Monday, January 19, 2015

Quantum Key West Race Week Preview

(Key West, FL)- The trend continues to show that J sailors love to head south during the winters in the northern hemisphere and attend their favorite hotspots.  Some like it really warm and windy and head straight down to the multiple Caribbean events that are starting soon (such as the Montego Bay YC’s Pineapple Cup Race).  Others keep it closer to home and dive down into either sunny SoCal or to Florida.  The most notable kick-off event for the year is sailing’s version of “Woodstock”- Quantum Key West Race Week.  The regatta has evolved over time, but one thing is certain, it has been taken over by J/Teams!  As last year, the J/70s are by far the largest fleet in the regatta and the exciting new development that both J/88s and J/111s, the “new kids on the block”, have one-design starts this year!

The prognosis for weather appears to be favorable, in fact it should be nearly Caribbean-like with breezes mostly in the easterly quadrants (NE/ E/ SE) all week, sunny to partly cloudy and 60s to 70s F all week!

J/70s off Key West- Sharon Green/ Ultimate Sailing photoLeading the way in the enormous 54 boat J/70 class may be some familiar faces from past major regattas.  Certainly the lads at Ladbrokes in London will be betting on the fact that Tim Healy’s famous HELLY HANSEN will be a 1.5:1 favorite (!) but there is evidence that at least a dozen other wannabes to the throne of Midwinter Champion will be breathing down there necks.  Taking a random walk down the list of entries, you should see many of these American teams in the top fifteen at some point or another; such as Jud Smith’s AFRICA, Doug Strebel’s BLACK RIVER RACING, Stu Williams’ CLOUDSOURCED, Bob Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER, Craig Tallman’s JAYA, Dave Ullman/ Doug McLean’s LATIS RACING, Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED, Kirk Reynolds’ MERLIN, Cole Allsopp’s MOXIE, Heather Gregg’s MUSE, Bennet Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE, John Brim’s RIMETTE, Tom Bowen’s REACH AROUND, Pete Vessella’s RUNNING WILD, and Jack Franco’s USA 3. 

For the J/70s, the number of foreign entries has also grown as many teams are preparing for the J/70 Worlds in La Rochelle, France in July 2015.  There are some familiar faces (e.g. “blasts from the past”) who have excelled in other large J/one-design classes coming in from Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Brazil and Russia/ Cyprus.  Perhaps the most renowned teams are the Italian Champions, Carlo Alberini sailing on CALVI NETWORK and the Brazilian J/24 Champions- Mauricio Santa Cruz and Haroldo Solberg on VIKING.  The two teams from Sweden include their J/80 Champion Mikael Lindqvist sailing ROCAD RACING and Magnus Tyreman skippering ZOUNDS HEARING.  The Bermudians are led by Chuck Millican on ELUSIVE; the Mexicans are well-represented with FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO skippered by Julian Fernandez Neckelmann with uber-World Champion tactician Vasco Vascotto aboard from Italy; the Russians have LIVE SAIL DRIVE sailing with Igor Raspopov and Val Schestopalov from the MARC Sailing Club; and the Cayman Islands have favorite son Peter Cunningham back out on the track with Tony Rey on POWERPLAY (Peter’s had a J/29 and TP52 by the same name).

J/111s starting Key WestThe J/111’s are looking forward to spirited one-design racing and the teams that have shown up have all proven over time to be just about equal in speed!  Scary movies, I must tell you!  Good Lord, just about every boat has either won major regattas or placed in them over the past few years- and these include huge events like Key West Race Week, J/111 North Americans, New York YC Regattas, Edgartown Race Weeks, Chicago-Mackinac’s, Chicago NOOD’s, and so forth.  Most are experienced offshore veterans, as well as mercenaries around-the-buoys.  The newest team to get tossed into the frying pan must certainly be Gary Weisberg’s HEAT WAVE.  In past years, Gary’s team sailed a J/109 by the same name, won lots of their fair share of silverware, and will certainly not be “shrinking violets” in this crowd.  Bob Hesse returns again to Key West with LAKE EFFECT after decimating most of their rivals on Lake Ontario.  George Gamble’s MY SHARONA is sailing for the first time as well, but they are wily veterans of the Gulf of Mexico and are top dogs in Pensacola offshore events.  Rob and Ryan Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF won last year and are hoping for a two-peat in 2015!  Brad Faber’s UTAH is a Lake Michigan/ Lake Huron speedster, as is Bill Smith’s WOOTON from Chicago.  WICKED 2.0 is back for their third year, led by Doug Curtiss and are hoping to crack the podium yet again.  As mentioned earlier, no way to handicap the horses in this crowd, on any given day any boat can win!

The J/88s are as excited, if not more so, than their stablemates to be sailing in Key West as a one-design fleet.  Boats have come from Canada, the Midwest and the East Coast, easily trailered by their family SUV’s!  The teams are all experienced one-design and offshore sailors.  The New York contingent are showing up with four boats, including Iris Vogel’s DEVIATION, Joe & Jeff Pawlowski’s EASY EIGHTS, David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA and Richard Lohr’s NIGHT OWL.  From Detroit comes the NIGHT OWL team led by Chester Kolascz and his daughter Sarah.  Then, with a brilliant, eye-opening black and hot pink color scheme is Rob & Sandy Butler’s new TOUCH2PLAY RACING from Hamilton Harbor YC in Ontario, Canada!

PHRF 1 Class figures to deliver unique, somewhat eclectic, competition as the fleet of eight boats covers a wide range. Joining the fray this year are five 28-30 ft sportboats (actually carbon wedges of cheese), an old Farr 30 and a pair of race-winning J/122s.

TEAMWORK, a J/122 skippered by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, placed second in PHRF 2 a year ago. Team has been coming to Key West since 1994 and will be racing the J/122 for the eighth straight year. He earned PHRF Boat of the Week honors in 2003 aboard his previous TEAMWORK, a J/120. "It will be interesting to see how we match-up with the sport boats. I think when all is said and done it's going to be very close racing," Team said. "The sport boats are going to perform a lot better downwind, especially in planing conditions. However, we'll have a big advantage going upwind, particularly if there are waves."  Joining them is Rick Wesslund’s famous EL OCASO team from Miami, FL- a group that just about dominates every event they sail in the Caribbean regatta circuit- twice winning that series overall!

In PHRF 2 Class, it’s just about as eclectic a fleet of boats, but for sure they will all have fun!  J/Teams include Jon Weglarz’s J/105 THE ASYLUM from Chicago, IL and Henry DeGroot’s WIRED from New Bedford YC.

To account for the differences in performance characteristics among the boats entered in both PHRF classes, the RC has implemented a Time-on-Time rating system. This format was introduced last year with entries receiving three different ratings based on the wind speed. This year, each boat's rating will also alter based on whether the course has an odd or even number of legs (e.g. finishing upwind or downwind). Sailing photo credits- Onne Vanderwal and Sharon Green/  For more Quantum Key West Race Week sailing information