Sail Scene New England

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Boston boat finally crowned 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.

NYYC Race Week set for July return

This summer, as Newport, R.I., becomes the epicenter of summer racing activities for sailors from across the nation, the New York Yacht Club will run its sixth biennial Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex.

Slated for July 19-27, the popular regatta offers a new twist to its split format, giving classics their own spotlight over the weekend of July 19-20 during the club’s 100th birthday celebration of America’s legendary yacht designer Olin J. Stephens. For Race Week at Newport’s second session — from July 24 through 27 — up to 200 modern racing machines will converge on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound for IRC, PHRF and one-design competitions.

The event is part of the 2008 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series, and at least three one-design classes — the NYYC Swan 42s, J/109s and Melges 32s — will use the event to determine their 2008 North American or National champions.

In addition, the event will serve as the J/105 East Coast Championship and the Beneteau First 36.7 Northeast Championship. In addition to windward-leeward courses, a distance race around Conanicut Island will be included for many classes, adding to the challenges and beauty of a racing arena that from 1930 to 1983 hosted the America’s Cup and continues to make Newport one of the country’s most popular sailing destinations. www.nyyc.org

New England 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.

New distance race to the West Indies

A new distance racing tradition was born with the announcement of the bi-annual Casa de Campo Race to debut in February 2009. The race to the West Indies will start on Feb. 13 from Fort Lauderdale and finish in the exotic, 5-star Casa De Campo Resort, in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

Casa De Campo, popular to golfers around the world for its acclaimed Pete Dye courses, will showcase its new 370-slip full-service marina. The International Farr 40 class recently announced they would have their Rolex World Championship there in 2010.

The 900-mile race will track east through Northwest Providence Channel, turning southeast at Eleuthera, skirting the Bahamas, by the Turks and Caicos Islands, to the eastern tip on the Dominican Republic where boats will turn the corner for the run to the finish.

A unique welcome to each and every boat headlines a long list of dividends for participants. An awards party, access to the golf course and two days of windward/leeward racing for the Casa de Campo Cup are included.

“Given the appeal of this gorgeous destination location, we feel very optimistic about attracting a meaningful fleet and building on that over the years,” said Storm Trysail Commodore John Fisher. “Casa de Campo is committed to making this a special experience for all who participate.”

The Eastern Dominican Republic is a sensible location for boats continuing on to the Caribbean circuit. It also represents minimal upwind work for boats heading back to South Florida for the Acura Miami Grand Prix.

Event details and logistics information were expected to be available on Premiere Racing’s Web site, www.premiere-racing.com, in February.