Rearing to go

Acura Miami Race Week gets underway tomorrow reports Bill Wagner

Thursday March 9th 2006, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United States
Skippers of all 142 boats entered in Acura Miami Race Week 2006 are anxiously awaiting tomorrow's first day of racing in 75-80 degree temperatures and 12-20 knot winds. However, California resident Jim Madden is looking forward to the regatta a bit more than most. That's because Madden will debut his innovative custom built 66 footer Stark Raving Mad during the grand prix event that has been dubbed the SORC Renaissance.

Stark Raving Mad features a canting keel as used on Open 60s, Volvo 70s and MaxZ86. "Like I told the crew, the objectives this week are to be safe and have fun. However, I'd be lying if I told you we weren't competitive," Madden said. "We're here to sail the boat hard and see if we can win."

Stark Raving Mad, designed by Reichel-Pugh and built by Westerly Marine, was launched a month ago on the West Coast. Madden, a Newport Beach resident, took the innovative racer offshore for some sea trials, but never saw winds above eight knots.

"We're going up a very steep learning curve right now," said Madden, who tested the boat in 14-21 knot breezes off Miami on Tuesday. "We're still figuring out the timing of when to swing the keel during a tack or a gybe."

Madden, who grew up sailing out of Oyster Bay, N.Y., was inspired by the series of Australian canting keel yachts such as Wild Oats and Alfa Romeo. "It looked fast, it looked exciting and it seemed like the wave of the future," Madden said of the technology. "I wanted to keep my boat under 70 feet so it would be easier to handle."

Stark Raving Mad, which is competing in IRC 1, has performed well during practice sessions, Madden and tactician Robbie Haines both said. "We have found the boat really accelerates. Once you get the keel set and the sails trimmed, she really takes off."

Because of the canting keel, Stark Raving Mad is the scratch boat in IRC 1 and will get stiff competition from the Swan 601 Moneypenny, the Ker 55 Aera and four Swan 45s. Moneypenny and Aera duked it out at Acura Key West 2006 in January with the latter capturing class honors and the former taking the inaugural U.S. IRC Championship. "We will have to work very hard to sail to our rating," Madden said.

Organized by Premiere Racing, Acura Miami Race Week 2006 has attracted 142 boats from 22 states and 10 foreign countries. As usual, the professional-laden Farr 40 class is a focal point of the regatta. Big-name tacticians and trimmers can be found on all 19 boats and the action figures to get intense. "It will be another dogfight. There's a bunch of good teams here," said Dee Smith, making his debut as tactician for John Demourkas and Groovederci.

Demourkas was disappointed with his placement at Acura Key West 2006 and was looking forward to significant improvement due to the addition of Smith. "Dee has an uncanny ability to read the shifts, and it looks like it could be shifty here the next few days."

Pre-regatta favorite is Mascalzone Latino, skippered by Vincenzo Onorato and featuring three-time America's Cup champion Russell Coutts as tactician. This is the second event for Onorato and Coutts, who debuted together by winning Farr 40 class at Acura Key West 2006.

Veteran Farr 40 and two time World Champion Jim Richardson is thrilled to have longtime tactician Terry Hutchinson back on aboard Barking Mad. The two have been together six years and won numerous major class events, however Hutchinson has been away from the program since signing on as tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand a year ago.

"Terry is like family and the entire crew has certainly missed him," said Richardson, who has used Brad Read, Chris Larson and Vince Brun as replacements. "Terry and I have an incredible level of communication and he's the best leader of people I've ever known. He gets the most out of every sailor on the boat."

Another event headliner is the inaugural Rolex Tranpsac 52 Global Championship, which began Tuesday and features eight star-studded teams. Patches, helmed by Stuart Childerly, dominated the second day of the competition with three bullets and leads Philippe Kahn's Pegasus 52 by seven points.

There will be opportunity for the trailing boats to make up ground as Thursday brings an 18-2 -hour long distance race and Friday features a 5-7-hour coastal race. Both are weighted more than the eight buoy races in the series.

Meanwhile racing for the smaller classes begins on Biscayne Bay on Friday and features the two largest classes at Acura Miami Race Week 2006. Local skippers Scott Piper and Buddy Cribb are among the favorites in the 28 boat Etchells fleet after placing second and third at this regatta last year. Riccardo Simoneschi and his Nautica team will be a key player in the 26-entry Melges 24 class after finishing fourth in a loaded field at Acura Key West 2006. The J/24 class features 11 entries.

Not many PHRF entries will have as talented a crew as the J/100 Moxie, owned by Fischer Island resident George Collins. North Sails pros Jim Allsopp and Willy Keyworth are sailing with Collins, the retired investment banker who funded and skippered the Chessie Racing campaign in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Collins, who has not steered a sailboat since last year's Miami Race Week, did not participate in a Wednesday practice session with the team since he was still on a skiing vacation.

Title Sponsor Acura is the Official Vehicle. Supporting Sponsor Mount Gay® Rum is the Official Rum. Rolex is the Official Sponsor and Official Timekeeper for the 2006 TP52 Global Championship. Suppliers include Spaten, the Official Beer and Sperry Top-Sider, the Official Footwear.

28 Industry Partners bring their support through a program that is now in its 5th year.

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