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Sunday/Monday - Issue 1 - January 18-19, 2004
Key West 2004 - Traditions and Transitions
By Rich Roberts
More than 3,000 sailors from across the continent and around the world are in town for Terra Nova Trading Key West 2004, presented by Nautica. The 17th annual midwinter pilgrimage to the southernmost point in the continental United States, now a racing sailor’s established tradition, is a relatively recent phenomenon in terms of Key West’s local history.
Key West has long been a popular winter hangout for people with pursuits other than racing sailboats on their minds. The likes of Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Buffet and Lou Gehrig left their marks on the community without ever touching a tiller. Stately Swan sailboats called occasionally, cruising gently into port in style, but who ever thought they’d one day have their own one-design racing class? Read on.
Even as the racing has evolved in its 17th year into America’s largest grand prix regatta, the quaint little capital of the Conch Republic has retained its lively and rustic charm.
And that, along with the sublime sailing conditions, stiff competition and sharp, racer-friendly race management, is what makes it special.
John Leyland, a veteran campaigner from the Pacific Northwest, once said, “No other word explains Key West better than “brilliant” [in regards to] weather, racing and shoreside activities.”
Bruce Gardner has been bringing his Beneteau First 10M, L’Outrage, from Annapolis since 1997. He has experienced the ecstasy of winning PHRF Boat of the week honors in 2000 and the agony of missing first place by half a point in 2002 but said, “We have raced up and down the East Coast and this is by far the best run racing event in the nation. Every year just seems to be better than the previous year.”
Race headquarters is in the Historic Seaport district surrounding the Big Top reception tent. That’s where each day’s unabridged debriefings take place, race course action is run on five video screens, trophies are awarded and complimentary soft drinks, beer, snacks and Mount Gay Rum are available to all with an Event Access Card, Sunday through Friday.
Across the street is the Waterfront Market, where international marine muralist Wyland has expanded his display to cover three sides of the building. The market has groceries, a sandwich deli and a cyber cafe.
Be sure to stop by and visit Terra Nova Trading’s kiosk by the Big Top. You can check your email, surf the web and learn how Terra Nova Trading can help you be more successful in the market.
After racing and prior to the evening receptions there is shoreside entertainment for one and all (see the schedule on page 5). Included are the popular All-Star Tuneup sessions featuring sailing legends and other champions. This year the Race Week Bags Tournament makes its debut, providing a fun shoreside option for those sailors seeking even more competition and great prizes.
If you find yourself in need of more shoreside action, no problem. Just look around and you’ll see flags and banners hanging where boats and crews are lodged.
“We’ve been racing at Key West since ‘97,” said Jeff Kitterman, who races with Jim Hightower on his Farr 37 named Hot Ticket. “We fly a big Texas flag in the front yard and invite all the Texas boats and crew to the annual Texas party along with anyone else who looks friendly.”
Those who aren’t from Texas aren’t out of luck. Many other groups and classes organize their own parties and nearby are the delights of historic Duval Street and an untold number of gift shops and cozy hideaway cafes. Daytime, while the sailors are racing, their non-sailing families can take tours and visit the new Conch Baby Farm or the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
A conch, by the way, is a marine mollusk that makes a wonderful chowder, or a local nickname for a true Key West resident. Be sure to say “konk” so they’ll know you’ve been here before.
Many of this year’s participants have been here more than a few times. They’ll tell you that the event has come a long way over the years.
For the early regattas the promise of a week of shirtsleeve sailing in Key West’s warm waters in the middle of winter drew snowbound sailors mainly from the upper East Coast and Midwest. Later they were joined by racers from Canada and along the sunshine belt to California and, in recent years, by rivals from Europe, Australia and the Far East.
The word has spread around the world so far, in fact, that to recognize the significance of all long-distance efforts, the Key West Trophy will be awarded this year to the boat owner who has traveled farthest from his or her hometown.
Ken Legler remembers the humble beginnings. The Tufts University sailing coach and Principal Race Officer on Division 1, said, “I have very vivid memories of the conditions from 10 years ago. That was the only year with two race circles. Division 1 east of the channel had big boats down to 35s. Division 2 west of the channel had hot 30s, including Hobie 33s, on the first start, Melges 24s next and J/80s third”, although they were passed by heavy 33s starting fourth.
Legler recalled that on one particularly windy day several Melges 24 sailors took unplanned swims. But that wasn’t all bad. The emerald water is about pool temperature and clear enough to see the bottom.
That was the first year Bruce Ayres brought Monsoon, his Melges 24, from Newport Beach, Calif., and has brought it 11 consecutive years now.
“The combination of on- and off-the-water excellence makes it pretty hard for us not to go,” Ayres said. “There is always a competitive Melges 24 fleet of 50 or more boats, and the sailing conditions just don’t get any better, a far cry from the West Coast. The mixture of pro and amateur sailors allows something for everybody to learn and enjoy. You will come home feeling that your local competitors will have a tougher time sailing against you, as you have brought home the latest moves and techniques from one of the best regatta venues in the world.”
In a class otherwise dominated by professionals, Ayres and fellow Californian Argyle Campbell are among the strongest Corinthian campaigners. They finished sixth and fifth last year, respectively.
“But the main reason I return each year is the great time I have with my teammates,” Ayres said. “I find great enjoyment in our team dinners at the many fine restaurants that Key West has to offer. Our favorite places, just to name a few, are Louie’s Backyard, Blue Heaven, and Marquisa’s.”
That same year, a decade ago, brought out a flock of big names, and big names-to-be. According to a report in Yachting Magazine, which organized the early events, Russell Coutts drove Thomas Friese’s chartered Mumm 36, Thomas-I-Punkt to first in class and Boat of the Regatta honors.
“I quite enjoyed the racing,” said Coutts, a modest man of few words. He probably enjoyed 1995 at San Diego even more when he led New Zealand’s victory in the America’s Cup, then defended it in 2000, and won it for Switzerland in 2003.
Greek financier George Andreadis, who won back-to-back Boat of the Week honors with his Farr 40 Atalanti XI in 2001 and ‘02, sailed the Mumm 36 Atalanti VII in ‘94.
There were a record number of 180 boats that year, mostly from the U.S. The international evolution would soon push the fleet totals well past 300.
Other participants in ‘94 included Harry Melges and Brian and John Porter, who lost the Melges 24 title by 1.75 points to four-time Olympian (and double gold medallist) Mark Reynolds, sailing with Terry McSweeney.
That same year, an up-and-comer from St. Thomas, V.I., named Peter Holmberg drove the new Tripp 50 Falcon to second in IMS-A. Four Congressional Cup titles and an America’s Cup as Oracle’s helmsman later, Holmberg is back this year as tactician on Tom Hill’s new Reichel/Pugh 75, Titan 12. He was recently hired by AC champion Alinghi for the 2007 defense.
Titan 12 is the biggest boat entered, but the talent runs all the way through the four divisions down to the Melges 24s, where former world champion Flavio Favini of Italy will be trying for three in a row driving Franco Rossini’s Blu Mun from Switzerland. His strongest rivals include a 14-year-old phenom.
A Floating Performance Sailboat Show
What’s new? As always, Key West will serve as one of the world’s best floating sailboat shows. A one-design class of high-performance Swan 45s will make their North American debut, eleven new C&C 99s will be down from the upper Midwest and Canada, and the Corsair 24s will join their Corsair 28R cousins that made the trimaran breakthrough at Key West two years ago.
Also strutting down the runway: Les Crouch’s new Reichel/Pugh 43, Storm, from San Diego; Nicholas Lykiardopulo’s Ker 55, AERA, from Cowes, UK, and Mike Rose’s J/133, Raincloud, from Kemah, Tex. Drool away.
As for advanced technology, the CBTF (canting bulb, twin foil) concept developed by Dynayacht of San Diego has been big news lately. It’s standard on Schock 40s, and Cita Litt showed how well it works when she raced her bright yellow Cita at Key West for two years. Reichel/Pugh is now designing it into ocean racers.
Teddy Turner of Charleston, S.C. has sailed other, conventional boats at Key West in recent years. He said, “I have three partners, including John Spence, who raced in four America’s Cups, and we decided we would like to play in a higher league. So the question was, “If you wanted to buy the fastest 40-footer in the world, what would you buy?””
The answer: a Schock 40. They bought the dark blue On Point, which sailed last summer’s Transpac, and will race it as American Eagle in PHRF.
Nine races are scheduled over five days on four divisions, or race courses, spread over about 10 miles off the south (Atlantic) side of the island. Here’s how they break down, from right to left facing south:
Any vacuum left by the absence of the feisty 1D35s will be well-filled by the arrival of the Swan 45s, who hope to take one-design racing to a new level of competitive elegance.
Swan marketing director Enrico Chieffi said, “Right from the start, we set out to create an owner/driver one-design class that would survive the test of time and remain competitive for at least 15 years.”
Among the owner-drivers: Leonardo Ferragamo, president of the Nautor Group, and his brother Massimo as skippers on Cuordileone and Bellicosa, respectively. The rest of the fleet comes from the upper East Coast, including five boats from Newport, R.I. Tom Stark’s Rush and Craig Speck’s Vim are two boats to watch closely.
The Farr 40s and Mumm 30s will be the second and third starts on Division 1. Alexandra Geremia and Scott Harris’ Crocodile Rock from Santa Barbara, Calif., with Vince Brun calling tactics, won the Farr 40 free-for-all last year, following Atalanti XI’s wins the previous two years. Both are back this week to pick up where they left off last January.
World-class tacticians play a large role in this class, helping the owner-drivers to meet the challenge of a higher level. Some are familiar: Paul Cayard, Robbie Haines, Adrian Stead, Chris Larson, Stu Bannatyne, Kimo Worthington, Eric Doyle, Tom Whidden and John Cutler, to name a few.
The Mumm 30s will lack the usual European presence, but it won’t be dull. John Chick, with pals Miles Allen and Mike Elam, will be the hometown favorite. He works in Chicago but his boat name is his Key West address: 1029 Truman. Opposition includes past winner Bodo Von Der Wense’s Turbo Duck, Annapolis; David Irish’s Surprise, Harbor Springs, Mich.; and the family rivalry of Deneen and John Demourkas of Santa Barbara, who temporarily parked their Farr 40 Groovederci (love that smooch spinnaker!) and bought a pair of Mumm 30s so John could drive his own boat.
Deneen said, “I first sailed the Mumm back in October when I did the Mumm Worlds in Elba. It was trial by fire [but] I was very happy to discover what a fast and fun boat the Mumm 30 is. My husband, on the other hand, has not had an opportunity to sail one yet since I am always hogging the wheel. Rumor has it that between the two of us, whoever wins in Key West will get to drive the 40 in the Worlds next year!”
Like the Farr 40s, they’ll have a pair of first-rate tacticians: Bouwe Bekking with Deneen and Ross Macdonald with John.
The recent resurgence of the Mumm 30 class in the U.S., coupled with their World Championship next September in Canada, points to a large international class next year in Key West.
Another sideshow on this course is the Farr 40s, part in the International Team Competition. One of the most coveted prizes, the Nautica Trophy, is awarded to the winning boats. Vincenzo Onorato’s Farr 40, Breeze, has been part of an Italian victory in four of the last five years.
Key West, with a grab bag assortment of boats from all over the map, has as good a claim as anyplace on the unofficial “PHRF National Championships”.
Handicap boats competing on Divisions 2 and 4 comprise about 40 per cent of the total entries. Somehow, a diligent consortium of handicappers from around the country analyses the numbers for Key West conditions and ultimately manages to keep most competitors satisfied with their handicaps and the all-important class breaks.
At least one is happy. Guy de Doer, who will drive David Hudgel’s Sydney 36, Bounder, from Detroit in PHRF 6, said, “Hats off to the entire PHRF committee. I read and reviewed all the classes and truly feel that you have done a wonderful job. From our perspective, Class 6 is about perfect. I hope all competitors feel the same.”
Six of the eleven PHRF classes race on this course, along with a handful of IMS heavy hitters and the Corsair 28R.
Roger Sturgeon’s Transpac 52, Rosebud, from San Francisco will defend its 2003 title in the “big boat class” - PHRF 1. The competition will be fierce with 8 others ranging in size from the Ker 55 Aera to Tom Hill’s R/P 75 Titan.
Class B’s 8 boats include five IMS 50 footers. As in 2003, all boats in this class have been offered the opportunity to race for both IMS and PHRF trophies as long as they fulfill the applicable entry requirements. Alinghi’s Brad Butterworth will be Dan Meyer’s tactician on the Taylor 49 Numbers.
The PHRF 3 and PHRF 4 classes will share a starting line in Class C. Four Farr 395 designs will be competing in C1 with the Schock 40 American Eagle and two Farr 36s headlining C2.
Seven J/120s and five J/109 sprit boats will comprise PHRF 5. Both groups have earned sub-class status, which allows them to race for “sub-class trophies” within their PHRF class.
The 15-boat PHRF 6 class will have to contend with David Hudgel’s Sydney 36 Bounder which finished 3rd last year.
Bob and Doug Harkrider have returned with Bad Boys to defend their Corsair 28R honors in Class F. As an added inceptive, it’s also the Corsairs 28Rs Midwinter Championship.
Mix up more than 100 lively sportboats on 3-4 square miles of ocean and you have more action than an after-Christmas sale. When the Melges 24s, J/80s and J/105s that share this course have names like Barbarians, Go Dogs Go!, C’est Nasty and Dead On Arrival, one hopes that Anger Management, the Adam Rosen/Jeff Marks entry from Tampa, prevails in the end.
The Midwinter Championship designation for all of these classes can be misleading. The Key West event routinely produces National and World Championship caliber talent and competition.
Favini’s rivals to retain his Melges 24 supremacy include, 2002 world champion Harry Melges, sailing with Jeff Ecklund. Also crewing for Ecklund will be a Melges 24 enthusiast who won Olympic Gold in Salt Lake City, freestyle mogul headliner Johnny Moseley.
Then there is the reigning world champ, Samuel (Shark) Kahn, 14, of Soquel, Calif. No, that’s not a typo; the Shark is 14 and for real. Supported by a world-class crew, which is not unique in the class, he beat them all convincingly at San Francisco last October.
Kahn sailed a Melges as skipper for the first time at Key West a year ago and finished 22nd among 57 boats, three places behind his dad Philippe, a versatile racer in his own right who is currently ranked 11th in the world.
The J/105 boat to beat is another West Coaster, Richard Bergmann’s Zuni Bear from San Diego/San Francisco, winner of the Terra Nova Trading Trophy as Boat of the Week last year. Bergmann hauls his boat from coast to coast once or twice a year, and always to Key West.
“The reason we travel is we have so much fun going to the different venues and racing against different people,” he said. “When you stay in your own pond you don’t get that exposure. Key West is a blast, but it’s also the group we get to sail against.”
The J/105 leader will fly a yellow “brag flag” out to the course each day. The ultimate winner will receive the new perpetual President’s Southern Circuit Trophy for the best combined performances at Key West, the SORC and Charleston (S.C.) Race Week.
In the J/80s, there may be some team racing goin’ on. Nearly half of the boats are from Texas, led by Craig and Martha White’s defending champion Warrior from Fort Worth.
World champion Jay Lutz is not entered (he’s helmsman on Mike Rose’s Raincloud), nor are runnerup John Kolius and fourth-place Kerry Klingler, a past Key West winner. But Rod Johnstone, one of the J/Boat namesakes, will be racing the newest hull in the fleet, No. 670.
Down off Stock Island some of the scrappiest “small-boat classes” will do battle with 78 boats divided up into 5 handicap and 3 one design classes. Corsair 24s, making their Key West debut, will start first.
The 14-boat PHRF 7 class is a light displacement group with a record 6 Evelyn 32’s earning sub class designation. They will be followed by a heavy displacement group in PHRF 8 that includes 3 Swans. One of the fiercest battles figures to be between last year’s PHRF 8 winner, Hot Ticket, a Farr 37 entered by Jim Hightower, the Texas party host, and E-Ticket, Dan Myers’ Moorings 38 from Lighthouse Point, Fla. that was a close second to Hot Ticket last year and won PHRF 9 in 2002.
Six of the entries in PHRF 9 picked MORC as their first choice for racing and thus will be dual scored under this handicap rule for special sub class trophies. Four J/29s join defending class champion Invincible, the N/M 30 from Annapolis, MD. John and Linda Edwards, who took their J/29 from 12th place in 2002 to first place last year, will be looking to win this very competitive 11-boat class.
The 8-boat PHRF 10 class, made up of 25-27 footers, will share a starting line with 8 T-10s who will race level. Last year’s runaway winner Liquor Box is back to defend.
Finally, here come the new C&C 99s. Two years ago the Ohio factory sent a test entry, Rabbit, that won PHRF 7. Only two years later there are enough C&C 99s (11) to qualify as a one-design class with its own start.
It didn’t happen by accident. Half of the boats are from Canada, and the C&C factory in Ohio provided tow vehicles. Marketing director Michael Minor said, “Everywhere we went to shows and events it was, “Oh, that was the boat that won at Key West.” We want to push the fact that it is a racing boat, and getting 10 or 12 down to Key West is a statement.”
And there’s so much more. Check out the scratch sheet on pages 8 & 11. And better yet, be there on the race course 10:00 sharp on Monday.
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