We had champagne sailing conditions today in Key West. Seventeen to 23 knots greeted the fleet in Division 1 today, and in the IRC 2 class, we have eight 52-footers doing battle. It was absolutely fantastic sailing, and dare I say one of the better days that I have experienced in the last 17 Key West Race Weeks that I have participated.
Race 1 started with us onboard_ Quantum Racing_ nervous about the predicted right shift, but mindful that in the 50-degree wind direction, the upper left can be quite strong. We chose a safe start at the windward end of the line to defend against the shift, and controlled the fleet from the windward position. The plan worked fairly well, and our toughest decision came with about 4 minutes to the port layline when Vespa tacked and started charging right. The decision really was to back our plan, or pound Vespa and keep starboard advantage. We chose backing ourselves, went for another 2 minutes, and set up to windward of the group. Doug and Don had the boat charging on the long port tack, and Quantum Racing _was trucking! We got around the top mark and buggered off down the first run. Michele nailed the layline, I mean nailed it to perfection! The second beat was all good with us stretching our lead. The final run to the finish, though, we learned quickly about the advantage of the IRC 52 verse the the TP 52. _Vespa, with her bigger kite, came charging up behind us. The power of the extra sail area was impressive. They completely chewed away at our minute lead, and inevitably we ended up beating them by 5 seconds boat-for-boat, and 3 seconds on corrected time! Close for sure, but a good way to start the series.
Race 2 was a similar plan, but we were much more concerned about the potential for a right shift. Doug did good work weaving the boat through traffic, and between Greg on the bow and Michele, we nailed the start at pace. The unfortunate situation of champagne easterly conditions is the chop that is created, and our great start was for nothing as we pasted a massive wave about 7 lengths after the start. Boatspeed went from 9 to 7 knots, which allowed Vespa just to get her bow out, and force us to tack. The good news about the massive wave was it forced us right. The anticipated right shift was happening. We battled to get our bow out, but we did not have the jets necessary to overcome the 8 degrees that the breeze went right to get around Mayhem at the top mark. A little sloppiness on our part found us pinned into the corner and not able to gybe, losing another boat on the first run. Clearly we had a fight on our hands for the next beat and run as both Mayhem and_ PowerPlay were sailing well. Our opportunity came on the final run when the guys onboard executed a great gybe, and Doug had the boat on fire. We got around both _Mayhem and PowerPlay on the run, and from there defended our lead by protecting the right up the beat. All in all, a solid start to the event. As we know, you won’t win Key West on day one, but you can make the rest of the week hard.
Today was a good baseline in which to move forward from. As a team, we left some meat on the bone, but it was also good to see that we fought hard and were able to take advantage of the opportunities when presented. Tomorrow more of the same, so looking forward to getting back out on the water.