Kokomo, from Australia.A year ago, John Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti would've been a name expected to be near the top of the Farr 40 rankings, but the California sailor has graduated, so to speak, to the TP 52 class. He launched his 52-footer, also called Samba Pa Ti, last fall, but Monday was the first time the boat had squared off against any other TP 52s. There are four racing as a sub class in IRC-2. Samba Pa Ti started off the regatta with a first, but has come back to earth a little bit in the ensuing races. They had a third in the second race yesterday. Today started off even worse than the previous day finished."Our first race today we had a bit of a disaster," said Stuart Bannatyne, a former youth world champ and Volvo Ocean Race veteran. "We ended up running over a lobster pot and had to stop the boat and send someone over the side to cut it off. That put us back into fifth place. A little disappointing there, but the second race we came back with another third, a solid result and we're pretty happy with that. Looking forward to a bit more breeze later in the week."Despite the fifth, Samba Pa Ti is only a point out of first. Doug DeVos' Windquest-which campaigned on the MedCup circuit last summer as Lexus-is in first after it finished second in each of the four races. "I think we're struggling a little bit just because we haven't sailed the boat very much and we're still learning how to set the boat up and get the best out of it," said Bannatyne. "They're very tweaky boats and the guys on Windquest have the benefit of a year's tuning from the previous owner; I'm assuming they've got a few guys that have sailed on both boats. They've got a jump on us there but we're just working away it and hoping we make improvements as we go along."In both IRC-1, which has four Swan 601s, and IRC-2 there is a little one-design sub class racing among the handicap fleet. Attacking this type of a class takes a little thought. "It is difficult to come up with a good strategy when you are racing similar boats in a handicap fleet," says Bannatyne. "Obviously we need to get to the finish line as quickly as possible, which is ultimately our goal, so we do well on handicap. We try to identify, during the race, which boats are close to us on corrected time and if we can influence their result then we think about doing that. We've got a couple of cheat sheets so we've got a pretty good idea of where we're standing in the overall queue."Sounds simple, as long as you're not the person manning the stopwatch and the cheat sheets. That's enough to make your head spin. With four races in the books, the regatta is just about halfway over. For the working world, tomorrow is "Hump Day" the coming weekend will soon be closer than the last one. For the sailors in Key West Race Week, it's Moving Day. If you're not close to the lead now, Wednesday is usually your last chance to get yourself in a position to claim some silver on Friday. If you're looking good after four races, then you'll need to race tomorrow like you've got a target on your back. For complete results and photos, www.premiere-racing.com