Key West Race Week WingsIn January, Quantum Key West Race Week 2016 got off to a lively start with strong winds welcoming 133 boats in 12 classes. Despite a couple of howling days where racing was cancelled for all or some classes, most got in 9-10 races.

Quantum Key West Race Week continued thanks to the Storm Trysail Club, 140 volunteers and the support of Quantum Sail Design Group. Many sponsors joined in to continue this world class annual regatta. Premiere Racing, based in Marblehead, MA, built and ran Key West Race Week for over 20 years.

Mike Bruno (Armonk, NY) and Wings team led the J/88 class. ©

The Storm Trysail Club is well known for running Block Island Race Week, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Among numerous other events, Storm Trysail Club also organizes the Lauderdale-to-Key West Race. “Key West Race Week is a terrific bookend to the club’s long standing Block Island Race Week,” Storm Trysail Club Commodore Lee Reichart said. “We believed we are able to utilize our experience at Block Island to ensure that Key West remains the most prominent winter big boat event in North America.”

 Well received this year was awarding the 2016 Boat of the Day and Week to both Professional and Corinthian crews. All were gifted Chelsea Clocks.

Boats of the Week (Professional & Corinthian)

Bella Mente – Maxi 72 – Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, MN)

Marnatura – J/70 – Luis Bugallo (Vigo, ESP)

2016 Boat of the Day Winners

Monday – City of Key West Day: Skeleton Key – J/111 – Peter Wagner (Atherton, CA) & Marnatura – J/70 – Luis Bugallo (Vigo, ESP)

Tuesday – Lewmar Day: No Racing

Wednesday – Mount Gay Rum Day: Black Seal – Melges 24 – Richard Thompson (London, UK) & Tramp – Melges 24 – Thomas Ritter (Bloomfield Hills, MI)

Thursday – Industry Partner Boat of the Day: Bella Mente – Maxi 72 – Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, MN) & Parti Girl – Melges 24 – Jens Wathne (Loddefjord, NOR)

Friday – Quantum Sails of the Day: Calvi Network – J/70 – Carlo Alberini (Pesaro, ITA) & Marnatura – J/70 – Luis Bugallo (Vigo, ESP)

Sailing World Youth Trophy: Eagle’s Eye – Fareast 28R – Matt Wake (West Yarmouth, MA)

Outstanding Contribution to the Sport: Doug DeVos (Ada, MI)

Christopher Dragon Key WestOne of the most dominant Race Week champions was Christopher Dragon capturing IRC 2 by 13 points. Christopher Dragon, a Sydney 43 owned by Andrew and Linda Weiss of Mamaroneck, NY, finished second in Race 1 and then proceeded to reel off eight straight wins. Legendary sailmaker Butch Ulmer served as tactician and Larry Fox as navigator for Weiss, who has known both men since he was 14 years old and crewing on his father’s boat.

Andrew Weiss (Mamaroneck, NY) and his crew on the Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon dominated IRC 2. ©

Bella Mente, which clinched victory in the Maxi 72 class on Thursday, was selected as Quantum Boat of the Week. Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, MN) steered his big blue boat to first place in six of nine races.

Peter Wagner (Atherton, CA) and the Skeleton Key crew made a successful debut at Quantum Key West, winning the J/111 class in dominant fashion. Skeleton Key, which does most of its racing on San Francisco Bay, reveled in the big breeze while notching seven bullets and a pair of seconds.

Unusual for Race Week, high winds and sea state caused abandonments. “We have a lot of smaller boats in this regatta so we decided not to send them out. We debated about Division 1, but believed it would be tough for them as well,” said Race Committee Chairman Dick Neville. “At the end of the day, we were concerned about gear breakage across the board. It would have been tough on the race committee as well. We also polled sailors, and the consensus was that it would be best not to send the boats out.” “If they had told us to race, we could have gone out there and tried not to break anything,” said Iris Vogel, who hails from New Rochelle, NY. “If you go out there and don’t suffer damage then it was a good decision. If you go out and break the boat and your regatta is over, then it was a bad decision.”

Relative ObscurityFifty-four J/70s entered the regatta. Carlo Alberini (Pesaro, Italy) and the crew of Calvi Network led from start to finish to win for the second straight year. “I come back every year to Key West because the regatta is so good – always great wind and excellent race management,” said Alberini, who previously raced a Farr 40 and Melges 32. Peter Duncan (Rye, NY) and the Relative Obscurity team were runner-up in the J/70 class, just four points ahead of Tim Healy (Newport, RI) and the Helly Hansen crew.

Peter Duncan (Rye, NY) and the Relative Obscurity team finished second in the J/70 fleet. ©

One new idea this year was to initiate the ORC rating system versus PHRF. Managed by the Offshore Racing Congress, the ORC rating system is used in 40 countries with over 9000 certificates issued yearly. “The ORC system has shown tremendous success overseas in the last several years, with measurements and ratings for many of the same boat types we have here in the U.S.,” said Neville. “ORC was well received. It is the only reasonably priced alternative with an international pedigree.”

key west defiantDefiant, a New York 40 owned by John Streicker of New York City, won all three-distance races in the Performance Cruising class, a new feature this year. This class and the multihulls started and finished near the harbor, with courses set around government buoys. Joseph Mele, also of New York City, steered his Swan 44 Triple Lindy to line honors in two straight races, but the Defiant team won all three races on corrected time. Principal Race Officer Bruce Bingman created courses in the range of 20 miles.

Defiant, a New York 40 owned by John Streicker of New York City, won all three-distance races in the Performance Cruising class, a new feature at this year’s event. ©

And the winner of the Multihull class, like the performance cruisers, also won with straight bullets. Tom Reese’s Corsair 28R Flight Simulator from Youngstown, NY bested the much larger (and more luxurious) Gunboat 60 Arethusa, owned by Wendy and Phil Lotz (Ft. Lauderdale, FL).

In several classes, the top boats battled ‘til the event’s final leg. No finish was closer though than in the TP52 class, where Doug DeVos (Ada, MI) and Quantum Racing crew just nipped Heidi & Steve Benjamin’s (Norwalk, CT) Spookie by a half point. “Steve and the entire Spookie team are terrific, just outstanding sailors. It was neck-and-neck the whole way…Fortunately, we were able to eke out a few seconds here and there on the race course,” said DeVos, who was presented with a special award for his contributions to the sport of sailing at the final prize giving ceremony. The week prior, Benjamin was named 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and won the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race. That’s a good week!

Mike Bruno (Armonk, NY) and the Wings team led at the end of each day’s racing en route to topping the J/88 class. “This is one of the world’s great regattas so I’m pretty excited,” Bruno said. “We had real good boat speed and I think the key was we were real consistent.” Giving Wings a good challenge were Iris Vogel and the Deviation team and Jeff Johnstone / Tod Patton’s Blondie 2 (Newport, RI) in the eight-boat class.

The C&C 30 class is blossoming nicely. Walt Thirion (Annapolis, MD) and Themis edged Dan Cheresh and his Extreme2 (Holland, MI) in the 11-boat fleet.

Storm Trysail Club outdid themselves again by providing a quality Key West experience that racers and sponsors have come to expect. “We are still debriefing every aspect of the event to determine what worked well and what we can do better,” said Event Chairman John Fisher. “Announcements about 2017 should be coming within sixty days.”

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Event Media Contributed to this report.