When we asked readers to pick the winner of the Melges 32 class at Quantum Key West 2012 for our Fantasy Sailing League, John Kilroy Jr.’s Samba Pa Ti team received more votes than any other entrant in the 19-boat fleet. For armchair racers,_ Samba Pa Ti _was an obvious choice, given the team’s history of world championship victories and Key West success.
I spoke with Kilroy after his team won Boat of the Week in 2010, and after the San Francisco native collected his Boat of the Week award last night for fending off Benjamin Schwartz’s Pisces team to win the highly competitive sportboat fleet, I cornered him again.
“I can see why people might’ve picked us in the [Fantasy Sailing League], because Samba has always been a good team, but you can’t take anything for granted in this fleet,” he said. “It’s why I love the Melges 32. It is the top, toughest fleet. Prior to getting into the class, I’d never driven a boat this small. For me, it’s a challenge.”
The path to victory in Key West was no cake walk for Samba Pa Ti. In fact, the team nearly blew its series lead in the penultimate race. “We were ahead of the boat we needed to be ahead of, and we camped on her,” says Kilroy. “But we had a bad seet, and it totally screwed us up. We lost ten places and probably thirty boatlengths on the boat we need to beat. We gained back and finished right behind them, which was a great achievement. But to say winning was a foregone conclusion, no way!”
Like every skipper worth crewing for, Kilroy knows that winning is a group effort. “I have a great crew,” he says. “Federico Michetti runs the team and trims kite and jib. Harry Melges trims main. Rufo Bressani is our tactician. He’s new to the program, and he’s done an amazing job. Justin Smart has been my pit guy for the last thirty some years. He’s the rock of our team. He’s been with me from the Maxi class, the Transpac 52, everything. Luca Feravali is our mast man. Martino Tortarolo is our all-around guy, and we had a new bow guy, since our regular bowman broke his leg skiing over New Years.
“You don’t win one of these regattas by being the best driver,” Kilroy continues. “You win by having the best team. And I have the best team.”
_ Access SW‘s complete coverage of Quantum Key West 2012. _