Key West Report: Moving Day Lives, and Doesn't Live, Up to Its Name

We were up, then down, then eventually just slightly better than where we started the day. But that's still progress.

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Tim Wilkes/ Www.timwilkes.com [1] [1] Http://www.timwilkes.com

KEY WEST, Fla.-Today was Moving Day. And on Bodo von der Wense's Mumm 30 Turbo Duck, we were moving. We'd won the first race-a nip-and-tuck affair-by one and a half boatlengths over Peter de Ridder's Mean Machine. And as we closed on the final turning mark of the second race, with just one beat remaining between us and the finish, we used a fortuitous puff of breeze to leap past Nelson Stephenson's TeamBOLD and into second place, behind Deneen Demourkas.

Better still the all the boats in front of us in the standings had either had a poor first race, or were in the process of putting together a poor race. The only thinking preventing me from thinking about winning Boat of the Day honors was the fact that the previous two boat of the day winners at 2007 Key West Race Week-Ernesto Bertarelli's Farr 40 Alinghi and Claudio Recchi's Melges 32 Let's Roll-were both from our circle. I thought for sure that the Premiere Racing folks would try to spread the love around a little bit.

Our rounding wasn't stellar, but it wasn't atrocious. Then, a 30-degree right shift came in and as all the boats that had chosen the left-hand gate tacked to starboard we dropped from a close second to a distance sixth, if we were lucky. We pressed into the left, hoping to find something to salvage the beat. But it never arrived and we crossed the finish line in eighth, out of 10.

It was a bitter way to end Moving Day. We were, however, able to take a good amount of satisfaction out of the fact that for the Mumm 30 class, Wednesday actually made the competition for the overall trophy more confused. We jumped to fourth. The Italian team of Calvi Hiroshi, which was winning the regatta handily when the day began, dropped to third after losing a protest. With three races remaining, we stand just seven points out of first in a class where at least seven of the boats have the speed to win a race. Moving Day might just have to wait until Thursday.

A similar thing happened in the Melges 24 class. Giovanni Maspero's streak of top-three finishes came to a halt after five races as his Joe Fly team finished 20th in Race 6. It wasn't enough to drop them from the lead they've held since they won the opening race. But the Italian team is just two points in front of Dave Ullman's Pegasus 505, which won the day with a first and a seventh and did do some serious moving. Franco Rossini's Blu Moon team is in third with five points off the lead. At least the top six boats-sixth is 15 points behind-have still got a shot at the championship.

|| |---| | | In all three of the IRC divisions, the top teams have separated themselves from the pack. In IRC-1, the two Farr 60s, Hissar and Numbers have jumped well ahead of the pack. Edgar Cato's Hissar leads with 11 points, while Daniel Meyers' Numbers is just one point back. Third is a distance 15.5 points behind Numbers, which means that these two Newport, R.I.-based boats will likely be at each others throats for the final three races.

In IRC-2, the TP 52 Windquest and the Ker 50 Magic Glove are tied on points with 13, with Samba Pa Ti, another TP 52 three points back. Fourth place is eight points behind second.

In IRC-3, Makoto Uematsu's Esmeralda and Stephane Neve's Spirit of Malouen are separated by just one point, with third 12 points further back. Esmeralda, the first Club Swan 42 to hit the racecourse, has been impressive so far in it's IRC debut.

"I very pleasantly surprised," said Ken Read, Uematsu's tactician and co-helmsman for the regatta. "For a racer/cruiser, in this light lumpy condition-you probably couldn't make a worse condition for a boat like this with an interior, it's built light, but it's not a grand-prix raceboat, that's for sure. Another thing is we're just learning a ton every day. It's fun in that respect. With 30 boats that are going to be out here in 8 months or so, it's a really nice thing for us in the industry to get such a big jump. It's been good. All the way around it's been a good experience."

Esmeralda is hull No. 2 of this class, about which we've written quite a bit on line and in the magazine. By mid summer a two dozen of these boats are expected to be sailing on the East Coast, and over third orders have been taken. The one-design rules allow onlyu two Category 3 sailors, neither of which can be paid. But Read is taking this opportunity-racing it under IRC-to get as much research done as possible, brining a number of top industry pros onboard.

"The objective isn't to mock the Category 1 part of it," said Read, who has been driving the starts and the downwind legs while Uematsu drives upwind. "The objective is to bring as many pros into an event like this to make sure that once the owners get their boats in the next few months that all the parts and pieces and products that are on the boats are up to speed."

When I sailed this boat a few months ago, I felt that it would be a challenge for the amateur crews for two reasons: the double spreader rig would be tricky to tune and the large spinnaker would be difficult to handle. With a few days practicing and racing, Read doesn't feel this is the case.

"I think the tuning we're addressing really hard," he said. "We're going to make this tuning thing really easy, at least that's our objective at North. We understand that part of the fun is the ease of getting your boat up to speed for that given condition. So that is probably reason No. 1 why we have three guys from North on the boat. The second thing, the overall sailhandling, I don't think that's going to be a problem. You look at J/120s and J/133s, all the sprit boats like that, they've all got big kites. This boat is a performance boat, but it's no so much of a performance boat that it's going to scare the crap out of people. I think it's really a pretty good blend for the clientele that they're trying to reach."

With everything on schedule, there are just three races remaining at 2007 Acura Key West Race Week. For some teams, like Ken Read's crew on Esmeralda, the game plan is simple, beat the one boat that can still beat you. But even though Moving Day is done, there's plenty of moving to be done all over the four circles south of the Southernmost Point in the United States. Stay tuned.

For results and photos, www.premiere-racing.com