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Saturday - Issue 6 - January 24, 2004
Win or Lose - It was a Blast
by Bill Wagner
This is sailboat racing at its finest, folks.
Five straight days filled mostly with sunny skies, warm weather and strong winds. Add in top-notch race management and intense competition and you have a formula for the ideal regatta.
Yachtsmen from around the world have flocked to the southernmost point in the continental United States for the past 17 years because there’s a good chance they will get all the aforementioned conditions and factors for one week in January. Terra Nova Trading Key West 2004, organized by Premiere Racing, delivered on its reputation and then some.
Just ask a first-time participant such as John Sylvia, owner of the J/120 Oui B5.
“This may be the best boat racing venue in the world. I haven’t been to all the top spots, but I’m confident you would be hard pressed to do better,” said Sylvia, a San Francisco resident. “The sun was out every day, the water was warm and the wind was great. The people at Premiere Racing do an incredible job making sure everything runs like clockwork. What else could you ask for?”
Clay Deutsch, owner of the Swan 68 Chippewa, has long had this event on his to-do list. The Pittsburgh native, who berths his boat in the British Virgin Islands, came away impressed _ and with a win in PHRF 1.
“We came down here to see what Key West Race Week was all about. It’s everything I’d heard and more _ a great setting and great racing. I had an absolute blast,” Deutsch said.
Even veteran competitors were thrilled by the way things went this time around. Winds reached double digits every day and the only rain of the week came on Monday morning.
“Another great Key West experience. We’ll have to come back again,” said Bodo von der Wense, owner of the victorious Mumm 30 Turbo Duck. “The conditions were absolutely fabulous. We had more consistent air than we have seen in the past and the race management was superb as always.”
Of course, sunshine and steady breeze makes for spectacular racing, of which there was plenty this week. Two of the most competitive classes _ Farr 40 and Melges 24 _ were not decided until the final day, which proved windiest of the entire week with gusts up to 23 knots.
Mean Machine, owned by Peter De Ridder of The Netherlands, took the gun in ninth and final race to capture the professional-laden Farr 40 class. Mean Machine, with Ray Davies aboard as tactician, finished with 61 points _ one better than Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad.
“I’m very, very proud to win here. This is my first victory in Farr 40, and it is very meaningful that it came against high-level competition at such a major regatta,” De Ridder said.
It was a bountiful afternoon for De Ridder, who garnered the Terra Nova Trading Trophy as Overall Boat of the Week and the Nautica Trophy for topping the International Team Competition.
“All of that makes it a big, big day for us,” said a beaming De Ridder as he was handed an ice cold Heineken by a joyous crew member.
P&P Sailing Team, skippered by Philippe Ligot and steered by Sebastian Col, placed second in Race 9 and thus maintained its narrow lead in Melges 24. Reigning world champion Samuel “Shark” Kahn won the final three races of the series but still finished four points behind the French.
“Our strategy was to stay close to Shark the whole time and finish in the top five. That’s not easy in a big fleet, especially when you have someone doing match racing tactics against you,” Col said. “We had a good battle with Shark and were quite happy with how we came out. As always, Key West has been great and we are delighted to win.”
Kelly, a Beneteau 1st 10 skippered by Andrew Cheney of St. Petersburg, Fla., garnered the Lewmar Trophy as PHRF Boat of the Week. Kelly came on strong toward the end to top the hotly-contested PHRF 9 class.
“It was excellent racing all week and we feel very fortunate to finish on top,” Cheney said. “Our boat is much better in heavy air than light and I think the fact the breeze built later in the week benefited us.”
Five Farr 40s headed into Friday with a mathematical chance of winning the regatta. Basically, the entire series came down to which team won the last race.
De Ridder got a superb start at the favored pin end, coming off second behind Riot. Both boats went left and got lifted before taking over to port and crossing the entire fleet.
Mean Machine was second to Riot at the first weather mark, but took the lead for good on the downwind leg. It was the only win of the series for De Ridder, who posted single-digit finishes in seven of nine races.
De Ridder has owned several other Mean Machines of different makes, but never previously steered his own boat. He made his Farr 40 debut last year at Key West and has steadily sharpened his steering skills since and was not shaken by the winner-take-all nature of yesterday’s race.
“I’d never helmed a boat at this high a level so I was a little nervous but controlled. The tighter it gets the more I like it and the better I start. I like it when the pressure is on,” De Ridder said.
Richardson, from Newport, R.I., also sailed a strong regatta. America’s Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson called tactics for Richardson and had high praise for his performance, which included one bullet and two seconds.
“Jim sailed great, he has really developed into a fine helmsman. I feel bad because I made some poor calls that cost us,” said Hutchinson, who regretted a 15th and a 16th.
Marc Ewing’s Riot closed with a line of 3-3-5-4 to grab third while Crocodile Rock (Alex Geremia/Scott Harris) placed fourth.
“It’s tough sailing. The fleet has improved… more boats, better prepared. Look at the guys on the winning boat,” Harris said.
Rush (Reloaded), owned by Thomas Stark of Newport, R.I., survived a spate of protests following the final race to notch a four-point victory in Swan 45. Renowned match racer Ed Baird called tactics for Stark, who was first or second in five of nine races.
“This crew puts in a lot of hours practicing and working on the tiny details that win regattas,” said Andreas Josenhans, a North Sails executive who was a trimmer onboard. “I think it is also a team that performs well under pressure and did a good job of working its way forward as the week went along.”
Stark earned Boat of the Week honors at Key West with a Farr 39 that competed in IMS. He also captured class honors here with a Farr one-tonner. He owned this particular Swan 45 for several years before being sold. It was chartered for this regatta.
“I think the deal is that the current owner gets the boat faster than he handed it off. We’ve done an awful lot of tuning,” said Josenhans.
Turbo Duck, sailed by the Annapolis father-son team of Nick and Bodo von der Wense, led from start to finish in Mumm 30. It was a bounce-back effort by Turbo Duck, which won Mumm 30 at Key West in 2002 then finished a disappointing sixth in 2003.
“Our crew work was superb… everything clicked, which is what you need at a regatta of this caliber,” Bodo von der Wense said. “Last year, we were OCS a bunch of times and that hurt us. Our goal this time was to stay out of trouble and rely on our boat speed.”
Chippewa is a heavy cruising boat that took advantage of the predominatly windy conditions to beat a fleet of high-performance racers in PHRF 9. Deutsch steered the Swan 68 to seven bullets and a low score of 14 _ five better than the Ker 55 AERA (Nicholas Lykiardopulo).
Chippewa sailed with a crew of 18, four fewer than usual due to PHRF rules. Deutsch praised the work of tactician Jack Slattery. “He was on fire all week. Our starts were great, all of our maneuvers were solid and we felt good about how we played the shifts,” said Deutsch, who readily admitted the conditions favored his entry.
“Stiff breeze and flat water, that’s our bread and butter. I couldn’t have scripted a better scenario,” he said.
There were numerous other notable performances on the Division 2 circle.
Storm, a newly-launched Reichel-Pugh 43 owned by Les Crouch, dominated PHRF 2 with five firsts and a second. North Sails president Gary Weisman served as tactician aboard Storm, which clinched the regatta on Thursday and skipped Race 9.
Talisman finished third overall in PHRF 2, but was the winner of the IMS portion of the class. The Farr 53, owned by Marco Birch of Newport, closed with seven straight bullets among the five IMS entries to beat Larry Bulman’s Javelin (Farr 49) nine points to 20.
“This boat has been optimized for winds in the 12-16 range so the conditions this week were very much to our liking,” Birch said. “We are truly an IMS boat so that is what we focused on. I have a strong commitment to race in IMS.”
It was a similar scenario in PHRF 3 as Raincloud put up a phenomenal seven bullets. Owner Mike Rose of Kemah, Texas chose to compete on Friday and added another first place to his impressive line. Rose gave full credit to brothers Jody and Jay Lutz, professionals who steered and called tactics, respectively.
Tiburon and its team of sailors from New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., ran away with the win in PHRF 4. The Melges 30 finished first in five races and wound up with a 13-point victory over New Wave, Michael Carroll’s Henderson 30 that won this class last year.
“We just went about our business every day and didn’t have any big problems,” said Michael Gray, who co-owns the boat with John Dane.
Dane, a Star boat veteran, steered the boat while wife Leslie and son Shaffer also played key roles.
“The Dane family is a very big part of this program,” Gray said.
Brothers Bob and Doug Harkrider withstood a strong challenge from multihull legend Randy Smyth to repeat as champions in the Corsair 28 class.
P&P Sailing took a unique approach to Terra Nova Trading 2003. Owner Philippe Ligot said the team was not worried about winning, but rather learning.
“We came here to study the other top teams such as (Samuel) Kahn and (Flavio) Flavini. We are sailing without pressure because our target is not to win this regatta, but rather the worlds,” Ligot said.
The French fivesome of Ligot, Col, William Thomas (bow), Christian Punthierux (tactics) and Thomas Allin (jib) now ranks as one of the favorites to win the 2004 world championship after this week’s showing.
“We have very good communication aboard and know how to work together. We react quickly whenever we are looking for speed,” Ligot said.
P&P Sailing was not undone by the pre-start match racing tactics of Kahn and started in the same position as Pegasus 492.
“By the middle of the first beat we were in front of Shark and were able to sail our own course and focus on going fast,” said Col, a member of the French America’s Cup challenger Le Defi.
Pegasus took advantage of a favorable shift to pass P&P on the final beat, but the French didn’t give up any more boats and held their spot atop the overall standings.
“Without the throwouts, Shark wins the regatta,” said Philipe Kahn, who finished four places behind his son. “But the French deserved to win. They’re a great team that sailed very fast.”
Kahn was effusive in his praise of Terra Nova Trading 2004 and the way principal race officer Dave Brennan handled the huge fleet of Melges 24s.
“It’s the greatest regatta in North America. The race committee did a great job. They talk on the radio and explain everything. It’s awesome.”
Zuni Bear, a San Diego entry skippered by Richard Bergmann, sailed conservatively down the stretch but still completed an impressive victory in J/105.
Former collegiate standouts Sean Bennett (USC) and John Horsch (Cal-Berkeley) did the tactical work aboard Zuni Bear, which seized the lead on Day 2 and never relinquished it.
“We played the middle of the course the last two days and that kind of hurt us,” said Bergmann, who went 9-6-7 in the last three races. That’s not our normal strategy, but it was the smart thing to do. We wanted to stay clear of traffic and avoid any incidents.”
Warrior, campaigned by the husband-wife duo of Craig and Martha White from Forth Worth, Texas, repeated as champion in J/80 class. Warrior moved into the lead on Thursday after tossing a 13th suffered in Race 1 and posting back-to-back bullets.
Trumpeter was consistent from start to finish in capturing the inaugural C&C 99 class with 14 points _ 11 better than runner-up Graffiti.
Owner Colin Andrews served as tactician while Wally Hogan was helmsman aboard Trumpeter, which took the gun in four races and finished second or third in four others.
“We got mediocre starts, but we caught most of the shifts and sailed very clean,” Hogan said. “We were very strong at the corners, did a lot of passing during roundings.”
Trumpeter is a two-boat program as Andrews and Hogan also campaign a J/35 out of Toronto, Canada. The J/35 crew also came to Key West aboard Lakota, which placed third in class.
“The Trumpeter crews came in first and third. We’re pretty pumped about that,” Andrews said.
So Far, a gorgeous Swan 48 owned by Lawrence Hillman of Chicago, rallied from an early deficit to capture class honors in PHRF 8. Hillman finished last in the first race, but was first or second in seven of the next eight.
So Far is a 1974 vintage Swan that is still sailing strong some 30 years after its launch.
“It shows that they built them great back then. It’s a design that has stood the test of time,” Hillman said.
Seven-time Soling world champion Jorgen Johnsson steered So Far while 17-year-old Brian Smith distinguished himself as tactician.
“Brian did a great job, showed tremendous focus. We were looking for the best tactician we could find and didn’t care about age. He really came through,” Hillman said.
Robert Patroni’s Phaedra edged Mike Perry’s Bloody Hell by one point in a back-and-forth battle between a pair of Evelyn 32s in PHRF 7.
Helmsman Bill Buckles and the crew aboard Liquor Box repeated as champion of Tartan 10 despite the fact co-owner Chuck Simon had to skip the final two days due to the death of his brother.
“I’m proud that we were able to finish off the series so well for Chuck. I can’t imagine how difficult this time week has been for him, but he managed to stay focused and gave us a really inspiring talk before leaving on Thursday,” Buckles said.
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