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Sail Scene - Long Island Sound

Fickle winds tease and delight at Key West

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.

New York sailor wins 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.