Key West Sunday
KEY WEST, Fla.-The usual level of anticipation has an extra edge to it as the first official races of Key West Race Week 2005 are now less than 24 hours away. A low pressure system in the Caribbean and high pressure over the central United States pushed winds in excess of 25 knots across the little island at the southern end of U.S. 1 on Sunday, and weather forecasts are calling for the pattern to hold and for the wind to possibly build for Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of this five-day regatta. While this, and some sunshine, are all that the average sailing photographer-not to mention Sailing World’s own Dr. Crash-could ask for, it has more than a few skippers a little nervous. Today there were plenty of wipeouts and torn sails as teams attempted to tune up for the week ahead and the gusts topped out at 30 knots. Throw in a number of other boats and the extra adrenaline of a real race and the first few days of Key West could see a lot of carnage and a lot of work for the sail makers and riggers who have journeyed down to support sailors. After flirting with the magic 300, this year’s fleet has settled at 295 boats. The biggest class is the Melges 24, with 58 boats. The 2005 Melges 24 Worlds will be in December off Key Largo, Fla., and a number of teams are using Key West to kick off their 2005 campaign. Among this pack are 10 foreign entries from Europe. Conspicuously absent is 2003 world champion Samuel Kahn, who was on the entry form a few weeks ago. Bill Hardesty will skipper Pegasus 575, one of Philippe Kahn’s armada, and will team with the elder Kahn, sailing his Farr 40 Pegasus 80808, in the international team competition. The team competition is one of the many interesting subplots to watch during the week. Eight pairs of Farr 40 and Melges 24 teams will compete for the Nautica Trophy. Five of the teams are European based with the East Coast, Great Lakes, and West Coast each entering pairings. Another point of interest with be the new boats debuting at Key West. The Melges factory team will sail on Star, a Melges 32 entered by Jeff Ecklund of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The boat is a re-tooled Melges 30 with a taller rig that will be built by Soca Sailboats in Trinidad. It will be interesting to see how the boat fares against John Dane’s Tiburon, an original Melges 30, and one of a number of defending class champions sailing this year. Also in PHRF 3, which features a number of the larger sportboats, will be George Isdale’s Diode 36 Rampant, a Rodger Martin design with a jibing keel foil that can be rotated to reduce leeway, and the JS 9000 A Lil’ Tipsy. Other classes that will receive a lot of attention include the 18-boat Farr 40 class. The numbers are down in from previous years-37 boats attended the 2001 edition-but the class is still very competitive as the programs that have survived are all very experienced. The J/105 class is at an all-time high with 40 boats. Other popular one-designs are the 1D35, experiencing a bit of a resurgence with 10 boats, the Crosair 28R with 10 boats, and the Mumm 30, with 14 boats. Race organizers have indicated that if the breeze comes in as expected they might hold some of the smaller classes ashore while letting the larger boats head out. Racing will continue through Friday and nine races are expected in each class. Sailing World’s on-site staff will file daily reports from Key West. For scratch sheets, results, and other information, www.premiere-racing.com.