Key West preview
Inshore racers from 24 to 70 feet are coming from 33 states in the US - a Key West record, along with the total of 54 foreign entries. Chicago, with 24 boats, has the largest representation from any single city. Annapolis, MD, 20, and Newport, R.I, 14, are next. Charleston, S.C. has 8 and San Diego and San Francisco 6 each.
John Boyle, point man for the Chicago contingent, says his number is actually higher than 24 because the tally is computed from homeports listed on entry forms. "They don't all write down 'Chicago,' " Boyle said. "Sometime they put where their boat is or the suburb they live in."
Boyle figures the proper number is 27 or 28, but he is also counting some Melges 24s from what he calls the "northern suburbs of Chicago" around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The Melges 24s will having their contest within Key West Race Week.
About two-thirds of the entries will compete in eight one-design classes: Melges 24, J/29, J/80, J/105, Farr 40, 1D35, Mumm 30 and F-28R trimaran. There will be 10 handicap classes--one IMS and nine PHRF. Competition will be on four courses spanning about 10 miles just south of the island inside the reef.
11 teams of Farr 40s, Mumm 30s and Melges 24s will also link up in a global smorgasbord to compete for the International Team trophy. That was won last year by Team Italy, which was comprised of Vincenzo Onorato's Farr 40 Mascalzone Latino and Paolo Parente's Mumm 30, both from Naples and Tony Wattson's Melges 24 Typhoon from Newport Beach, CA.
Cita Litt's bright yellow Cita, also from Newport Beach, will be conspicuous among the PHRF boats. The owner of the Schock 40 with the canting bulb/twin foil technology is returning with fire in her eyes after placing only fourth last year despite winning two of the last three races and Boat of the Day honors on the final day. Two 10ths did her in. Her crew will include veterans Charlie Ogletree, Jim Eddy, Bill Menninger and George Twist.
"We're bringing heat from Southern California," Litt said. "We're gonna be hot. We do need breeze, but we're going to sail light this time with seven crew. We're serious."
The Chicago group is, too, although for them the racing does not preclude a good time. The fun starts even before heading south each January with a "Windy City Party," a tradition since 1990.
"There's a restaurant with a perfect theme," Boyle said. "It's called the Key Wester. You'd swear you were in Key West. They even have palm trees outside - not real, obviously. They do a lot of good seafood and a lot of Mel Fisher stuff from the treasure ship he discovered, like the museum in Key West."
This year's party drew "between 100 and 125 people," Boyle said, "at least two people from 11 different boats."
Boyle, an active retiree, sails a chartered Dobroth 45, which he will also race from Ft Lauderdale to Key West on the feeder race this weekend. He will rotate a crew of 14 from a pool of 17 he calls the "Windy City Players," allowing some members a day or two off.
"We've got some people in their late 60s or early 70s, plus their wives are coming down," Boyle said. "We'd like to think that we're all in bed by 10 o'clock, but I'm afraid that doesn't happen."