Friday, 22 January 2010

Steady Winds and Boat Speed Rule the Day in Key West

Leaders and Challengers Ready for Final Day

Penultimate day's action from Key West. Image copyright Tim Wilkes/

by Bill Wagner

John Kilroy has been leading the Melges 32 class since Tuesday and holds a comfortable 10-point advantage with just two races remaining at Key West 2010, presented by Nautica. However, the California skipper plans to sail the last day of the regatta the same way he did the first.

“We’re not going to do anything different. We’ll just go out and sail as well as we possibly can and hope that is good enough to get the job done,” Kilroy said. “We don’t really look at the score until the regatta is over. Of course, you always would rather be in the lead going into the last day, but we can’t allow that to change our approach.”

Stu Bannatyne is calling tactics while Morgan Reeser is trimming and helping with strategy aboard Samba Pa Ti, which has won three of eight races and finished sixth or better in three others in totaling 27 points. New Wave, owned by Michael Carroll of Clearwater, Fla., had a superb outing on Thursday to move into second place – 10 points behind.

Quantum professional Scott Nixon is calling tactics while Marty Kullman is steering New Wave, which won Race 8 and placed second in Race 7 to jump from sixth to second in the overall standings.

“We carved a lot out of the lead today. Whether it was enough remains to be seen,” Carroll said. “We are certainly in range and have given ourselves a chance. Hopefully, we can sail as well tomorrow as we did today.”

Competition is still close in the Melges 24 class with skipper Lorenzo Santini and UKA UKA Racing taking a three-point lead into Friday. Lorenzo Bressani is steering while Jonathan McKee is calling tactics for UKA UKA Racing, which has been remarkably consistent this week. The Italian team has won three races and counts no worse than a third in totaling 12 points – three better than the Swiss entry Blu Moon.

“They are sailing unbelievably. We are going fast, but they are just a click better,” said Flavio Favini, helmsman aboard Blu Moon, which won Race 7 and took third in Race 8. “We have a chance, but it is a very small one. After what the UKA UKA guys did today, they deserve to be winning the regatta.”

Thursday brought the strongest wind of the regatta with a south-southeasterly delivering 14-16 knots. After three days of shifty conditions, the breeze stabilized and allowed tacticians to focus on boat speed instead of choosing sides of the course.

“It was the steadiest wind I’ve ever seen, both in terms of velocity and direction,” said Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1.

Skipper Giovanni Maspero and the Joe Fly team tacked on two more good results on Thursday and now hold a solid 11-point lead in the Farr 40 class. Tactician Francesco Bruni has made all the right calls this week as the Italian boat has finished fourth or better in seven of eight starts, notching its first victory of the regatta in Race 8.

Barking Mad, an American boat skippered by Jim Richardson of Newport, R.I., notched a second and third on Thursday to move from fifth to second in the overall standings. Tactician Terry Hutchinson believes Barking Mad has been sailing relatively well all week and finally caught some breaks.

“I’m incredibly happy with our performance today. We started the day by setting a team goal of finishing on the podium and this was certainly a step in the right direction,” he said. “Joe Fly is sailing really well and will be hard to beat. We just have to continue sailing the way we did today and be in position to capitalize if Joe Fly makes any mistakes.”

All the boys on the Highland Fling were happy to hear the weather forecast for Thursday. The Wally 82-footer, easily the largest entry at Key West 2010, has been unable to maximize its potential in the moderate, shifty conditions that predominated the initial three days of the regatta.

“We were really, really pleased when we went out this morning and found the breeze was what it was predicted,” tactician Peter Isler said.

Highland Fling, owned by Irvine Laidlaw of Monaco, responded with its best day of the regatta – posting a second and a third to close to within two points of second place in IRC 1. “We got the sails up and down real well and our maneuvers were terrific. We turned that 82-footer into a small boat today,” Isler said.

Bella Mente, a Reichel-Pugh 66, owned by Hap Fauth of Newport, R.I., has run away with IRC 1 by winning seven of eight races. At this point, the battle is for second place between Highland Fling and the TP52 Interlodge (Austin Fragomen, New York).

There is a great battle going on in IRC 2 class between the Summit 40 White Heat and the J/122 Pugwash. Those two boats finished one-two in Class 3 at the IRC East Coast Championship off Annapolis in late October and are positioned to do so again in Key West.

Skipper Mike Williamson and the White Heat team saw their lead cut to one after Race 7 on Thursday, but rebounded to win Race 8 and push the advantage back to five points. Tactician Larry Leonard, a North Sails professional, admitted Pugwash will need two terrific results and a little good luck in order to overtake its hometown rival from Newport.

“We’ll go out and sail the best we can and hope the breaks fall our way,” Leonard said. “We can’t really engage White Heat because their boat is faster than ours. We just try to sail in the same vicinity.”

Savasana, owned by Brian Keane of Marion, Mass., continued its impressive performance in the J/105 class with a pair of seconds on Thursday. Savasana holds a 16-point lead over ghost (Kenneth Colburn, Southport, Maine) and has pretty much clinched the overall victory.

“It’s been an awesome week of all-around sailing and we’re very, very pleased,” said Keane, whose team has placed first or second in six of eight races and no worse than fourth.

Le Tigre, co-owned by Glenn Hilliard and Reese Darden of Forth Worth, Texas, posted a pair of bullets on Thursday to take over the lead in J/80 class, which is contesting its Midwinter Championship at Key West 2010. Little Feat, skippered by J/Boats executive Jeff Johnstone, entered the day atop the 19-boat fleet but exited six points behind Le Tigre.

In the International Team Competition for the Nautica Watches Trophy, the two Italian Teams have been close all week. Joe Fly, Calvi Network and UKA UKA Racing have a narrow 6 point lead over Nerone, Fantastika, and Blu Moon.

Key West Race Week

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