New Days Ahead for Key West Race Week

Interview with Premier Racing’s Peter Craig

This weekend, Premiere Racing, organizers of Key West Race Week, announced a new title sponsor for its marquee event, which will now bear the title, Terra Nova Trading/Yachting Key West Race Week. The event will be held January 21 to 25. Terra Nova Trading is an electronic direct access trading firm. Sailing World editor John Burnham spoke with Craig by telephone to learn more about the new arrangement.

Grand Prix Sailor: You had a record 326 boats at last year’s Yachting Key West Race Week yet had trouble staying in the black. Now Terra Nova Trading’s been announced as your title sponsor. How important is that to continuing the event?

Peter Craig: Terra Nova Trading is very important to our Key West event. But sponsorships are one of three parts to our new business plan. We can’t be soley dependent on sponsorships. Nor can we count on record fleets every year. We were fortunate to have a record fleet last year when the title sponsor position was vacant. Hence our new three-part business plan which ties in sponsorships, industry participation and new entry fees. We can’t achieve long term financial stability by putting all our eggs in one basket-recent world events certainly speak to that. Fortunately, a number of players in the industry also believe in our event and have stepped up to the plate to participate in our new industry partner program.

GPS: What’s the most expensive aspect of running a regatta such as Key West?

PC: That’s a good question. Very simply, as a line item, it’s overhead. Premiere Racing used to be the guy you’re talking to, sitting in his attic, but with a family I couldn’t do that forever. I’m in an office now. What I took over and what I’m doing now requires staff and benefits plus copier, electricity, and all the usual office overhead. One thing we’ve pointed out to the owners and the industry is we’ve been trying to run a major international event on a one-and-a-half person staff. To go forward with our new business model-and before we can prove it a success-we’ve had to staff up.

GPS: How many staff?

PC: We now have 3.5 staff here and we use more and more contractors as we get closer to the event.

GPS: Is it true you’re talking to the Melges Class about hosting the Worlds in January?

PC: We were approached by the class immediately after the announcement that the Lauderdale YC wasn’t doing it. We were planning for a Melges class anyway, but the Worlds presents a number of hurdles to get over-for example, the class wasn’t going to be on its own circle. We’re working to solve those problems. Key West seems to make sense for the Worlds.

GPS: How have entries been coming in since Sept. 11?

PC: We track entries very closely year to year. To be honest we were running well ahead of last year’s record pace up until the 11th. Things went very quiet for the next two weeks, which didn’t surprise us. In the last few business days we’re starting to see the entries come back.

GPS: How’s the mood among sponsors and sailors you’re talking with?

PC: The Terra Nova Trading deal hadn’t been signed before September 11th, and I’m sure they looked at it closely; but they came to the decision that life’s got to go on and their business has to move forward and so they decided to continue. We have the same outlook, and most sailors we talk to seem to agree. We certainly haven’t seen anything in the way of cancellations or people letting us know they were planning to come and have decided against it. But I’ll be honest; it’s anybody’s guess what people will do.