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
You cannot ask for much more. Tremendous racing conditions with a building Mistral and a lumpy sea, made worse by the constant attention of the spectator fleet. Porto Cervo laid it on thick and the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds 2009 delivered. None more so than the new World Champions Barking Mad (USA) and runners up, Nerone (ITA).
Nerone went out all guns blazing. Once again she took the left side of the course popping out from the pin; tactician Vasco Vascotto relying on his vast experience in these waters to take the initiative early, He could not have been more right. First to the windward mark, Nerone led around the track to win from Giovanni Maspero’s Joe Fly and Helmut Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA). Barking Mad, meanwhile, had opted for the centre and according to Richardson, things did not go as well as intended.
These are the moments that championships are won and lost. Rounding the top mark mid-fleet, the American crew may have briefly wondered if this was the regatta slipping away from them.
But Richardson and crew had a game plan and were not about to give up on it just yet, as Hutchinson chips in, “without question we felt we could win going into the start of the week. But feeling it and doing it are two completely different things. When we lined up on the first day we had a mode that we have not had in a while. We had a game plan of being safe and the mantra all week on the boat was that we just want to get on base, we didn’t want to hit any home runs, just keep getting on base and advancing the runners.” To get back ‘on base’ in this race was going to take some effort.
If doubts were creeping-in none were shown. “We showed a lot of fortitude to sail back through the fleet to finish sixth which kept us one point in the lead,” said a relieved Richardson.
The minds of both crews must have been buzzing heading to the start of the final deciding race.
Again, it was all down to keeping one’s head and applying the game plan. Nerone headed left once more. Mezzaroma confirmed their strategy did not change because of their relative position to the leader, “we were one point behind and were not in a position to control them. So we had to make our own race.” On Barking Mad, the lure of the left was not so strong. This was a conservative crew after all.
According to Richardson, immediately before the start, “we just looked at each other and said this is why we’re here. We’re here for an opportunity to win the regatta on the last race. What more could you want.” Any self-doubts were kept private, though post-race Richardson confessed to some troubled thoughts, “I never doubted my team’s capability. But leading wire-to-wire puts a little bit of extra pressure on each and every race. In 1999, we led going into the last race and ended up third, so that was in the back of my mind. I felt pretty comfortable that we were going to be able to get a good start in the race and get around the course in good shape. We certainly weren’t giving up. We knew we had our hands full, but we knew we had to sail well and that is what we did.”
As the initial beat unwound, the crew of Barking Mad found themselves in second place, hot on the heels of Alessandro Barnaba’s Fiamma (ITA) and overtaking them at the offset mark with a textbook spinnaker hoist. Those watching the racing started counting back to Nerone. The left had clearly not paid. In fact, it had bitten the Italian crew hard. The miraculous recovery of the previous day that kept them in the hunt was going to have to be repeated. That was a Herculian task. Barking Mad were not sailing as though their lives depended on it, they did not need to. They just needed to keep between Nerone and the finish, as Hutchinson explained, “the team responded brilliantly. We got a great start. We got a little break from Plenty, who let us tack across them. From there it was into a good lead and extend. Fortunately Nerone was back. They gained on us on the second beat, but we were safe down at the bottom mark. At that point it was about minimising damage and sailing a good clean race through to the finish.”
With Barking Mad home and dry in second, the finish of Nerone was immaterial, although eighth was good enough to hold onto the runner’s-up position overall.
A feature of the Farr 40 fleet is the friendly rivalry between crews on and off the water. Vascotto and Hutchinson have been adversaries for many years, but they found time to speak this morning before heading onto the course, as Hutchinson remarks, And, it is evident that the competitors hold each other in a regard rarely seen in other sports. “Sailing against somebody like Vasco makes you a better sailor and we hold the highest respect for that team,” he adds.
Both Hutchinson and Richardson knew they had been engaged in a battle royal. When they last won in San Francisco it was by 40-points. Mezzaroma echoed the quality of the contest, “it was a great competition sailing against all these good crews, these good boats. It is the key of the Farr 40. The level is always so high, it becomes higher and higher every year.” Vascotto, too, was gracious in defeat, “I think we did a fantastic championship: three firsts, two seconds, two eighths – usually you win with these kind of results! This time we found in front of us Barking Mad, sailed in a perfect way. We tried our best, but this is sport.”
For Richardson, it is a dream come true, “We’re very, very happy. Coming to Italy and winning this World Championship in Porto Cervo is an amazing feeling for us. There are so many good teams out there, particularly the Italians and to be able to win in their home waters is a great thrill for us.
We tried to stay calm all week. It’s easy to get too wound up and too hyped up. Our basic philosophy throughout the regatta was not to take chances, or take risks. If necessary we ducked boats rather than try to force an issue. Our point-score is a tribute to how well we sailed the boat, without taking any risks. Our worst race was a sixth and that is pretty good.” He is not kidding, no previous winner of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds has averaged less than four points for the Championship. As Vascotto pointed out, even Nerone’s score would have won in all previous years.
For Vincenzo Onorato, the outgoing, three-time (in a row) World Champion, who laughingly remarked that his last race this year was the first race of his 2010 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds campaign, this was “a wonderful story for the Class.”
After four days of competition, played out in an exceptional venue, we’ll allow the winners to sum it up: “there’s nothing better than this, that’s for sure!”
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER 10 RACES
Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5-R6-R7-R8-R9-R10-Points
1. BARKING MAD Jim Richardson USA, 1-6-4-1-6-6-3-3-6-2-38.00
2. NERONE Massimo Mezzaroma ITA, 5-1-13-2-4-2-1-8-1-8-45.00
3. JOE FLY Giovanni Maspero ITA, 4-5-5-4-1-19-2-6-2-5-53.00
4. MASCALZONE LATINO Vincenzo Onorato ITA, 2-10-2-9-8-1-13-13-7-1-66.00
5. FLASH GORDON Helmut Jahn USA, 20-4-3-11-11-20-4-2-3-3-81.00
6. PLENTY Alex Roepers USA, 12,13,19,13,10,4,15-5-4-7-102.00
7. TWINS Erik Maris FRA, 14-8-15-14-5-5-6-18-8-9-102.00
8. TRANSFUSION Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AUS, 9-7-1-3-20-25-5-4-17-13-104.00
9. ESTATE MASTER Lisa & Martin Hill AUS, 8-18-10-7-15-21-9-10-5-10-113.00
10. TWT Marco Rodolfi ITA, 6-9-14-19-13-13-7-1-20-15-117.00