By Bill Wagner
January 19, 2015 - There is no better sight than a steady stream of racing boats either sailing or motoring out of the Historic Seaport harbor around 10 a.m. on Monday. That’s a sure sign that the annual race week held off Key West is starting on time and with enough wind to get the regatta underway.
Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 got off to a strong start with the principal race officers on all three divisions able to complete two good races in 8-14 knot northeasterly winds. Photo © Ken Stanek Photography
“It was a good day of racing. Conditions were ideal and the courses were good,” said Hap Fauth, skipper of the mini maxi Bella Mente.
Fauth had reason to be happy as Bella Mente was atop the standings in IRC 1 after the opening day of action. Tactician Terry Hutchinson played the shifts well as the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer posted results of first and second.
“Terry did a good job of putting us in sync with the puffs and our maneuvers were good,” said Fauth, who is breaking six new sailors into his crew of 18.
Hutchinson wasn’t happy about losing the lead in Race 1 as Bella Mente sailed into a patch of choppy air, which allowed the 66-foot Numbers to win on corrected time. Bella Mente must beat Numbers, which is being chartered by Florida resident Gunther Buerman, by just over three minutes in order to save its time over the smaller boat.
It was a very good day on the water for skipper William Coates and his crew aboard Otra Vez. The Ker 43 leads both IRC 1 and the High Performance Rule sub-class after getting two good starts and displaying superb upwind speed.
“We have a good boat with a great crew and we did a lot of preparation to get ready for this regatta,” said Coates, a resident of Houston, Texas.
Otra Vez made its debut at Quantum Key West 2014 and Coates said the program got better as the year went along, capturing class honors at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. Mike Buckley, an All-American sailor at Washington College, is calling tactics for Coates.
“This boat was designed for IRC racing, which is why we’re kind of surprised to being doing well in HPR,” Coates said. “Our motto is never give up. We were really deep in that second race and gained it all back on the last lap just by staying in phase with the shifts and puffs.”
Skipper Jason Carroll and the boys aboard Argo are the early pace-setters in the GC 32 class, which is making its debut in Key West. Winds weren’t quite strong enough for the high-performance catamarans to foil upwind, but they were easily able to rise out of the water going downwind. Cameron Appleton, tactician for Alex Jackson on Leenabarca, said staying up on the foils downwind and flying a hull upwind make all the difference in this class.
Photo © Ken Stanek Photography
“This is the first time we’ve ever sailed the boat and the learning curve is steep,” Appleton said. “In relatively light and fickle conditions like we had today, it’s tricky to keep the boats moving at top speed. We made improvement from Race 1 to Race 2 so that’s a positive.”
Appleton, who has competed in just about every monohull class out there, said succeeding in getting these state-of-the-art catamarans into perfect sync is quite rewarding. The GC 32 is capable of reaching speeds of 35 knots while foiling downwind. “These boats are quite sporty and it’s very exciting sailing,” he said.
Ireland skipper Conor Clarke and his crew on Embarr posted a pair of bullets to seize the early lead in Melges 24 class, which has attracted 13 entries. Texas skipper Steve Rhyne, who has Mojo in second place after putting up a fourth and a second, said the Dublin-based Embarr had an extra gear when going downwind.
“We started well today and I thought we had good upwind speed, but we had a little trouble on the runs,” said Rhyne, who has previously raced a J/109 and Melges 32 here in Key West. “We’re new to the class and still figuring out the best way to sail the boat.”
Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler got off to a good start in his bid to repeat as Melges 32 class champion. Cutler, who has Canadian professional Richard Clarke calling tactics, placed second in both races on Monday.
J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 54 boats and the goal going into the first day was to avoid that deep finish that could prove costly. “You can’t win the regatta on Monday, but you sure can lose it,” Heartbreaker skipper Robert Hughes said. “You don’t want to sail your drop race on the first day.”
After finishing 11th in Race 1, San Diego skipper Bennett Greenwald got the gun in Race 2 and is the early leader while also earning City of Key West Boat of the Day honors. Hughes, who trails Greenwald by three points and leads Carlo Alberini (Calvi Network) by one, had a similar day with results of 13th and second. In fact, the top five boats on Monday all had one result of fifth or better and another result of 11th or higher.
“We almost had a great day,” said Hughes, who lost seven places on the final leg of Race 1. “I’m pleased with our speed. We have new sails and have made some changes to the rig setup. This is the best this boat has ever gone.”
Red is another boat that returned to the dock on Monday afternoon as the leader in two classes. British skipper Joe Woods corrected to first place in both races within PHRF 1 and thus also leads the Farr 280 sub-class.
“It’s an interesting and tricky boat to sail. It’s a 28-footer that feels bigger,” said Woods, who previously raced a Melges 24 in Key West and has just three days of practice under his belt aboard the Farr 280.
Photo © Ken Stanek Photography
Gerry Taylor captured class honors at Quantum Key West 2013, but had to miss last year’s regatta due to work commitments. The Annapolis resident and his team on Tangent picked up right where they left off two years ago, winning both races in PHRF 2 on Monday.
Skipper Iris Vogel steered Deviation to victory in both races within J/88 class while fellow New York resident Robert Hesse is the early leader in J/111 after notching finishes of first and fourth.
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Photos by Ken Stanek Photography