With three races conducted in strong winds, there was opportunity for boats to make a significant move in the standings on the second day of Quantum Key West 2012. Or in some cases it was a chance to further increase leads taken on Day 1. Pisces fit into the former category, moving into the overall lead in Melges 32 class by winning two of three races on Tuesday. Skipper Benjamin Schwartz and company showed superb boat speed and made some sound tactical decisions and now lead the 19-boat fleet by tiebreaker over John Kilroy and the Samba Pa Ti team. “We are a new program so it is a tremendous feeling to be doing well in a big-time regatta like Key West. Hopefully, we can keep it going,” said Schwartz, who joined the class last summer and promptly placed fourth at U.S. Nationals. Schwartz has America’s Cup veteran Ed Baird calling tactics and Quantum professional Scott Nixon trimming the jib and spinnaker. “You have to give Ed and Scott a lot of credit for getting our boat up to speed,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a great crew. Today was very challenging because the wind velocity was up and down and the sea state was not very forgiving, but the guys never stopped working and we were able to change gears pretty well.” Race committees on all three courses completed three races in 8-14 knot easterly winds.
With five races in the bag, organizers with Premiere Racing are already halfway to the stated goal of holding 10 races during the five-day regatta. There was a lead change in the Farr 40 class as well with Charisma (Nico Poons, Monaco) and Struntje Light (Wolfgang Schaefer, Germany) overtaking Groovederci (John Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Cal.). Struntje Light has posted a pair of seconds and finished no lower than fourth in the seven-boat fleet, but Charisma holds the overall lead via tiebreaker by virtue of winning Race 5. “We had a very good day on the water and are happy with where we stand at the moment,” Schaefer said. “We have nice boat speed upwind and our crew work has been excellent. We have a very good tactician and he’s made some fantastic calls that have kept me in phase.” Renowned Italian professional and America’s Cup veteran Vasco Vascotta is calling tactics aboard Struntje Light, which has competed in Farr 40 class at Key West ever since 2002 with a top finish of third. “Wolfgang is doing a good job of driving and is getting better every day. The guys onboard have a great attitude and are ready to fight to the end. The good news is that we can still improve our performance.” PowerPlay lived up to its name by making a strong move in IRC 2 class with a strong line of 1-3-4 on Tuesday. Owner Peter Cunningham, a resident of Georgetown in the Cayman Islands, has a nice mix of amateur and professional crew with tactician Tony Rey, trimmer Dave Scott and bowman Geordie Shaver among the superstars aboard. “We’ve only had the boat for six months and we’ve made a lot of modifications during that time,” Cunningham said. “We’re pretty happy with our performance so far. We’re sailing fairly well and having a lot of fun.” Quantum Racing, skippered by Doug DeVos, continues to set the pace in the 52-foot class and leads PowerPlay by six points. Terry Hutchinson, helmsman for the Swedish syndicate Artemis Racing that is Challenge of Record for the America’s Cup, has made strong tactical calls in leading Quantum to victory in three races and second in the two others. “Today was far from straightforward. The wind was very shifty and there are some tricky current patches to deal with,” Hutchinson said. In other classes, the three-race day merely served as an opportunity for the early leaders to extend on the competition.
Ran, a Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer, continues to sail impressively in the Mini Maxi class (IRC 1), winning all five races so far. Red, skippered by Joe Woods of Great Britain with Paul Goodison aboard as tactician, has accomplished the same feat in the inaugural Farr 400 class. “I guess we’ve just figured the boat out a little faster than the other teams,” said Woods, who has previously sailed a Melges 32 at Key West. “We’re winning, but not by much. The racing has been awfully close.” West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes has posted straight bullets in Melges 24 class and built a commanding 10-point lead over Alan Field and the WTF team. Detroit resident Bora Gulari is steering and getting tactical advice from Australian native and North Sails pro Jeremy Wilmot as West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes seeks to follow up on its 2011 national championship. Groovederci, skippered by Deneen Demourkas of Santa Barbara, Cal., has won all five races in Farr 30 class. Teamwork, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, N.C., has posted two bullets and a pair of seconds in grabbing a narrow one-point lead over the 1D35 Tres Hombres in PHRF 1. “We’re having a great time because the conditions have been terrific and the competition has been spectacular,” said Team, who has his brother and two sons in the crew. “We’ve been mixing it up with Tres Hombres and finished overlapped with them in the first two races today. Rush is also tough so I think it will be a dogfight the whole way.” Rush, a J/109 skippered by Bill Sweetser of Annapolis, was named Lewmar / Navtec Boat of the Day after posting a superb score line of 3-2-1. Tom Babel is calling tactics while Quantum pro Tad Hutchins is calling tactics on Rush, which is currently third in PHRF 1 and second in the J/Boats Subclass. “The conditions were very good for us today. When the wind is 14 knots or less we can fly our big jib, which is kind of like our secret weapon,” Sweetser said. “We pay for that jib in our rating so it’s good whenever we can use it.” It’s been close but no cigar for Rush at Key West as Sweetser’s boat has finished first or second in class several times, but never come away as overall winner at week’s end. “One of these years we’re going to finally break through and it’s going to be wonderful,” he said. Regatta dates are January 15 – 20, 2012.
For more Key West Race Week photos by Tim Wilkes check out Tim Wilkes Photography
In announcing the members of its 2011 sailing roster, The All-American Offshore Team (AAOT) is setting a course for a new generation of sailors to move into open ocean racing. Leading by example, the AAOT hopes to jumpstart a movement to foster youth opportunities in offshore racing as they will do aboard the STP65 Vanquish which will compete in four key events this year: the 66th Storm Trysail Club’s Around Block Island Race; the Annapolis to Newport Race; the Transatlantic Race (Newport, R. I. to The Lizard, England) and the Rolex Fastnet Race. AAOT is committed to providing “high-performance offshore training opportunities for an up and coming generation of American ocean racing leaders” and went through a detailed selection process before making final team selections for 2011.
The age range for AAOT was modeled on the age cutoff for the Volvo Ocean Race with nine sailors between the ages of 18 and 30 selected to join the AAOT Management Team of Charlie Enright (Bristol, R.I.), Chris Branning (Pace, Fla.), Jesse Fielding (Wickford, R.I.), Mark Towill (Kaneohe, Hawaii) and Matt Noble (Richmond, Calif.). The 2011 All-American Offshore Team represents nine different states with an onboard average age of 23.
“In just four weeks we received over 250 applications,” said Towill, general manager for AAOT. “What it really came down to was offshore sailing experience and the diversity of additional qualifications. Our schedule doesn’t allow for much training and it’s vital that we put our best foot forward.”
Though the team has been selected for the summer of 2011, AAOT hopes to increase its future sailing schedule so that they can include other applicants down the road. “We want it to be clear that all 250 who applied are considered to be a part of the All-American Offshore Team movement,” said Fielding, operations and communications manager for AAOT. “This is just the group that will be participating this summer.”
Most AAOT team members are bringing more than just sailing expertise to the table: Colin Orsini (Seattle, Washington) is a personal trainer, former firefighter, and is well experienced in the boat building arena; Pat Showell (Sweetwater, N.J.) is a licensed captain, certified EMT, and an engineer; while Branning is currently in training to become a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilot.
“Each and every team member was selected for a reason,” said Enright, sailing team manager for AAOT. “We are very proud of the team we’ve assembled and feel like we have a great chance to succeed on the offshore racing circuit this summer.”
Nate Fast (Noank, Conn.), the youn
gest member of the team, is looking forward to working with sailors that have inspired him in the past. “I was too young to participate when the Morning Light Project was underway but I always admired the crew,” said Fast. “Offshore racing is completely different than any other type of racing. There is so much complexity and it requires large amounts of detail and work.” The 19-year-old, who has competed in sailing regattas since he was on the junior racing circuit, has been sailing keelboats for the past four years as well as competing for his college team at Webb Institute (Glen Cove N.Y.). Fast’s most significant achievements include a first-place finish in the IRC division of the 2007 Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex aboard the R/P 66 Blue Yankee, as well as his first offshore racing experience in the 2008 Newport to Bermuda Race aboard the J/44 Vamp. “Being the youngest means I will definitely be working that much harder to prove myself, which will probably help me in the end.”
Molly Robinson (San Francisco, Calif.) is one of two women on the 2011 All-American Offshore Team. “In sixth grade my parents took me out of school for six months to sail to the Caribbean and ever since I’ve wanted to get back into open ocean sailing,” said Robinson, who sailed competitively for the College of Charleston Sailing Team in Charleston, South Carolina. “Being part of AAOT is a dream come true and I know it will be a life-changing experience.” Robinson brings specific knowledge to AAOT from her past experience as a sail maker for North Sails in Auckland, NZL, and as a water purification expert with Spectra Watermakers.
The next order of business begins in late May, prior to Storm Trysail Club’s Around Block Island Race, when the full team will congregate at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy headquarters in New York, N.Y., to participate in the Safety at Sea Seminar and begin their first practice. In early June, the 2011 AAOT will relocate to Annapolis, Maryland, for the start of the Annapolis to Newport Race, followed by an offshore training session, which will be held as the final preparation for the 2,975 nautical mile Transatlantic Race from Newport, R.I., to the Lizard, U.K. The team will remain in the U.K. to prepare for the Rolex Fastnet Race which starts in Cowes in August.
More About the All-American Offshore Team
AAOT is an extension of the non-profit U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Sailing Foundation. Foundation President Ralf Steitz hatched the idea for AAOT early in January, 2011, when his long-held desire to create a youth-driven effort in the sport of ocean racing was reawakened by a German youth team’s entry in the 2011 Transatlantic aboard the Andrews 56 Norddeutche. The concept was quickly endorsed by USMMA and other leaders in the sailing world, including Oakcliff Sailing Center and the Storm Trysail Club. Along with Steitz, the newly formed AAOT Advisory Board includes Oakcliff Sailing Center’s Executive Director Dawn Riley and USMMA’s Waterfront Director Chris Gasiorek.
2011 All-American Offshore Team
Benjamin Allen (Newport, R.I.), age 24
Benjamin Quatromoni (Tiverton, R.I.), age 24
Charlie Enright (Bristol, R.I.), age 26
Chris Branning (Pace, Fla.), age 25
Chris Welch (Gross Pointe, Mich.), age 23
Colin Orsini (Seattle, Wash.), age 27
David Rasmussen (Novato, Calif.), age 24
Jesse Fielding (Wickford, R. I.), age 24
Kaity Storck (Huntington, N. Y.), age 23
Mark Towill (Kaneohe, Hawaii), age 22
Matt Noble (Richmond, Calif.), age 25
Molly Robinson (San Francisco, Calif.), age 23
Nate Fast (Noank, Conn.), age 19
Pat Showell (Sweetwater, N. J.), age 24