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daily blogs from correspondents scattered throughout the fleet ( Ian Williams, RC44 Ironbound; Stuart Streuli, Melges 32 Dark N Stormy; Martin Kullman, Farr 30 Barking Mad; Nick Turney, J/111 Kontiki V, Jonathan McKee, Melges 24 Uka Uka Racing), interviews with Boat of the Day winners, exclusive photos from Billy Black, podcasts, videos, and more.


Best Around the Buoys is SAIL Magazine’s grass-roots racing initiative that rewards a PHRF racing team for their local performance with a free ride at Key West Race Week. Jim Sminchak’s team from Cleveland won this year’s Best Around the Buoys contest, selected from an entry pool of 70 PHRF teams from around the country. Their BAB entry at Key West is the new J/111, Kontiki V, racing in PHRF 1.

 

BAB blog sailmagazine.com

 
 

Key West 2011 presented by Nautica

 
 

Today's Blogs from the Race Course

 
 

Results - Standings and Finishes

 
 

Photo Galleries          Daily Releases

 
 

Special Nightly Coverage by T2P

 

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Notes and Quotes from

Bill Wagner's Dock Walks

  Best Around the Buoys Profile (pdf)

  WEDNESDAY- THURSDAY Alec Cutler enjoyed tremendous success in a variety of classes while racing sailboats during the 1990s while living in Annapolis. However, the former Naval Academy intercollegiate standout moved to his wife’s native country of Bermuda to raise children and has been out of competitive sailing for almost a decade.

  With his youngest daughter headed off to boarding school, Cutler felt the time was right to resume racing. The Pembroke resident is skippering Hedgehog in the ultra-competitive Melges 24 class and has been the biggest surprise of the regatta so far.

  Through Thursday’s action, Cutler had steered Hedgehog to victory in two races and counts all single-digit results in totaling 22 points – just two behind second-place UKA UKA Racing and nine astern of overall leader Blu Moon. Veteran Vermont-based professional Andy Horton is calling tactics while Mike Wolfs and Brian Janney round out the crew on Hedgehog.

  “I’m pleasantly surprised with how well we’re doing. I’d have to give all the credit to the crew because I’ve got some outstanding sailors onboard,” Cutler said.

  Cutler skippered a Melges 24 entry at Key West in 2001 then returned to call tactics for Steve Phillips aboard the Farr 40 Le Renard in 2003. He is happy to return to the Conch Republic after a seven-year absence.

  “I’ve always enjoyed sailing in Key West. You can’t beat this regatta when it comes to the total package,” Cutler said.

  Cutler plans to campaign Hedgehog through the Melges 24 World Championships, being held in May off Corpus Christi, Texas. “This regatta is our launching off point and we’re going to ramp it up as fast as possible,” he said.

  Standing on the dock following Thursday’s racing, Cutler and crew had not given up on the prospect of winning Key West 2011, presented by Nautica. “We’re going to go out tomorrow and put up the best results possible and see what happens. No matter how it shakes out, it has been a successful event for our team.”

One of the most impressive performances at Key West 2011 has come in PHRF 3, where You Bad Girl reeled off six straight victories before finally settling for a second in Race 7. Skipper Steve Burns credits the remarkable success of the Capo 26 to rock-solid crew work.

  “Why are we going so well? It’s because we have a team of experienced sailors who are very familiar with the boat,” Burns said. “We have a group of guys who have been together on this boat for 23 years. We know how to set the boat up for each day’s conditions and have the ability to change gears when necessary.”

  You Bad Girl was based in Corpus Christi, Texas for about 15 years and was owned at various times by Fred Soward, Doug Haas and Burns. Other regulars in the crew are Buddy Byington and Brant Bricarell.

  “We are all good friends that work well together. Collectively and individually we all have a good sailing resumes. We sail mostly for the camaraderie, but when we’re on the race course, it’s only about winning,” said Burns, who has resided in Key West the past eight years.

  Burns is founder of VP Racing Fuels and is usually conducting performance testing and product development this time of year. He finally could not justify being a Key West resident and not competing in the renowned midwinter regatta that his held here annually so he took the week off and got the old team back together.

  “We came here totally prepared to win. We bought new sails and logged many hours of boat testing and crew practice. We’ve had excellent crew work this week, and fortunately have not made many mistakes,” Burns said. “But, we have also gotten a couple of lucky wind shifts when we really needed them. We worked hard on boat speed, but harder on crew work. We all worked out and trained for this race. Key West Race Week is not a regatta to bring sloppy crew work, as the competition will quickly expose your weaknesses.”

WEDNESDAY- THURSDAY   The Schooner Wharf has always been one of the most popular hangouts for sailors participating in the annual race week off Key West. Walk the dock in front of the Schooner Wharf around 4 p.m. any day this week and you will a rainbow of colors as the place is packed with crew members sporting their various team uniforms.

  That is the type of scene Evalena Worthington envisioned when she sailed into Key West aboard an 83-foot wooden schooner named Defiance. Worthington and future husband Paul met while delivering schooners and decided to settle in the Conch Republic and open a bar.

  Worthington, a native of Sweden, is competing in Key West 2011 aboard the J/24 Freya. She has sailed in the regatta many times before, but is skippering an entry for the first time in three years.

  “I love race week and having all the sailors in town,” Worthington told the Key West Citizen. “I love to sail, love to race and it’s just fun to participate in an international event.”

  Worthington and her four-member crew of Key West locals has performed well so far and entered Thursday’s action in fourth place out of nine entries in PHRF 3. Like so many other competitors at Key West 2011, Worthington’s team heads straight to the Schooner Wharf after a long day of racing to enjoy green bottled beer, blender drinks, Mount Gay rum and live acoustical music.

  “It’s fun to be part of this event and have Schooner Wharf be part of the camaraderie that race week brings to Key West. I like having the sailors at the bar sharing the stories of the day.”

   Canadian sailor Jean-Pierre Turgeon has heard for years about the annual race week off Key West. Sunny skies, warm weather and consistent breeze beckoned the Quebec native, but he had never been able to pull of competing in the popular midwinter regatta.

  Turgeon decided last year to finally check this item off his bucket list of things to do. The St. Bernard-de-Lacolle resident spent months preparing his Beneteau 44.7 for a long voyage, packed it up with plenty of gear and proceeded to sail Galilee from Montreal to Key West – an arduous 2,500-mile voyage.

  “We have come a long way to compete in Key West and it has been well worth the effort. The weather is wonderful down here, a heck of a lot better than Canada at this time of year,” Turgeon said.

  Turgeon and the Galilee team got off to a rough start – placing last in the six-boat fleet in Race 1 then having to retire from Race 2. However, the Canadian boat settled down and found the groove on Tuesday, winning both races.

  “We are more competitive in the light to medium air. I have a huge sail plan and that has proven a great advantage in the lighter conditions,” Turgeon said.

  Galilee also won Race 5 on corrected time, but was subsequently disqualified and currently stands fifth in the overall standings.

 

  William Douglass, owner of the Melges 32 Goombay Smash, hosted a big party on his luxury motor yacht on Tuesday afternoon and it was well attended by competitors at Key West 2011. Georgiana, which is berthed alongside the walkway leading to the cruise ship pier, boasts a spacious fly bridge that served as the perfect platform for the affair, which attracted a slew of notable professional sailors.

   Drink of choice at the party? A Goombay Smash, of course! Crew members had filled kitchen-sized trash cans with the popular drink that combines spiced rum, coconut rum and apricot brandy with pineapple and orange juice.

One race on Wednesday resulted in an early arrival at the dock, and most competitors were not at all unhappy about that. Jonathan Swain, a veteran professional sailor crewing aboard the RC44 Ironbound, headed offshore to do some sport fishing. Swain reports that he and Groovederci skipper Deneen Demourkas caught several tuna that weighed almost 50 pounds.

  “It’s nice to be able to combine business with pleasure,” Swain said as he headed off to purchase bait and tackle.

  Other participants, such as professional coaches Dobbs Davis and Dee Smith, used the open afternoon to play golf. Sources tell us that Davis and Smith both lost a considerable number of balls en route to shooting identical 96 scores at the Key West Golf Club.

 

MONDAY - TUESDAY Gregg Knighton has saved a classic Ranger 33 sailboat from the scrap heap on two different occasions. The Florida-based sailmaker has dutifully restored the good old boat twice and it is now the oldest entry at Key West 2011, presented by Nautica.

   Knighton, who operates a sail loft in Sarasota, Fla., first discovered the Ranger 33 in 2001. At the time, it was owned by longtime friend Rick Pantall, who was slowly but surely repairing the boat in his Gainesville garage.

   Unfortunately, Hurricane Charlie completely destroy Pantall’s garage and inflicted significant damage to the Ranger 33. “Rick called me up and asked if I could come give him a hand with cutting up the boat and taking it to the dump,” Knighton said.

  Knighton arrived along with 9-year-old daughter Jessica, who was struck by the fact the Ranger 33 was still standing upright – balancing on its keel amidst the destruction of the garage.

  “Jessica was adamant that if the boat could survive the hurricane it didn’t deserve to die,” Knighton said.

  Knighton reluctantly took the Ranger 33 to a marina in Bahia Beach and spent six months fixing it up. He had to replace rotten bulkheads, install new rigging and hardware, fare the hull, repaint the bottom and generally clean up the boat.

  Knighton and his family raced the boat locally and performed well – winning PHRF Boat of the Year honors from the Sun Coast Sailing Association five years in a row. In 2007, the boat was sold to an orthopedic surgeon in the area, who neglected the boat and allowed it to fall into disrepair again.

  “The surgeon called me up and said the boat sank at the dock in his backyard and asked if I would come take it back,” Knighton said.

  That is how Knighton came to own the Ranger 33 a second time and was forced to perform another major restoration effort. Misty was launched on Jan. 11 and promptly sailed from Venice to Key West in 21 hours.

   Knighton is racing the boat in PHRF 3 class at Key West 2011 and entered Wednesday’s action in second place overall after finishing as runner-up in all four races held Monday and Tuesday.

   “After all we’ve been through with this boat, it now holds sentimental value. We’re not getting rid of it ever again,” Knighton said. “It’s a family boat and I race her with my wife and daughter. Our competitors jokingly call us the Griswolds and our battle flag is a station wagon.”

Bill Koch skippered an entry at Key West Race Week way back in 1995. The renowned yachtsman thoroughly enjoyed the experience and never imagined it would take 15 years to return to popular midwinter regatta.

  Koch is competing in Key West 2011 aboard Titan, a Reichel-Pugh 72-footer that is largest entry in the regatta. The billionaire primarily resides in Palm Beach these days and suddenly got the urge to go sailing off Key West again.

  “I love sailing and I recalled how much fun this regatta was so I figured why not get a boat and go down there,” Koch said.

  Koch has chartered Titan from owner Tom Hill in the past and it didn’t take long to round up a qualified crew of professionals. Koch captured the America’s Cup in 1992 aboard America3 and many of the sailors from that team are here in Key West this year. Among the loyal crew members who are helping Koch sail Titan are Mike Toppa, Larry Mialik, Peter Grubb, Wally Henry and Art Price. That core group also sailed with Koch on his series of boats named Matador and didn’t take long to regain the old chemistry.

  “My main goal was to have fun racing in a beautiful venue, but it was also an opportunity to have a reunion with my old sailing buddies,” Koch said.

  Koch does not currently own a sailboat after selling Kiwi Magic, the famous fiberglass 12-meter that lost to Dennis Conner and Stars & Stripes in the Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger finals for the 1986 America’s Cup.

  “I can tell you that this boat (Titan) is a heck of a lot faster and responsive than a 12-meter,” Koch said. “It’s like driving a Porsche instead of a Mack truck.”

  Koch and the Titan team led the Mini Maxi class after the opening day of racing and remained in a three-way tie for first going into Wednesday’s action. Koch is currently married to Bridget Rooney, granddaughter of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney. His father-in-law and brother-in-law (Jim Rooney Sr. and Jr.) are also aboard Titan for the week.

  “We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The weather is wonderful and the racing has been challenging but fun,” Koch said.

SUNDAY John Kilroy was in great spirits as he stood on the Galleon docks this morning. The California skipper was surveying the sporty new red, white and blue graphics on his Melges 32 and discussing the dramatic changeover of his Samba Pa Ti crew.

   Kilroy has five new sailors aboard the boat that captured class honors at Key West 2010, and almost all the newcomers are at least half the age of the men they replaced. In fact, the foredeck crew of Australian Dean Curtis and Italian Martino Tortarola, both of whom are 21, are a combined 64 years younger than their predecessors.

  “I loved my ‘old’ team,” said Kilroy, pun clearly intended. “But these younger guys bring great energy, great enthusiasm. They have got me fully re-energized.”

   Australian Nathan Wilmot, the reigning Olympic champion in 470 class, has succeeded John Kostecki as tactician – bringing almost another 20-year reduction in age. After going through each of the five changes, Kilroy estimated that Samba Pa Ti’s crew is a total of 100 years younger than last year.

  Kilroy said the changes were necessary because several members of his former crew signed on with Volvo Ocean Race or America’s Cup teams. “We’ve gotten significantly younger almost overnight. I’m excited because these guys are all great sailors who bring a fresh new feel to the boat.”

 Bruce Ayres has long been one of the top amateur skippers in the professional-laden Melges 24 class. Ayres has enjoyed tremendous success while competing against top-flight helmsmen in major regattas around the world.

  Ayres, a resident of Costa Mesa, Cal., placed fourth in Melges 24 class at Key West 2008 and has followed with Top 10 finishes the two years since. “I’m proud to say that we’re always right there in the mix,” he said.

  Ayres had to scramble to fill the crew for Key West 2011 as two members of the afterguard had to pull out a few weeks before the regatta. The California skipper found a pair of very capable replacements in Vince Brun and Peer Moberg. Brun head of North Sails One-Design and a champion in multiple classes, came aboard as tactician. Moberg, Norway’s Laser class representative at the 2008 Olympics, is serving as a trimmer-strategist.

  “We had some last-minute changes and had to pick up a couple guys. We feel very fortunate to have found two sailors as talented as Vince and Per,” Ayres said. “It’s a different group than normal so hopefully we’ll come together quickly.”