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News from Quantum Key West 2014

Find daily press releases from Quantum Key West 2014 right here.

January 21, 2014
Sailing World

Quantum Key West 2014

Storms and rain on tap for Day 2 at Key West Onne Van Der Wal

Key West, FL (January 24, 2014) – There was plenty of final day drama at Quantum Key West 2014 as the winners of several classes were determined during the last race. And conditions could not have been better for those winner-take-all scenarios with the southernmost point of the United States delivering the strongest winds of the regatta.

North-northeasterly breezes in the 18-24 knot range made for some spectacular racing on all three courses and enabled all 10 classes to complete 10 races for the five-day event.

Organizers with Premiere Racing deemed the most impressive performance of the regatta was put forth by skipper Tim Healy and his team on Helly Hansen, which won the 60-boat J/70 class in convincing fashion. Healy, a professional with North Sails, repeated as class champ in Key West by winning two races and placing second or third in five others.

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Helly Hansen clinched the regatta by finishing third in Race 9 and therefore did not sail the final race, using that as its throw-out. Geoff Becker and John Mollicone combined on tactics and trimming while Gordon Borges worked the bow for Healy, who is also a standout J/24 sailor.

“Obviously the biggest key to success is having a good team. My guys did an awesome job of boat-handling and tactics,” Healy said. “We sailed here last year so we had a real good feel for the race course. This team has also sailed J/24s together the past few years so we have a comfort level that makes a big difference.”

Healy and Helly Hansen came away with the biggest prize – capturing Quantum Sails Boat of the Week honors. “We had a huge class down here last year with a lot of really good sailors so it’s a great accomplishment to come out on top. Winning Key West is definitely one of the highlights of my career,” said Healy, a 42-year-old resident of Jamestown, R.I. Eight different boats took first place during the week.

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No class was more closely watched all week than IRC 2, which featured six 52-footers crewed by a who’s who of the professional ranks. Quantum Racing, skippered by Amway president Doug DeVos of Ida, Mich., began the day with a three-point lead and did what was necessary to secure the 52 Class championship by placing third in Race 10.

“What a great week!” DeVos exclaimed upon returning to the dock following Friday’s lone race. “Great competition, great weather, great race management and great sailing conditions. This is really a fabulous event from top to bottom.”

America’s Cup veterans Terry Hutchinson and Ed Baird served as tactician and strategist, respectively, aboard Quantum, which wound up winning five of the 10 races. Juan Vila was aboard as navigator for entry fielded by the sailmaking company that is title sponsor of the event.

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Ran Racing, the British entry skippered by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, finished second in the final race, but wound up two points behind Quantum for the regatta. Ran, the reigning TP 52 World Champion, won two races and placed second or third in six others to finish 5 ½ points ahead of the Italian entry Azzurra, which captured class honors at Quantum Key West 2013.

“It was a fantastic week of sailing and we are very pleased with the regatta in terms of how the team and boat performed,” Zennstrom said. “It’s a good start to the season, a good start to the series.”

Ran and Quantum held first and second for most of Race 10, but Azzurra sailed a great last leg and skipped past both to get the gun. Vasco Vascotto (tactician), Francesco Bruni (strategist) and Guillermo Parada (helmsman) comprised the afterguard aboard Azzurra, which earned the Quantum Sails Boat of the Day award.

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An anticipated duel between the top two boats in Melges 32 class never materialized as skipper Dalton DeVos and the Delta team had an on-course-side start and were never able to challenge owner-drive Alec Cutler and the Hedgehog crew.

“We wanted to get a great start and pushed the line. Unfortunately, we were just a tad early and had to turn around,” DeVos said. “Hey, that’s sailboat racing. They don’t let you get a head start.”

Multi-time Canadian Olympian Richard Clarke called tactics for Cutler, who got a great start and led around every mark in winning by more than a minute. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Jonathan McKee was tactician on Delta, which battled back to take second and actually tied Hedgehog with 15 total points. Both boats won four races, but the Bermuda entry won the tiebreaker based on the result of Race 10.

“We knew we had to go out and win the race. That was the only option,” Cutler said. “The committee boat was favored and we won that end of the line. We then put the hammer down and just sailed as fast as we could.”

Cutler, a former intercollegiate sailor at the Naval Academy, has competed in Key West five times and been runner-up twice in Melges 24 class. This was his first victory in the annual midwinter regatta off the Conch Republic. “Our entire crew worked really well together and our boat-handling was outstanding the whole week,” he said.

Hot Mess, skippered by Rob Britts of St. Petersburg, Fla., was crowned as Corinthian champion of J/70 class. Britts posted six wins and three seconds within the 14-boat sub-class comprised of all-amateur crews.

Four boats entered the final day of action with a mathematical chance to win IRC 3 class, comprised of a diverse group of designs. Arethusa, a Swan 42 owned by Phil Lotz of Fort Lauderdale, finished fourth in Race 10 to hold the lead for a third straight day. Former Olympic medalist Jeff Madrigali served as tactician aboard Arethusa, which placed seventh out of 10 boats in Race 1, but never finished lower than fourth the rest of the way. Just eight points separated the top three boats in IRC 3 with the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens (Peter Vroon, The Netherlands) the runner-up by five points.

“We are very excited about winning our class at such a prestigious regatta,” said Lotz, who had placed at Key West a couple times before. “Our boat was very good in the medium breeze that predominated this week. We tried to start cleanly and had a fairly conservative game-plan. Jeff was outstanding tactically all week and did a good job of keeping us in phase.”

PHRF 1 was also up for grabs going into the last race and Spaceman Spiff, the J/111 owned by Rob Ruhlman of Cleveland, Ohio, seized the moment by winning. This was the 13th trip to Key West and the first class victory for the Spaceman Spiff program.

“We’ve been trying to win this regatta for a while and it feels good to finally break through. It feels even better because of the quality of competition we faced. This is some of the closest PHRF racing in which I’ve ever participated,” said Ruhlman, who had his wife and son aboard. “We really had a blast this week. It was great sailing and all the people in the class are so friendly. We passed Teamwork on the way into the harbor and their entire crew applauded us.”

Teamwork, a J/122 skippered by Robin Team of Lexington, N.C., came up short in its bid to three-peat in Key West – finishing 4 ½ points behind Spaceman Spiff.

Skipper Bill Sweetser has been bringing his J/109 Rush to Key West for 11 years and been runner-up on four occasions. The Annapolis resident sported a huge smile on Friday morning after clinching the class championship in PHRF 2 on Thursday. Sweetser steered Rush to victory in five races and placed second or third in fourth others in building an insurmountable lead that allowed him to stay ashore on Friday.

“It feels fantastic to finally win here in Key West! You could say we got the monkey off our back, or maybe it was a gorilla. I was tired of going home and hearing people say ‘Too bad you got second again.’ The whole bridesmaid talk was getting old,” Sweetser said. “Everybody is so ecstatic. We can’t wait to get the whole crew up on stage at the awards party.”

Skipper Ron Buzil and his team aboard Vayu2 were wire-to-wire winners in J/80 class, which attracted 12 entries. A pair of highly-regarded professionals, Jahn Tihansky and Andrew Kerr, served as helmsman and tactician aboard the boat chartered from J/World Annapolis. This was the second straight year that Buzil had chartered the boat and the team repeated as class champs.

“We had our mojo going early and managed to build a fairly substantial lead. We never really had a bad race and I attribute that to being able to get off the line cleanly and go where we wanted,” said Tihansky, owner of J/World Annapolis Performance Sailing School. “Andrew Kerr knows these waters well and did a masterful job of playing the shifts.”

Little Wing, an Italian entry owned by Nicola Ardito, had the ot firsts in the regatta, reeling off nine straight victories in Melges 24 class before sitting out the final race and using that as its throw-out.

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Fresh Winds In the Forecast

Key West, FL (January 23, 2014) – Quantum Key West 2014 got off to an atypically slow start due to difficult weather conditions the first couple days, but reliably strong winds off the Conch Republic certainly delivered on Wednesday and Thursday.

Organizers with Premiere Racing have fit six races into the last two days and just like that all three divisions are on the threshold of reaching the regatta goal of 10 for the week. Northerly winds today ranging from 12 to 16 knots allowed for another three-race day on all courses.

It’s down to the wire in the 52 Class with Quantum Racing and Ran both capable of winning. Skipper Doug DeVos and the Quantum team posted a superb line of 1-2-1 to take the lead away from Ran, which suffered a fifth in Thursday’s last race. Azzurra, the Italian entry owned by Pablo Roemmers, is 9 ½ points out of the lead and thus will not defend its Key West title.

“You always want to be in the hunt going into the last day. We have put ourselves in good position and now we have to finish,” said Terry Hutchinson, tactician aboard Quantum.

Quantum, the U.S. program backed by the sailmaking company that is title sponsor of the regatta, is the reigning 52 Super Series champion. Ran, a British boat owned by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, captured the TP52 World Championship in 2013.

“We just need to go out and sail the best we can. Quantum had a day today and we did not so now we have our work cut out for us,” Zennstrom said. “There’s going to be quite a lot on tomorrow. We need to sail really well and hope Quantum has a bad result in order to win.”

Spookie, the Carkeek 40 skippered by North Sails pro Steve Benjamin, has clinched victory in the High Performance Class. Heidi Benjamin is calling tactics for her husband, who has won five races and placed second or third in the other four in totaling 15 points.

“It’s been terrific racing, very close the entire week. We’ve really battled it out with Decision with most of the finishes just seconds apart. Riot has sailed really well and corrected over both of us today,” Benjamin said. “We’re really happy to win a tough class. The crew did a superb job and Heidi has hit so many shifts the last couple days.”

IRC 3, an extremely competitive 10-boat class with a diverse group of designs, is still up for grabs. Arethusa, a Swan 42 skippered by Phil Lotz, maintained the lead for a second straight day by placing second in the last two races on Thursday. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, is seven points behind in second. Tonnere de Breskens 3, a Ker 46 campaigned by Peter Vroon of The Netherlands, is just one point behind Catapult.

“It’s really, really close racing, which is what we came here for. We’re having a heck of a lot of fun,” Glimcher said. “Arethusa is very fast and very well-sailed. It’s going to be all-on tomorrow and we’re going out there with the intention of winning.”

After holding first place at the end of racing Monday through Wednesday, skipper Alec Cutler and the Hedgehog team have given up the lead in Melges 32 class. Dalton DeVos, a 22-year-old college student, got the gun in two races on Thursday and is now one point up on Hedgehog. Two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee is calling tactics aboard Delta, which has four wins and two seconds over the last two days.

“It feels really good to be winning the regatta going into the last day. The Hedgehog guys are really good so we know it’s going to be a real fight to stay on top,” DeVos said. “We’ve had great upwind speed the whole regatta and our downwind pace is getting better every day. My crew is just tremendous and Jonathan is doing a great job of keeping us in phase.”

Dave Brennan, principal race officer on Division 2, is hoping to complete two races on Friday. That may not be possible with afternoon winds expected to exceed 20 knots, which might be too much for the J/70s and Melges 24s on the course.

North Sails professional Tim Healy has put forth an impressive performance in J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 60 boats. Healy, the defending class champ in Key West, has placed first or second in five races and counts no lower than a fourth in accumulating 15 points. Savasana, the second place entry skippered by Brian Keane, is a whopping 27 points astern.

Healy won two races on Thursday and finished fourth in the other to earn the Industry Partner Boat of the Day honor. Geoff Becker and John Mollicone are teaming to call tactics while Gordon Borges works the bow aboard Helly Hansen.

“The big takeaway today was that you can’t get too focused on one side of the course. We saw big shifts both ways and there was plenty of pressure on both sides,” Healy said. “Our strategy has been to choose a side, but not be the furthest boat out there. You don’t want to get pushed all the way to the edge.”

Little Wing, the Italian entry owned by Nicola Ardito, has wrapped up the six-boat Melges 24 class – having won every single race so far. Hugo Rocha, a three-time Olympian and 1996 bronze medalist in 470 class for Portugal, is calling tactics on Little Wing.

There figures to be some fireworks in PHRF 1 as four boats are still in contention. Spaceman Spiff, sailed by Rob and Ryan Ruhlman of Cleveland, Ohio, held onto the lead for a second straight day, but is just 1 ½ points ahead of fellow J/111 Team Fireball (Eddie Fredericks, Annapolis). Teamwork, the J/122 skippered by Robin Team, is coming on strong – having won five of the last six races to get within 2 ½ points of the lead. Stark Raving Mad, a J/125 owned by James Madden, also has a shot to win.

“It’s a strong class with a lot of good boats and it’s not surprising the regatta has come down to the last race,” said Team, who was regretting a seventh place suffered in Race 8. “We’ve got to go out tomorrow and win the race. That’s all there is to it.”

Skipper Bill Sweetser and the crew on Rush have clinched victory in PHRF 2, posting a steady stream of firsts, seconds and thirds in the seven-boat fleet. Veteran pro Tom Babel called tactics on Rush, which has built an insurmountable lead over fellow J/109 Heat Wave (Gary Weisberg, Gloucester, Mass.). Sweetser, an Annapolis resident who has been class runner-up in Key West four times, announced he will not race on Friday to avoid a breakdown in the big breeze or fouling another competitor.

Vayu2, a J/80 chartered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, is the runaway winner of the 14-boat J/80 class. Professionals Jahn Tihansky and Andrew Kerr are helmsman and tactician, respectively, aboard Vayu2, which has won six races and placed second in three others in totaling 12 points.

Hap Fauth, skipper of the 72-foot racing machine Bella Mente, felt exhilarated as he stepped onto the dock following Thursday’s action. “We had absolutely fabulous conditions out there today,” Fauth declared. “Anybody who complains about any aspect of this regatta has a screw loose. This is just fantastic sailing.”

Fauth had another reason to be jubilant as Bella Mente has pretty much secured overall victory in IRC 1 class on Thursday. The Minneapolis resident has steered his Judel-Vrolijk to first place in five of nine races in totaling 15 points, three better than runner-up Caol Ila R, a 69-footer owned by Alex Schaerer. With only one race scheduled on Division 1 for Friday, Bella Mente needs only to complete the course in order to win the regatta.

“It’s been really close racing and we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s always nice to come out on top and I give all the credit to the crew. We have a bunch of outstanding sailors and they do a terrific job,” said Fauth, reserving particular praise for tactician John Cutler and strategist Mike Sanderson.

Racing concludes on Friday, with the early forecast (below) expecting fresh winds with possible gusts to 30 knots.
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Quality Conditions on Third Day

Key West, FL (January 22, 2014) – Northerly winds that held steady from 12 to 16 knots provided the best racing conditions yet for Quantum Key West 2014, with three races completed for the ten classes on three divisions.

“It was another beautiful Key West sailing day. That’s why we all keep coming back here,” said Alec Cutler, skipper of the Melges 32 Hedgehog.

Cutler was particularly pleased after surviving an on-course-side start and maintaining the overall lead for the third straight day. Hedgehog was over early in the opening race on Wednesday, but battled back to place second.

“That was our best race yet considering the circumstances. We clawed our way back through the fleet,” said Cutler, who is three points ahead of Dalton DeVos and the Delta team.

Completing three races caused a shakeup in the standings in many classes, including IRC 2. Ran, the British entry skippered by Niklas Zennstrom, posted a solid line of 4-1-2 for the day to take over the lead among the six 52-footers. Adrian Stead is calling tactics while fellow Briton Nick Asher is serving as strategist aboard Ran, which now leads Azzurra by one point.

“Our starts were strong and that allowed us to go where we wanted to go,” Asher said. “We’ve gotten ourselves into contention, but we need to keep plugging away. Tomorrow is the big day. There will probably be three more races and that’s going to determine a lot.”

Quantum Racing, which led the 52 Class for two days, suffered some bad luck in the first race on Monday – hooking a lobster pot and having to stop the boat in order to get it clear. That mishap resulted in a sixth place finish, but skipper Doug DeVos and crew remain in third overall just two points behind Ran.

Bella Mente, the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer skippered by Hap Fauth, snatched the lead in Mini Maxi class by a point over Caol Ira R (Alex Schaerer, Newport, RI). Shockwave, the third entry in the class, retired after suffering a mechanical failure during the first race of the day and is in third place. Skipper George Sakellaris expected the broken part to be fixed in time for Shockwave to resume racing on Thursday.

Arethusa, a Swan 42 skippered by Phil Lotz of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had a real strong day with a line of 1-3-2 and now leads IRC 3 by four points. Veteran professional Jeff Madrigali is calling tactics aboard Arethusa, which overtook fellow Swan 42 Vitesse (Jon Halbert) for first place.

“It was really a fantastic day of racing and we really appreciate getting three races in,” Lotz said. “We had good conditions for the Swans. It wasn’t quite windy enough for the lighter boats to plane. I thought we did a good job of shifting gears and staying in phase.”

Little Wing, the Italian entry owned by Nicola Ardito, has put forth a dominant performance in Melges 24 class. Hugo Rocha, a three-time Olympian and 1996 bronze medalist in 470 class for Portugal, is calling tactics on Little Wing.

“The wind was very shifty and Hugo did a very good job of putting the boat in the right place,” helmsman Enrico Zennaro said. “Our boat speed is very good. We have been able to make big gains on the course.”

That was evident in Wednesday’s first race when Little Wing went from fifth to first on the final leg, catching a big puff just before the finish to pass a couple boats.

There is also a new leader in J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 60 boats. North Sails professional Tim Healy steered Helly Hansen to a couple seconds and a third on Wednesday to take control with a low score of 29. Catapult, skippered by Joel Ronning of Minneapolis, Minn., is 12 points behind in second.

Geoff Becker is calling tactics upwind while John Mollicone is doing the honors downwind for Healy (Jamestown, RI), the defending regatta champ.

“Going downwind we were in-between planing and displacement mode so you had to decide when to keep the bow up and the jib out,” Healy said. “There were big gains and losses to be made downwind.”

Healy explained that a J/70 begins to plane in around 15 knots of breeze and attempting to do so when the wind is not strong enough causes the boat to really slow down. “It’s crucial to know when to soak it low,” he said.

Decision and Spookie, a pair of Carkeek 40-footers, have engaged in a great duel in High Performance Class. Decision led at the end of racing on Monday and Tuesday, but has surrendered the lead to Spookie, which won two races and placed second in the other on Wednesday. Skipper Steve Benjamin was particularly pleased about the second considering that Spookie was over early at the start and was able to pass two boats on the course.

“We got good starts in the last two races of the day, stayed in phase for the most part and were able to go around the corners cleanly,” said Benjamin, a key figure in developing the High Performance rule.

Dobbs Davis, U.S. editor for Seahorse Magazine and another leading proponent of HPR, said the competition at Key West this week has been the closest in the brief history of the class. “The deltas between the first and fourth place have been the smallest of any HPR regatta held to date,” he said.

Spaceman Spiff and Team Fireball, a pair of J/111s, are duking it out in the eight-boat PHRF 1 class. Spaceman Spiff, sailed by Rob and Ryan Ruhlman of Cleveland, Ohio, pulled ahead by 2 ½ points based on the results in Wednesday’s last race. Spaceman Spiff tied the J/122 El Ocaso for third place on corrected time while Fireball, skippered by Eddie Fredericks of Annapolis, suffered a sixth place finish.

“We feel good about the way the boat is moving. I think the key for us has been minimizing mistakes and recovering from the few we have made,” Rob Ruhlman said. “We have sailed conservatively, especially at the starts.”

PHRF 1 was deemed the most competitive class at Quantum Key West on Wednesday and that earned Teamwork the Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day honor. Skipper Robin Team steered his J/122 to three bullets as Teamwork jumped from sixth to third in the overall standings.

“We had a little pep talk this morning at breakfast and reminded everybody what we are capable of when we are focused and determined,” Team said. “We had epic conditions today and our team loves that type of breeze. Our tactician, Jonathan Bartlett, was on fire. He hit every shift all day long.”

Vayu2, skippered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, is running away with the 14-boat J/80 class. Professionals Jahn Tihansky and Andrew Kerr are helmsman and tactician, respectively, aboard Vayu2, which has won four races and finished second in the other two in building a commanding 12-point lead over Rumor (John Storck Jr., Huntington, NY).

Skipper Bill Sweetser and his team aboard Rush have maintained the lead in PHRF 2 for three straight days. Sweetser has steered the J/109 to first in four races and second in the other two.

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Rain Can’t Stop the Racing at Quantum Key West 2014

Key West, FL (January 21, 2014) – Rain squalls and wind shifts couldn’t put a damper on the competition during Day 2 at Quantum Key West 2014. Multiple storm bands that were quite severe at times challenged the race committees and forced delays. Ultimately, perseverance and patience paid off as Division 1 completed a race while Divisions 2 and 3 got in two each.

“We were seeing massive wind shifts – pre-squall and post-squall. The breeze went in a circle for a while,” said Ken Legler, veteran principal race officer on Division 1. “We had to move the signal boat a couple times and once we got a race going we had to move the weather mark a couple times.”

After postponing twice, Legler got a start away at 2:25 in the afternoon and it was a wild ride for the five classes competing on Division 1. Doug DeVos, skipper of Quantum Racing, saw 30-plus knots on the wind gauge.

“We saw just about everything out there. On a crazy day like this it’s important for everyone to remain calm, which is the way it was on our boat,” DeVos said. “You try to keep guessing what will happen, but you don’t get too antsy when something different happens. You just have to accept that this is what we have and adjust.”

Quantum Racing, with America’s Cup veterans Terry Hutchinson and Ed Baird giving DeVos advice on tactics and strategy, scored its third straight victory in the professional-laden 52 Class. DeVos was all smiles to hold a four-point lead over Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, Great Britain) following two challenging days off the Conch Republic.

“We feel really good. How can you not? You just want to keep yourself in the regatta when the conditions are difficult. Our team is not only keeping us in it, they have us winning races,” DeVos said.

Caol Ila R, the 69-footer skippered by Alex Schaerer of Newport, R.I., took first place in the Mini Maxi class ahead of 72-foooters Bella Mente and Shockwave. It was the second victory in three races for Caol Ila R, which can benefit from sailing in clean air while the two bigger boats battle it out.

“In a way it’s an advantage for them,” admitted Mark Mendelblatt, a member of the Shockwave afterguard. “There are times when we can tack on them and push them back, but we also have to be aware of Bella Mente.”

Decision maintained the lead in High Performance Class for a second straight day after placing second in the day’s lone race behind fellow Carkeek 40 Spookie. It’s a tight class with only three points separating the first and fourth place entries.

“We are very evenly-matched with Spookie and it seems like we’ve been swapping leads with them every leg, which is exciting,” said Murray, who also praised the performance of the Farr 400 Rock & Roll and the McConaughy 38 Riot. “Really, any of these boats could win the regatta. They are all well-sailed and it’s been great competition so far.”

Vitesse, a Swan 42 skippered by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, has displayed superb consistency in placing second in all three races against a tough fleet in IRC 3. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, has sandwiched a pair of bullets around a seventh and stands second overall with nine points.

“We have a great crew and they are sailing the boat very well in trying conditions,” Halbert said. “The wind was all over the place today – we saw everything from five to 35 knots with 30 degree shifts. It was important to anticipate the wind oscillations and change sails accordingly.”

Catapult’s victory in IRC 3 earned the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day award. Veteran professional Geoff Ewenson is calling tactics for Glimcher, who captured an IRC Sub-Class at Quantum Key West 2013.

IRC 3 was the most competitive class on Tuesday with the top five boats finishing within a minute of each other on elapsed time and the top eight boats inside of three minutes on corrected time.

“What a spectacular day of racing. We had a big build-up and were not disappointed,” said Glimcher, who finished just 17 seconds ahead of Vitesse on corrected time. “Winning Boat of the Day is very exciting for the Catapult team.”

Boat-handling was at a premium on Division 2 as the J/70 and Melges 24 classes were buffeted by the big breeze. There were plenty of knockdowns and round-ups as the sport boats with oversized spinnakers were pounded with sudden gusts.

Skipper James Allsopp and his team on Moxie showed tremendous skill and strategy in winning both races in J/70, largest class of the regatta with 60 boats. Former College of Charleston sailor Zeke Horowitz was on his game calling tactics on Moxie, which led after the first day of racing last year as well.

“We went out there with a plan and we stuck with it. Everything just kind of came together for us today,” said Allsopp, who competed collegiately at the Naval Academy. “We got off the line well in both races and did a good job of managing the shifts. We had a good time today.”

It was equally rough-and-tumble for the Melges 32 fleet with Tuesday race winner Deneen Demourkas reporting that all seven boats suffered a knockdown at some point. Demourkas steered Groovederci to victory with Cameron Appleton calling tactics and is two points behind Hedgehog (Alec Cutler, Bermuda) in the overall standings.

“I like the heavy air. You’ll never hear me complain about it being breezy,” said Demourkas, a finalist for the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award for 2013. “This is a strong fleet. Every boat has the potential to win the regatta.”

Principal race officer Wayne Bretsch and his team on Division 3 worked overtime to get in two races, staying on the water until after 5 p.m. Vayu2, the defending regatta champ skippered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, got the gun in Race 3 after placing second in Race 2 and leads J/80 class by seven points.

There is a nice duel shaping up in PHRF 2 with a pair of J/111 entries – Team Fireball (Eddie Fredericks, Annapolis) and Spaceman Spiff (Rob and Ryan Ruhlman, Cleveland, Ohio) tied with seven points after three races. Team Fireball holds the overall lead by virtue of two bullets.

Skipper Bill Sweetser and the Rush crew extended their lead in PHRF 2 by posting a second and a first on Tuesday. Rush is six points ahead of fellow J/109 Heat Wave (Gary Weisberg, Gloucester, Mass.).**

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Quantum Key West 2014 Begins Under Sunny Skies and Light Breezes

Key West, Florida Keys — A warm and sunny Monday morning greeted the sailors at Quantum Key West 2014. The light and shifty winds meant a 90 minute delay and time for more coffee and conversation. The voice of Race Officer Dick Neville announcing a planned start was a welcome relief as it meant there would be competition on opening day.

Within minutes of Neville’s announcement that race committees were planning a 1 p.m. start on all three courses, there was a flurry of activity as sailors sprang to life and began getting boats ready to go racing.

In the 21 years that Premiere Racing has been running the annual regatta off the southernmost tip of Florida there have only been a handful of days without any action. Despite a gloomy forecast, this would not be one of them.

Ken Legler completed two afternoon races on Division 1 while fellow principal race officer Wayne Bretsch got one start off on Division 3. Dave Brennan on Division 2 was not as fortunate as the breeze never stabilized long enough for his race committee to go into sequence.

“I thought Wayne Bretsch and his team exercised great patience and restraint. They waited and waited to make sure it would a fair competition then made do with what they had,” said Jahn Tihansky, tactician aboard the J/80 Vayu2. “It was really nice to have a race on a day when it looked like it might not happen.”

Skipper Ron Buzil and the Vayu2 team had reason to be happy after taking first in the 12-boat J/80 class for Race 1. Tactician Andrew Kerr knows the waters off Key West well and made the right calls on Monday.

“Andrew is a real guru down here and he nailed it. He kept us in breeze and kept us moving,” Tihansky said. “We got out to a nice lead and were able to extend it. We came off the line cleanly, stayed in the middle of the course and picked up a couple puffs on the first beat that allowed us to pull away.”

 Fireball, a J/111 skippered by Eddie Fredericks, earned the victory in PHRF 1. Rounding out Division 3 is PHRF 2 with skipper Bill Sweetser and his team on the J/109 Rush coming away victorious in Race 1.  

 "It was certainly a challenging day. There were some big shifts and you had to kind of hunt for breeze," Sweetser said. "That being said, it was day that you needed an astute tactician and Tom Babel had us in the right place at the right time both upwind and downwind."



 Legler got things going on the Division 1 course once he was confident a 4-7 knot zephyr from the south-southwest would hold. Skipper Doug DeVos and his crew aboard Quantum Racing figured things out the best in the 52 Class, winning both races. Tactician Terry Hutchinson and strategist Ed Baird combined to rally Quantum to victory in Race 1 after rounding the first weather mark in fourth.  

“There’s a fine line between luck and great strategy,” Hutchinson joked. “We had a really nice comeback in the first race. We got two nice lifts on the second beat then found an isolated breeze on the run to the finish,” Hutchinson said. “Our goal was to come ashore with five points or less so we are very happy with how things worked out.”

Ran, the British entry skippered by Niklas Zennstrom, placed second in both races. Azzurra, the defending regatta champion owned by Pablo Roemmers of Argentina, posted a pair of thirds as just four points separate the top three boats.

“It was very tricky, but we ready things pretty well. Niklas got two fantastic starts and we had pretty good speed,” said Adrian Stead, tactician aboard Ran. “We sailed the boat about as well as we could in the conditions so we are pleased. It was a good opening day.”

 In Mini Maxi class, the two 72-footers Bella Mente and Shockwave owe time to the 69-foot Caol Ila R and that made the difference on Monday. Newport skipper Alex Schaerer and his crew notched a first and a second to take a one-point lead over Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth and the Bella Mente team.  

 Alec Cutler took a year off from the Melges 32 class, but you would not have known it from his performance on Monday. The Bermuda skipper steered Hedgehog to victory in both races to build an early three-point lead over Dalton DeVos and Delta. Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in multiple Olympics, is calling tactics aboard Hedgehog, which earned the City of Key West Boat of the Day honor for its strong performance.  

 "It was kind of crazy out there. We had a five-knot breeze that was up and down with 40 degree shifts. Our class caught up to the bigger boats ahead of us, which made things really tough," Cutler said. "We would have been very happy with a one-four today so to put up a couple bullets it's a pleasant surprise. I thought our crew did a great job of staying patient and sticking with the wind we had instead of searching for something that may not have been there."  

 Vitesse, a Swan 42 owned by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, placed second in both races to take the opening day lead in the highly-competitive IRC 3 class. Mark Reynolds, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Star world champion, is calling tactics on Vitesse.  

 "The forecast said the wind would go right, but it actually went left. Fortunately, we went left and it worked out," Reynolds said. "We had good starts and got some good breaks."  
 In a class comprised of diverse designs, the top three spots in IRC 3 are held by Swan 42-footers. Massachusetts skipper Charles Kenahan steered Mahola to a pair of third place finishes and stands second overall.  
 J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 60 boats and the majority of skippers supported the decision to not attempt a race. Brennan, who has been running Division 2 in Key West for years, said he never saw more than five knots of breeze and did not feel it was stable enough.  

 "Key West is about high-quality racing and we just simply could not provide that with the conditions we had out there today," Brennan said. "We waited and waited for sailable conditions and made every effort, but it became obvious it just wasn't going to happen."  

 Dave Ullman, the renowned California sailmaker who has competed in Key West many times in various classes, said it was difficult to bob around on the water for almost three hours, but applauded the race committee for not trying desperately to get in a race.    

Bill Wagner
Press Officer

Visit SW’s Key West headquarters here.

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