Marblehead, MA — In November of 1994 Yachting Magazine consultant Gary Jobson asked Peter Craig, "how hard can it be? Just raise some flags and blow off some guns." And so began Craig's involvement in what was then a 112 boat - single division regatta that would soon evolve into an iconic annual international keelboat event. Yachting Magazine founded Key West Race Week in 1987.
In the late 90's Craig went from race chairman to event director, and ultimately owner of the renowned regatta, with he and his company Premiere Racing managing what has been recognized as North America's foremost annual keel boat regatta for over two decades. On the third week of January each year, entries have featured top tier programs and elite talent from dozens of countries and virtually every state in the union.
"There is no single reason for Premiere Racing stepping aside — it really is a combination of issues and circumstances, both personal and professional," said Craig. Ever since the memorable 2009 recession — when Key West lost 100 entries the following year - going forward with the subsequent edition became a year-to-year proposition for Premiere Racing. "Despite a number of major adjustments on our part and recent support and involvement from Quantum Sails and their backers, the business model had become marginal. We were thankful to Quantum and their backers for stepping up to fill the important role of title sponsor. It was gratifying to know the fundamental reason for doing so was the continuation of Key West Race Week. As we worked to develop a sustainable business model for the event, Quantum solved a critical short-term need that was meant to serve as a bridge to the future."
Premiere Racing reached out to industry related companies and professional sailors last summer seeking to broaden the base of support from performance sailing stakeholders. "Unfortunately that wasn't forthcoming, and so despite Quantum, their backers and our other loyal sponsors remaining open to continuing their support next year, the lack of commitment from others was a factor in Premiere Racing's decision not to go forward in 2016," Craig said.
"I am not alone in my belief that Key West Race Week is important to sailing in North America and would like to see race week continue for another three decades." As such, Premiere Racing has already expended substantial resources to ensure the pieces are in place and the 2016 regatta can happen if the appropriate entity or organizer presents itself later this winter or spring. "I am currently in dialogue with a group that we feel is suited to take this event forward and hopefully resolve the issue of sustainability in the process," explained Craig. "To be honest, new energy and ideas will be a good thing — after twenty years you can become set in your ways and it's easy to think you have all the right answers."
It was quite a 21-year run for Premiere Racing, one that has had its share of highs and lows. "We survived a huge learning curve early and a handful of recessions, but our biggest challenge has been managing a South Florida event from Boston without any infrastructure or permanent base of operations," explained Craig. "Making the business model work ended up being an annual handwringer given the reality of sponsorship and our sport here in the U.S. and because of the inherent costs associated with executing an event of this magnitude in Key West, Florida."
Race Week Blog, with reports from on the course!
By Bill Wagner
What do aspiring Olympic sailors do when they take a short break from their campaign? They come to Quantum Key West 2015 and go racing on a Melges 24.
Stuart McNay and David Hughes are aiming to represent the United States in 470 class at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They joined forces shortly after the last Olympics and have been steadily training for the past two-plus years. Continue reading...
Moderator: Dobbs Davis USA Editor, Seahorse Magazine
Panel: Steve Benjamin, Bruce Benjamin, John Brim, Dick Neville, Rob Weiland
Moderator: Ed Baird
Panel: Allan Terhune, George Szabo, John Mollicone, Jud Smith, Heather Earl Gregg
Moderator: Ed Baird
Panel: Terry Hutchinson, Jonathan McKee, Jud Smith, Taylor Canfield, Nick Turney, Scott Nixon
“You can sail a lot of places in the world but there are only a few spots that are really an experience. This is a fun town, and you can’t find a better combination than this. In the end, we’re still doing this for fun, and there’s something for everybody at Key West.” — Skipper of Daring, Swan 42
“To me, this is the premier event in North America. Of all the regattas we’ve won over the years, this one stands out because of the history and tradition. It means a lot to be able to say you won Key West.” — Skipper of Decision, Carkeek 40
Key West, Florida Keys — Classes and sailors from across the country and around the world already have Quantum Key West 2015 on the winter calendars. Boats ranging is size from 23 to 72 feet will compete in the waters off America's southernmost city during the 28th edition of Key West Race Week, scheduled for January 18-23.
"Quantum Sail Design Group and its backers recognize how important this international event is to sailing in North America," commented Ed Reynolds, Quantum President. "For nearly 3 decades Key West has kicked off racing here in the U.S. with a superb event that sets the standard for the entire year."
America loves a comeback story and the comeback class for 2015 is expected to be the Melges 24s. The iconic sportboat is on the move and South Florida will play a major role over the next two years as evidenced by the recent announcement about their 2016 World Championship at Quantum Key West. Read the complete release (pdf)