Strong line-up for Key West

IRC showcase at January's event

Tuesday November 25th 2008, Author: Jeanne Kleene, Location: United Kingdom
IRC classes will showcase new designs and the competition will be fierce at Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica. The quality of the racing will again be world class, with programs hailing from overseas and across the country.

2008 IRC East Coast Champion Mayhem, Ashley Wolfe’s TP52 (Calgary, Canada), faces a rematch with Ennio Staffini’s Anema & Core, Michael Brennan’s Sjambok, and Jim Mitchell & Johnny Vincent’s Vincitore (Georgetown, New Zealand) . The Annapolis-based Staffini and Brennan also had podium finishes in the recent championship.

The big boat IRC class will also feature Roger Sturgeon’s STP 65 Rosebud. Last year’s Sydney-Hobart winner has recently returned from a busy summer season in Europe. The IRC 2 class will boast an exciting mix of new designs and talented international crews.

Design debuts are standard fare in Key West, and 2009 will be no different, Mark Mills’s designs will be prominent this year. The new Summit Performance Yachts King 40 will make its Key West debut with three of these sleek racer cruisers. Key West veterans Jim Hightower and Jeff Kitterman (Houston, TX) will compete on one with a familiar name Hot Ticket.

Cool Breeze is a new custom IRC 43 also designed by Mills and built in the UK by Vision Yachts. Key West is its debut event. Owner John Cooper (Cane Hill, MO) placed second in his PHRF class last January.

In the first year with their Marten 49 Pace, Londoners Johnny Vincent and Simon Tate have taken their Reichel Pugh design to Les Voiles de Saint Tropez, Cowes Week and next on the docket is Key West. The goal of this close knit, amateur crew is to “be competitive, have fun, make no mistakes, and to improve their racing performance.” What better place to continue that effort than Key West in January?

One designs classes will continue their strong presence in Key West at the 22nd edition of race week.

The Melges 24 class - always the largest in number - has a strong early showing. Europe is sending their very best with Giovanni Maspero’s Joe Fly (Italy) , current world champion Lorenzo Santini’s Uka Uka (Italy) , Riccardo Simoneschi’s Giacomel Audi Racing (Italy) and Franco Rossini’s Blu Moon (Switzerland) already entered .

All are Key West regulars and Simoneschi, Acura Boat of the Week winner in 2007, sums up the feelings of many; “We love Key West, it is a great spot for sailing and a well organized event.”

Other one designs include the Melges 32, Farr 40, Swan 42, J/105, J/80, and M 30 classes.

The Melges 32 class will be coming off their 22-boat Gold Cup in Ft Lauderdale with a very strong turnout that will include European entries, US Star class Olympian John Dane (Pass Christian, MS), and defending Key West champion Jeff Ecklund (Ft Lauderdale, FL).

The competition is never more intense than in the Farr 40 class. Terry Hutchinson - arguably the hottest hand in sailing today - will be calling tactics on Jim Richardson’s two-time World Champion Barking Mad (Newport, RI) Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino (Napoli, Italy) has Adrian Stead making the calls. Onorato is the current World Champion with a remarkable three consecutive wins.

PHRF competition is also shaping up well, with new programs and veterans alike making their plans for North America’s premiere regatta. Key West podium finishers will defend against the classic mix of serious PHRF programs. 2008 winners include Charleston, SC based Will Hanckel’s J/120 Emocean and St. Croix, USVI’s Robert Armstrong’s J/100 Good Girl.

“We are very pleased with the way the fleet is coming together” said Event Director Peter Craig. “Given the current global economic uncertainties, we are certainly not taking participation for granted. I’m impressed with the high caliber of international and U.S. entries and it’s clear that there will be no drop off in the quality of competition this year”, he added.

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