Mascalzone on top

As Acura Key West 2009 concludes

Saturday January 24th 2009, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United Kingdom
Winning in Key West always brings broad smiles to the faces of skippers and results in much rejoicing among crew members. This was certainly the case on Friday following a week long hard fought ten race series on the waters off the Conch Republic. Beers were hoisted dockside and hearty handshakes were exchanged.

At the docks in front of the Schooner Wharf, Italian owner Vincenzo Onorato was overjoyed about capturing Farr 40 class after a classic final day duel with longtime rivals Barking Mad and Joe Fly.

“This is absolutely beautiful. We are extremely happy,” Onorato said. “My only regret is that I will not be able to get drunk with my crew tonight.”

Onorato had to fly out immediately after racing in order to get home to Napoli in time to see his 8-year-old daughter perform in a show on Sunday morning. Tactician Adrian Stead said the rest of the team would hoist a couple extra cold ones in honor of their skipper, who steered Mascalzone Latino to first place in the final race to clinch overall victory at Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica.

“It was a story of fantastic teamwork and never giving up. We had a weird day on Wednesday that set us back, but we kept our heads together and finished strong,” said Stead, noting that Mascalzone Latino responded to finishes of ninth and 10th with a line of 3-2-2-1 in the final four races.

Injury and illness forced Mascalzone Latino to constantly rotate sailors. There were at least two members of the regular crew missing every day of the regatta, but the replacements performed well.

“We rounded the first weather mark in fifth place in both races today and came back to finish first and second. That shows the sort of fight in this team,” Stead said.

Mascalzone Latino and Barking Mad (Jim Richardson, Newport, R.I.) were tied with 31 points apiece entering the 10th and final race of the regatta. Joe Fly, another Italian entry owned by Giovanni Maspero, was just one point behind.

“It all came down to the last beat and Barking Mad chose to go hard left while Joe Fly went hard right. We knew if we covered Barking Mad we could be no worse than second so that is what we did. It was desperately close racing and we were fortunate enough to win both the race and the regatta,” Stead said.

Jeff Ecklund and his motor yacht Starlight are regular sights at Acura Key West. Docked at The Galleon alongside Ecklund’s sailboat, members of the Star crew celebrated on deck after pulling out a tough victory in Melges 32 class.

Star endured a difficult Thursday with results of 11th and 12th and found itself tied with Red (Joe Woods, Torbay, GBR) going into last two races. Ecklund and tactician Harry Melges made the right calls as Star posted a fourth and a second to beat Red by nine points.

“We made it difficult on ourselves with that one bad day. We had to come out today and get the job done and we did,” said Ecklund, who repeated as Melges 32 champion at Acura Key West.

Ecklund, who has been semi-retired for several years since making a fortune as a commodities trader in Chicago, was thrilled to learn that Star had been selected as Acura Boat of the Week. Melges 32 was deemed the most closely contested of the regatta with the top six finishers separated by only 17 points.

Ecklund, 46, grew up racing Scows on the Great Lakes with Buddy Melges and his son Harry, whose family-owned company builds both the Melges 32, 24 and the hot new 20. Harry Melges, who is now president and CEO of Melges Boatworks, serves as tactician on Star.

“It would be hard to do this without Harry. He is one of the best sailors in the world and I’m fortunate to have him by my side,” said Ecklund, who began steering his own boat about six years ago.

UKA UKA Racing concluded an impressive regatta with a third and a fourth on Friday to secure the title in Melges 24 class, largest of the regatta with 33 boats. Skipper Lorenzo Bressani and crew were simply brilliant, winning four races and placing no worse than fifth in compiling 20 points –- seven better than the Swiss entry Blu Moon, owned by Franco Rossini.

American professional and Olympic gold medalist Jonathan McKee, called tactics aboard UKA UKA Racing, the reigning world champion which led the regatta from start to finish.

Vitesse skipper Jon Halbert rewarded his crew with lunch at the Conch Republic Restaurant after winning the very evenly-matched Swan 42 class. Three different boats led the regatta at various points and all six boats were always bunched together at mark roundings. Quantum professional Farley Fontenot called tactics on Vitesse, which entered Friday a point behind Arethusa (Phil Lotz, Newport, R.I.), but beat its top challenger in both races.

“It was crazy how close the racing was all week. We won or lost five races by 30 seconds or less,” Halbert said.

Halbert, from Dallas, Texas, has heard about the annual race week off Key West ever since he began sailing. He has skippered an entry here the past six years and said it was “absolutely fantastic” to finally win the prestigious regatta.

“I’ve been dying to win this event practically my entire adult life. This is very, very rewarding… definitely one of the highlights of my sailing career,” Halbert said.

Daniel Woolery and the team aboard Soozal relaxed in the cockpit of the brand new King 40 at the dock in front of Turtle Kraals after capturing IRC 2 class. Veteran professional Robbie Haines called tactics on Soozal, a Mark Mills design that finished first or second in nine of 10 races.

“The racing was super hard all week. It was a dogfight every day and we were lucky to have Robbie, who is just a master at calling the shifts. You can have the fastest boat in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you’re on the wrong side of the course,” said Woolery, a resident of Point Richmond, Cal. “Ultimately, I would credit our preparation. Scott Eason and I spent six weeks in Palm Beach and never saw anything but Crackerboy Boatworks, West Marine, Home Depot and the Comfort Inn. We made sure the boat was right from front to back.”

Ran, Niklas Zennstrom's modified TP52 put in a commanding performance in IRC 1 - winning six races and leading from start to finish. French Olympic medalist Thierry Peponnet called tactics for helmsman Tim Powell.

“We just have a really good team that has been together a year and knows the boat very well, knows how to make her go fast,” Powell said. “It was a fantastic week of sailing. You really couldn’t ask for any better conditions. Niklas really enjoyed himself and is looking forward to coming back next year.”

Rhumb Punch capped an incredible comeback in Farr 30 class, rallying from fourth place on Wednesday to overall victory. It was the second Acura Key West crown for the husband-wife team of John and Linda Edwards of Solomons, Md., who captured J/29 class in 2007.

“We had to beat Kinetic in both races today and we got it done. We had a couple brutal two-mile tacking duels with those guys, but everybody on the crew gave me 100 percent today,” Edwards said. “We are a veteran team that knows how hard it is to win a class in Key West. This is a real special victory and we’re going to enjoy it.”

Edwards said the Rhumb Punch team is already anxiously looking forward to the 23rd edition of the renowned regatta. The family-based team has been coming to Key West since 2000 and hope they have another 10 years in them.

“There is absolutely no question we are coming back. This is the best regatta we’ve ever been involved with. The racing is always awesome and the night life is rocking. I can’t think of any other regatta that has the complete package like this one,” Edwards said.

Premiere Racing President Peter Craig said that plans for Acura Key West 2010 are already underway. It will be held no matter what transpires with the economy and entries.

“This week was typical of the reliable wind conditions we get here. Ten races over five days is one of the main reasons why sailors come to Key West. They know they are going to go racing every day,” Craig said. “To end on a picture-perfect day with solid breeze, not a cloud in the sky and the weather warming up was very fitting.”

Craig said Premiere Racing has already heard from several Key West regulars who did not make this year’s event due to the economic downturn. “They all universally assure they will be back next year. It had to be painful for them to following the regatta on the internet and see the fleet racing in such superb conditions.”

You didn’t have to be a winner to have a great time at Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica. Team Barbarians, skippered by the UK's Stuart Simpson, finished ninth in Melges 32 class. However, The Barbarians routinely won the party and thoroughly enjoyed the caliber of competition and conditions.

“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Simpson said when asked if he would be returning to the regatta. “Yacht racing off Key West is simply the best way to spend the third week of January. Christmas is over and it’s depressing sitting around waiting for the credit card bills to come in. It’s much better to take vacation and come down here for some sun, some fun and some great, great sailing.”

Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica
Final Series Results – after 10 Races – January 23, 2009

1. Ran, TP52, Niklas Zennstrom, Hamble, UK, 1-1-2-1-3-1-1-3-4, 18
2. Rosebud/Team DYT, STP 65, Roger Sturgeon, Hyannis, MA, USA, 3-2-1-2-1-5-4-5-1-1, 25
3. Rio, TP52, Charles Dunstone, Cowes, GBR, 2-4-3-3-4-3-3-2-2-2, 28

1. Soozal,King 40, Daniel Woolery, Pt. Richmond, CA, USA, 2-1-2-5-2-1-1-2-2-1, 19
2. Ngoni, Mills 40,Tony Buckingham, Jersey, UK, 1-2-3-6-1-3-2-1-4-3, 26
3. Gold Digger, J/44, James Bishop, Jamestown, RI, USA, 9-5-1-1-3-4-5-6-1rgd-7, 42

Farr 40
1. Mascalzone Latino, Vincenzo Onorato, Napoli, ITA, 1-1-2-1-9-10-3-2-2-1, 32
2. Joe Fly, Giovanni Maspero, Como, ITA, 3-2-5-9-2-1-4-5-1-3, 35
3. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 2-4-3-2-1-2-2-10-5-4, 35

Swan 42
1.. Vitesse, Jon Halbert, Dallas, TX, USA, 5-2-2-2-2-2-4-3-2-5, 29
2. Arethusa, Phil Lotz, Newport, RI, USA, 4-3-1-4-4-1-3-1-4-6, 31
3. Celeritas, Malcolm Gefter, Newport, RI, USA, 1-1-3-1-6-6-5-2-6-4, 35

Farr 30
1. Rhumb Punch, John & Linda Edwards, Solomons, MD, USA, 3-2-5-3-2-1-3-4-2-4, 28
2. Mummbles, Brad Kauffman, Annapolis, MD, USA, 4-1-1-5-45-4-3-1-1, 28
3. Kinetic, David Sutcliffe, Vancouver, CAN, 1-3-2-1-3-3-1-6dsq,5,5 30

Melges 32 (with discard)
1. Star, Jeff Ecklund, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA, 1-1-10-1-1-5-11-(12)-4-2, 36
2. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 2-8-3-5-3-1-7-6-(13), 43
3. Argo, Jason Carroll, Larchmont, NY, USA, 3-(13)-5-4-8-11-4-4-2-3, 44

Melges 24 (with discard)
1. UKA UKA Racing, Lorenzo Bressani, Civitanova Marc, ITA, 1-1-(5)-1-1-2-5-2,3-4, 20
2. Blu Moon, Franco Rossini, Lugano, SUI, 4-2-2-2-(7)-6-3-1-6-1, 27
3. Joe Fly, Maspero/Zandona, Como, ITA, (10)-3-3-4-8-1-2-5-7-9 42

1. Savasana, Brian Keane, Marion, MA, USA, Brian Keane, 3-2-1-1-2-6-2-3-4-2, 26
2. eclipse, Damian Emery, Mt. Sinai, NY, USA, 2-1-3-2-3-3-3-6-1-5, 29
3. Max Power, Gerrit Schulze, Cape May, NJ, USA, 1-3-5-3-1-1-6-4-3-3, 30

1. Rumor, John Storck, Jr., Huntington, NY, USA, 1-1-1-3-1-1-4-1-1-2, 16
2. Kicks, William Rose, League City, TX, USA, 2-2-3-1-3-2-6-5-2-1, 26
3. Angry Chameleon, Kristen Robinson, Annapolis, MD, USA, 4-3-2-6-5-5-5-3-9-6, 47

1. Primal Scream, C&C 115, Steven Stollman, Key Biscayne ,FL, USA, 1-2-1-1-3-2-3-6-4-3, 26
2. Wairere, Thompson 30, Pete Hunter, Kill Devil Hill, NC, USA, 3-7-6-5-1-3-4-2-1-2, 34
3. Kali, BH 36, Lynn Dell, Pensacola, FL, USA, 5-5-3-4-5-4-2-3-3-5, 39

1. Good Girl, J/100, Robert Armstrong, St. Croix, USVI, 2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2, 12
2. RUSH, J/109, Bill Sweetser, Annapolis, MD, USA, 1-2-3-2-7-2-3-2-2-1, 25
3. Man-O-War, J/35, Tom Beery / Mark Itnyre, Pascagoula, MS, USA, 3-3-2-3-2-3-2-4-3-3, 28

1. Tangent, Cape fear 38, Gerry Taylor, Annapolis, MD, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-2-1-1-1-1, 13
2. L’Outrage, Beneteau 10M, Bruce Gardner, Annapolis, MD, USA, 2-2-2-2-1-1-3-2-2, 19
3. Seefest, J/29, Ira Perry, Padanaram, MA, USA, 3-3-4.5-5-5-4-2-3-4-4, 37.5

1. Elysium, John Nevin, Milford, CT, USA, 1-3-3-1-1-2-1-3-1-2, 18
2. Lightning Rod, S2 9.1, David Eames, Ft. Walton, FL, USA, 2-1-1-2-5-1-2-1-2-4, 21
3. Lobo Rojo, B-25, Philip Davis,Oak Cliff, TX, USA, 6-7-5-5-6-3-4-2-5-1 44

A report from the Melges 32s...

After a grueling ten race series, Jeff Ecklund on STAR with Harry Melges calling tactics, Sam Rogers, Clay Bartel, Lindsay Bartel, Adam Burns, Scott Norris and Sarah Callahan are the 2009 Melges 32 Acura Key West Champions!

"We made it difficult on ourselves with that one bad day. We had to come out today and get the job done and we did," said Ecklund. "It would be hard to do this without Harry. He is one of the best sailors in the world and I’m fortunate to have him by my side."

Going into today's races, the point standings were really tight making the Melges 32 fleet the class to watch on the final day. Ecklund led the series solid up through Wednesday. Yesterday's extremely shifty conditions toppled his lead and left Joe Woods (Torbay, UK) on GBR-700 Red sitting on top, one point ahead. Needless to say, everyone was on the edge of their seats for the start of Friday's races. The tension between all the boats was intense at the first start. Everyone knew that Friday's two races would be do or die.

The stage was set for race one - glorious sunshine, breeze on conditions at 17-20 mph, a course bearing of 020 and a moderate chop. The start was clean with the exception of Geoff Pierini's Shakedown being called over, while Ecklund occupied the mid-line and Woods stuck closer to the committee boat, Marty Kullman and Mike Carroll on New Wave shot off the starting line and the first to tack to port. At the first weathermark Derek Campbell on Banshee took the lead, but fumbled the set. Jason Carroll on Argo rolled Campbell and picked up where he left off. Carroll blasted downwind with Campbell, Ecklund, Kate Mullin at the helm for Canadian John Sherlock on Arkle, John Taylor on Ninkasi and the spectacular team of Kullman/Carroll. Woods got caught up in an altercation as he had to drop his kite and perform penalty turns, a real heartbreaker as this cost him the game. Campbell regained the lead and took it to the finish line, with Carroll finishing in second, and Taylor in third, Ecklund was fourth and Mullin was fifth.

For the final race, it was clear that Ecklund had retaken the overall lead, but it was uncertain as to how wide the margin. Ecklund had to focus and do well, no mistakes had to be the goal. The fleet got a really great start under primo conditions. Ecklund who almost immediately was out front, was chased by Bill Faude at the helm for Tom Neill on Nitemare, Alex Jackson on Leenabarca and Woods. Taylor played the left side, moving him into contention along side of Ecklund and Faude as the fleet approached the first weathermark of the five leg race. Around the top was Ecklund in first, Carroll in second and Jackson in third. Kullman/Carroll, Faude and Campbell rounded respectively. Downwind the fleet was split down the middle with equal numbers right and left on the course. At the leeward gate, a course change was implemented for the second beat, Kullman/Carroll looked strong on the right. So strong, that the second weathermark found them now in the first position, Carroll still in second and Ecklund back to third. One last course change was on tap for the finish beat with Kullman/Carroll still out front taking it to the finish line with Ecklund on his heels taking second, Carroll was third. New fleet comer John Dane on War Canoe got a piece of the action taking fourth and Jackson assumed fifth.

Woods' Red Team was rightfully a bit crushed. "Well... Last year we were third, this year we were second,' said bowwoman Sophie Esson. "We suppose next year, is our year. We'll be first." she added with a smile. Woods has one of the most impressive teams in the Melges 32 fleet and they dealt with a lot this week - the struggle to the top, an injured tactician, a couple of hard knocks on the race course Friday and the difficulty of staying at the top in an extremely challenging fleet. Without a doubt we will see them again, in the winner's circle.

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