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Sail Scene Florida and the South

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Wind blows hot and cold at Key West Race Week

Sailors says the 2008 Acura Key West, held the final week of January, was among the strangest and most challenging in the 21-year history of the regatta.

However, what the sailors, especially the winners, will remember is a spectacular final day of racing and the final results.

“I think the race committee did an amazing job this week. To hold eight races in three days is really quite amazing,” said Thomas Coates, winner of J/105 class aboard Masquerade. “It was a tough situation with too much wind on one day and too little wind on others.”

Things didn’t look good after two of the initial three days of the regatta were cancelled due to bad conditions. Making matters worse was the fact the forecast for Day 4 was for a second straight day of light, fickle breeze.

However, Mother Nature did an about-face and brought a solid 12-knot northerly that enabled organizers to get in two races. Things got even better on Day 5 with a northeasterly bringing 16-20 knot winds that allowed for three more races to be held.

“This was a classic Key West day. It was breeze on with warm weather and sunshine. You couldn’t have asked for a better final day,” Melges 24 winner Dave Ullman said.

Barking Mad owner Jim Richardson used the word “ecstatic” to describe his reaction to winning the Farr 40 class for the first time in 11 trips to Key West. The Boston resident and crew of Barking Mad accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion, winning the eighth and final race to capture a tiebreaker with Mascalzone Latino. Barking Mad earned the prestigious Acura Trophy as Boat of the Week.

“It’s hard to win any regatta in this class and it has been especially difficult for us to win this particular regatta,” said Richardson, who has been second in Key West on several occasions.

Terry Hutchinson, tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand in the last America’s Cup, has been sailing with Richardson for nearly a decade and understood how much this victory meant to him.

“Jim has won just about every major event in this class and Key West was the final piece of the puzzle. It’s nice to see good things happen to good people,” Hutchinson said.

Competition was also extremely close in Melges 32 class, which saw a significant increase in entries and caliber of competition at Acura Key West 2008. Star, skippered by Jeff Ecklund of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., finished fifth or better in six of seven races that counted in edging New Wave by two points and capturing the Midwinter Championship.

“The class is getting better and better all the time and this was probably the most competitive regatta we’ve ever had,” said Ecklund, who had boatbuilder Harry Melges aboard as tactician.

Groovederci skipper Deneen Demourkas led the M30 class from start to finish in winning Key West for the second time in four years.

Ullman put together a tremendous final day fourth to first push in Melges 24 class, largest of the regatta with 46 boats. The California sailmaker steered Pegasus 505 to a stellar line of 1-2-1 on Friday to finish three points ahead of weeklong leader Blu Moon owned by Franco Rossini of Switzerland.

Tom Coates completed an incredible accomplishment by winning J/105 class for the fourth consecutive year at Acura Key West and also garnering the Midwinter Championship. The San Francisco native and his team on Masquerade won five of eight races and led the 34-boat after each day of the regatta and finished with a low score of 13 points — an incredible 42 points better than runner-up Damian Emery’s Eclipse.

IRC 1 class was comprised of the 10 largest boats in the regatta and Numbers owner Dan Meyers’ new Judel/Vrolijk 66-footer proved the most consistent of them all. America’s Cup veteran Hamish Pepper called tactics for Meyers, who won five of eight races in compiling a low score of 10 points — four better than runner-up Flash Glove, a TP52 owned by Colm Barrington of Ireland.

Champions crowned at Miami OCR regatta

US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, an ISAF Grade 1 world-ranking event that attracts elite sailors as well as up-and-comers, hosted 369 sailors from 34 countries and crowned champions in three Paralympic classes and four Olympic classes, Jan. 27-Feb. 2.

“All I could think was ‘I have to catch up, I have to catch up!,’” said the overall winner in the Laser Radial class Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla., who started prematurely in the final, and after re-starting behind the fleet found herself in last around the top mark of a twice-around course. Her closest competitor in overall scoring, Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., also had jumped the gun and was working her way up from sixth at that top mark to eventually win the race.

“I knew that if Anna got a first, I had to get at least an eighth to still win overall,” said Railey, who began picking off boats by playing a lane that was clear of wind-shadowing boats. In the end, she finished seventh, a score good enough to put her three points ahead of Tunnicliffe in the final standings. Tunnicliffe won the silver medal, Karin Soderstrom of Sweden took the bronze.

France’s Xavier Rohart, sailing with crew Pascal Rambeau, emerged as the overall Star class winner after winning that class’ medal race. Even though he came into the final day’s races in second overall, Rohart thought his chances of walking away with a gold medal were slim, due to the strength of previous leader Elvind Melleby with crew Petter Morland Pedersen of Norway and the rest of the fleet, which has no less than six world champions in it, Rohart counting as one.

However, when the Norwegian team started prematurely, Xavier said, “the plan got easier.”

Elvind and Pedersen finished seventh in the final race, good for the silver medal, while the Swiss team of Flavio Marazzi and Enrico De Maria took the bronze. Polish Laser sailor Maciej Grabowski won the gold medal in the Laser fleet on the strength of a third-place finish today. With Kyle Rogachenko of Collegeville, Pa., only six points behind him going into the final day, Grabowski “couldn’t let him go.”

He covered Rogachenko, as Rogachenko — a member of US Sailing’s Elite Youth Development Team — was the only one who could steal away his gold medal.

“It was not necessary to win the race or take risks,” said Grabowski, who is a sure bet to represent his country at the Olympic Games. Grabowski strayed from the norm by choosing to come to Miami rather than participate in the Laser World Championships in Australia this February. Conflicting World Championships were the reason, in fact, that seven of the 2008 Olympic classes were not included this year at the Rolex Miami OCR.

“For me it made sense to sail in a place with lighter winds that will be more like Qingdao,” said Grabowski. Winning the medal race to take the silver medal was Grabowski’s fellow countryman Marcin Rudawski, while Denmark’s Anders Nyholm won the bronze.

The leading team in the Yngling class, Mandy Mulder, Mary Faber and Merel Witteveen of the Netherlands, finished seventh today to take the gold medal over Russians Ekaterina Skudina, Diana Krutskikh and Natalia Ivanova, who settled for silver. Sally Barkow of Nashotah, Wis., with crew Carrie Howe of Grosse Pointe, Mich., and Debbie Capozzi of Bayport, N.Y., won the medal race but still fell short of the podium, finishing sixth overall.

In the 2.4mR fleet of 25, France’s Damien Seguin beat Sweden’s Stellan Berlin and Canada’s Paul Tingley.

In the SKUD-18 fleet, Americans Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker of Fountain Valley, Calif., and Marblehead, Mass., topped Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett of Brick, N.J., and Boca Raton, Fla., and Canadians John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit.

Germans Jens Kroker, Tobias Schuetz and Siegmund Mainka held a defining lead in the Sonar class over France’s Bruno Jourden, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Ireland’s Paul McCarthy, Richard Whealey and Paul Ryan.

California boat wins Lauderdale-Key West

John Kilroy’s Samba Pa Ti grabbed an IRC trifecta in the 33rd annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race: first to finish, first in IRC class A and first for IRC overall on corrected time.

Organized by SORC Management, which includes members of the Storm Trysail Club and Lauderdale Yacht Club, the 160-mile race stretched from Port Everglades to Key WestHarbor. Along the way, navigators had to “connect-the-dots” to keep the fleet between all major Florida Keys markers and the Gulf Stream. Entrants, in two classes for IRC, four for PHRF and two for Multihull, ranged in size from a 76-foot catamaran to two 21-foot mini Transats, but it was Kilroy’s 52-foot TP52 that stole the show.

“It starts with a good boat,” said Kilroy, of Los Angeles, about Samba Pa Ti’s success, noting that he modified the boat — adding a bowsprit, changing the bulb and extending the deck “for leverage on reaching legs” — after winning the US-IRC East Coast Championship last year.

Many in Samba Pa Ti’s crew were grand-prix racing notables such as New Zealand’s Nick White as navigator, Florida’s Tom Lihan and Maryland’s Terry Hutchinson as tactician.

At the start, Race Chairman Joel Bowie reported “sporty conditions,” which started with four- to six-foot seas and an 18-knot reaching easterly, favorable for breaking the current monohull race record of 10 hours, 24 minutes, and 2 seconds posted by Joe Dockery’s Reichel/Pugh 81 Carrera in 2005.

SambaPa Ti fell just short of that record by seven minutes, 23 seconds, posting an elapsed time of 0:10:32:25.

“That’s pretty amazing for a 52-foot boat,” said Kilroy. “We had 15-20 miles where we were hard on the nose, so if we’d had a staysail up the whole time we’d have done even better.”

While Kilroy was sailing smoothly along to victory, others weren’t so lucky.For the multihulls, especially, it was a gear buster. Patriot, a 76-foot catamaran owned by Mike Rush of Fort Lauderdale and the early favorite for line honors retired shortly after the start with mainsail problems. Matador, a Corsair F31 owned by Rick Tobin of Miami, Fla., lost its mast just off Marathon; and the 42-foot Shuttleworth catamaran The Beast, owned by Rubio Julian of Westin, Fla., reported a “broken cross beam.”

It was Flight Simulator, a Corsair 28R, owned by Tom Reese of Youngstown, N.Y., that prevailed to take Multihull A and overall Multihull honors with an elapsed time of 0:12:39:49.

“We couldn’t have asked for better conditions,” said Reese of the weather. “We had strong winds. It was a tight reach at first, then a beam reach, finally a broad reach and the wind was steady all thorough the race.”

Snagging victory in class B was Anhinga, a Corsair F27 owned by Robert Libbey of Fort Myers, Fla.

Munequita, a 60-foot Cherubini schooner owned by Charles Evans and sailing out of the St. Pete Yacht Club, won PHRF Class D and overall PHRF honors, posting an elapsed time of 19:32:22.

Gwailhir, the Open 40 owned by Stuart Williams of Newport, R.I. took PHRF A, while securing PHRF B victory was the Du Four 44 Second Wind, owned by Ray Sullivan of Key Biscayne, Fla.And finally, winning PHRF Class C was Bandana, an Oyster 48 owned by Dave Wallace of Fort Lauderdale.

American sailors win Down Under

Erin Maxwell of Stonington, Conn., and Isabelle Kinsolving of New York, N.Y., concluded their winning streak Down Under in Melbourne, Australia, by winning the 470 Women’s World Championship. The impressive victory follows their win at Sail Melbourne, an ISAF Grade 1 event.

The team of 28-year-olds defeated a competitive fleet of 58 boats from across the globe, finishing an emphatic 10 points ahead of world’s No. 1 ranked team and silver medalists in this event, Italians Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol.

Last fall, Maxwell and Kinsolving finished second at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Sailing, narrowly missing the spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

“If there was ever a way to make me feel better about not being selected for the Olympics ... this is it,” an ecstatic Maxwell said. “I don’t know what the future holds but we’re going to savor today, that’s for sure.”

Also representing the United States at the 2008 470 Women’s World Championship were 2008 U.S. Olympic Team members Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler, who finished 11th overall.