Key West update

Rich Roberts reports on the build up to the northern hemisphere's first major regatta of the season

Thursday January 16th 2003, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
The 290 entries include only two fully appointed Swan yachts - Andrew Fisher's Swan 56 Vanish 2 and Dr. I.M. Zaslow's venerable Swan 40 Willowind, both from Newport, R.I. - a fact that wouldn't surprise any competitive Key West sailor to whom comfort comes second.

But wait 'til next year. Vanish 2 and Willowind are harbingers of a Key West breakthrough fleet of Nautor 's Swan's sleek new line of Swan 45s that will be out in force in 2004, with early commitments from nine owners.

The renowned yacht manufacturer, based in Pietersaari, Finland, has made a unique addition to what is already an extensive range of superior yachts. The Swan 45, with a standard carbon fiber rig, is viewed as a landmark development as it features the luxury interior associated with Nautor’s Swan inside a high-performance yacht. The German Frers-designed model sees Nautor’s Swan return to its roots by revisiting the mid-size yacht arena, but utilizing the leading technology developed so successfully for the new generation of larger models such as the Swan 70 and Swan 80.

"Right from the start, we set out to create an owner/driver one-design class," Marketing Director Enrico Chieffi said. "Overall, our brief was to create a class that would survive the test of time and remain competitive for at least 15 years. There are too many so-called one-designs that seem to go out of fashion in no time at all. This approach simply doesn’t fit with the Swan ethos."

Event director Peter Craig said, "This is right in line with our tradition of introducing the best new products at Key West. We intend for there to be two separate Swan classes. The first will be a one-design Swan 45 class and the other an 'open' class exclusively for Swan boats that would include the Swan 56R and likely race under the PHRF handicap rule."

A new Nautor Trophy will go to the top performing Swan at Key West 2004.

Melges 24

Fiona Brown, the UK-based administrator for the Melges 24 class, is looking forward to coming to Key West.

"It had been raining for about three months in England," she e-mailed, "and then to add insult to injury it snowed this week and hasn't got above freezing for five days. Get me out of here!"

Well, Fiona, you'll find Key West warmer than London, but don't forget the woolies. The 10-day forecast calls for temperatures from 66 to 71 degrees on race days---and those are the highs! Thermometers also are expected to dip as low as 55 under partly cloudy skies, all apparently the product of persistent northerly winds.

But that's also the good news. Recent breeze has been consistently in the teens. Enjoy winter racing in Key West.

America's Cup talent comes to Key West

As the America's Cup challengers dwindled down to a precious two, more world-class sailors have taken detours to Key West. The latest is Morgan Larson and two mates from Seattle's OneWorld team, which was eliminated by Oracle BMW in the semifinals. Larson will step down from an ACC 85-footer to a Melges 24.

"Dave Ullman is loaning us his boat and we are all flying in from N.Z.," Larson wrote. "The crew will be Mark Mendelblatt and one of the US's top Laser sailors, Ed Smyth, plus Espen Stokkeland, Victory Challenge navigator and Olympic bronze medallist in the Soling class from Norway. Our fifth person we are still looking for. We are shy about 95 pounds."

Larson is a former U.S. junior and collegiate national champion who has won the Admiral's Cup and Transpac and is a three-time bronze medallist in the 49er Worlds.

"This is my second time coming to Key West," he said. "All of us are extremely excited to be getting out of Auckland and back in a top one-design fleet that has so many champion sailors in it."

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