Sail Scene

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‘Beautiful weather, terrific wind’ in Key West

For a small country, Italy produces a remarkable number of world-class sailors, which was proven at Acura Key West 2006. A pair of Italian skippers captured the two most prestigious classes in the five-day regatta.

Massimo Ferragamo, an Italian native who now lives in New York, captured the Swan 45 World Championship in dramatic fashion. Vincenzo Onorato, who hails from Napoli, took top honors in the talent-laden Farr 40 class.

Ferragamo and his team aboard Bellicosa jumped from third to first in the 16-boat Swan 45 field, then held the top spot with a 6-8 line the last day. Winning the world championship also earned Ferragamo the regatta’s Acura Trophy as Boat of the Week.

Racing in the Melges 24 class — the regatta’s largest with 60 boats — went down to the final day with California’s Dave Ullman and Italy’s Riccardo Simoneschi tied for first. Ullman pulled out the win with a 2-3 line while Simoneschi faded to fourth due to finishes of 5-10. Blu Moon, a Swiss entry owned by Franco Rossini and steered by Chris Rast, posted a third and first to place second — four points behind Ullman’s Pegasus 505.

Reigning Etchells world champion Jeff Linton of St. Petersburg, Fla., called tactics for Ullman, who won two of nine races and finished second or third in four others. This marked the fourth time the Newport Beach-based sailmaker has won Melges 24 class at Key West.

“This is the second-windiest Key West in which I’ve competed, and I’ve been coming here a long time,” Ullman said. “It was a great regatta — beautiful weather and terrific wind.”

Ullman’s victory helped USA West capture the Nautica Trophy for winning the International Team competition, which combines the scores of Swan 45, Farr 40 and Melges 24 entries from the same country. Fred and Steve Howe’s Warpath took third in Farr 40 while Craig Speck’s Vim placed fourth in Swan 45 to give USA West 90 points — 19 better than Italy 1.

Moneypenny, a Swan 601 owned by Jim Swartz of Newport, R.I., won the inaugural US-IRC Championship by the slimmest of margins over Aera. Money-penny’s final calculation was 5.768, compared to 5.765 for the Kerr 55, owned by Nick Lykiardopulo of Cowes, United Kingdom.

Stay Calm II, a new boat owned by Stuart Robinson of London, took top honors in the Transpac 52 class.

TeamBold, skippered by Nelson Stephenson, completed an impressive performance in the Mumm 30 National Championship. Masquerade posted a resounding 18-point victory in the 29-boat J/105 class.

El Ocaso, a J/120 owned by Rick Wesslund of Tiburon, Calif., received the Key West Trophy as PHRF Boat of the Week. Wesslund’s team notched four bullets and finished no worse than fourth in winning a competitive 15-boat PHRF 3 class by 12 points.

*****

Smooth seas grace Lauderdale-Key West

The Storm Trysail Club’s Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race slowed to 5 to 15 knots from last year’s record-making pace in the 160-mile race.

Sjambok, the TP52 owned by Michael Brennan of Annapolis, Md., won line honors completing the race in 18 hours, 45 minutes and 54 seconds. Sjambok was first in Class A in 2005 after placing second four years in a row.

“It’s a fun event to do,” Brennan said. “It was our sixth time here and this year it was a bit more mellow, but still very competitive with tacking duels with Rosebud in the middle of the night.”

Sea Turtle, the Beneteau 38 owned by Jim Miller of Melbourne, Fla., that last won overall honors in 2004, placed first overall in the 37-boat PHRF fleet.

“This is not an easy trip,” said Miller. “The way you win is to sail the boat hard all the time.”

Originally from South Florida, Miller has only missed the start line for this event three times in its 31-year history.

“It takes a team to win this race,” said Miller, who sails with Melbourne residents Jim Henry on the helm and navigator Tom Knowlton. “The object of this race is to sail out in the ocean, between the reefs to the west and the Gulf Stream current to the east. It’s a navigator’s race — the navigator is working 24 hours — and without a good navigator you can’t win this race.”

Bill Bollin of Sylvania, Ohio, won PHRF Class B in his first time out on Stand Aside, a Thompson 870 sportboat built in New Zealand and the smallest boat in the race.

“We’ll be back,” Bollin said. “I couldn’t imagine better conditions for our boat — smooth seas, warm temps and sailing in paradise. We were doing 8-10 knots for most of the course and had the spinnaker up for all but the first 30 miles of the race. It’s a neat racetrack, and from a navigation standpoint really interesting and challenging. Nobody was bored on our boat.”

Condor, skippered by Todd Hudgins of Jensen Beach, Fla., took the overall multihull-class line honors. With a time of 19 hours and 16 seconds, Condor beat the ocean racing machines Ocean Planet and Solune, two Open 60s skippered, respectively, by noted distance sailors Bruce Schwab of Portland, Maine, and Jean-Philippe Chomette of France.

“You have no idea what it’s like passing boat after boat — and Ocean Planet we just cruised right by,” said owner and bowman Peter Freudenberg of Sewalls Point, Fla. He has had Condor for just a year and noted that this race was “immensely satisfying” as they had not previously beaten Lei Loe and Rocketeer. With Keith Notary of Merritt Island and Phil Styne of Orlando rounding out his team, Freudenberg explained that the crew is “constantly moving forward and aft as Condor is extremely sensitive to weight distribution. Ours is a very heavy team effort.”

*****

20-knot winds make exciting end to OCR

The finale in US Sailing’s Rolex Miami Olympic Class Regatta, Jan. 22-27 on Biscayne Bay, determined results in nine classes. Winners at the event hoped to repeat or improve on their medal in Beijing at the 2008 Olympic Games.

“One race, double points, must count” — that was the last-day mantra for some of the 610 sailors from 40 countries. Adding the emphasis on the finale was the new Olympic format, which stipulates that only the top 10 sailors from each class can participate in the Medal Race. Their scores count double toward a total point score.

Although sailors did not have the option of allowing the Medal Race as one of their throwouts, three teams nevertheless had won the right to sit out, as mathematically they had already claimed victory. Those teams were France’s current world champions in the Star class Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau; American reigning Yngling world champions Sally Barkow of Nashotah, Wis., Carrie Howe of Grosse Pointe, Mich., and Deborah Capozzi of Bayport, N.Y.; and U.S. Olympic silver medalists in the Tornado class John Lovell of New Orleans, and Charlie Ogletree of Kemah, Texas. The latter two teams sailed in the finale, winning their final Medal Races for good measure. For the rest, the 18-20-knot winds set the stage for an exciting climax to one of the largest Rolex Miami OCRs in the last decade.

In the Laser Radial class, America’s Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., turned in an outstanding performance to clinch the gold medal as well as US Sailing’s Golden Torch Award, given to the American sailor deemed to have the best overall performance among all classes. She had 10 points on Jennifer Spalding of Vancouver, British Columbia, going into the final.

“I had to finish ahead of her or at least within five boats of her to win, and I knew because of the high winds that I had the advantage,” said Tunnicliffe. “At the start there were some boats over the line early. I wasn’t sure if I was one of them, but Jennifer was ‘bow out’ on me, so I figured if I was, she was, too. In other words, I didn’t need to go back if she didn’t — I’d still win.”

When at the first windward mark Tunnicliffe saw a posting that Spalding was over early, she knew she had won. Near the end of the race, Tunnicliffe capsized. “I got a little excited and was caught off guard,” she said, adding that at that point it didn’t matter that she lost four boats in the process and wound up finishing seventh. Tunnicliffe’s nemesis, Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla., took the silver medal ahead of Spalding’s bronze-medal finish. Railey won last month’s Laser Radial World Championship, where Tunnicliffe finished third, and looked to be the favorite at this regatta until the day before the final when she, too, was over the starting line early. It was the second in her one-dropout series, which meant she had to claim 48 points and was mathematically eliminated from taking first place.

Tunnicliffe is gunning for the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Sailing Team, and for her, as for all the Olympic classes here, the event was a team qualifier. The next qualifier for her will be the class’s North Americans in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In the Sonar class, one of the three classes chosen for the 2008 Paralympic Games, which have not adopted the new Olympic format, standings held when sailing had to be canceled due to the high winds on the final day. David Schroeder of Miami, Keith Burhans of Rochester, N.Y., and Bill Mauk of Miami, won the gold medal, with Rick Doerr of Clifton, N.J., Ezra Culver of Miami, and Mike Ross of Encinitas, Calif., finishing two points behind with a silver medal.