Azzurra comes out on top
It wasn't hard to figure out who the winners were upon conclusion of Quantum Key West 2013. Andrea Pozzi and the Italian sailors aboard Bombarda were passing around bottles of champagne. Jim Richardson and the boys on Barking Mad were drinking a tray full of mudslides. Hearty handshakes and bear hugs were exchanged in the cockpit of Azzurra at the conclusion to a spectacular week of racing and conditions off the southern tip of the Florida Keys.
In the 52 Super Series the final day started with Azzurra and Rán Racing tied on points and it was appropriate the overall winner emerged after the most dramatic and closest day of racing. While errors and bad luck afflicted several key teams in the brisk breezes delivering a great last day finale, it was the defending 52 Super Series champions Azzurra which kept it tight on board and sailed smart to open their 2013 account with a regatta victory.
Azzurra's Key West Regatta starter was lobster, their second course humble pie but they finished with champagne. They hooked a lobster pot on day 1 and had to make penalty turns on day 2. But the crew from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda were on blistering form when they won the first race of the day, during which both of their main rivals, Niklas Zennström’s Rán Racing and Doug DeVos’ Quantum Racing, both blunted their respective challenges with their own problems.
In today's first race it was Quantum Racing which was first to struggle. Starting the day just one point behind the leading duo, the disappointment was palpable when, only minutes after the start, her J2 jib split three metres down from the head. It took the crew some time to retrieve the halyard from the top of the rig. Although they dropped to sixth initially they did managed to recover one place.
Rán Racing was in contention when her crew dropped the kite in the water at the first leeward mark. They took several minutes to sort out the mess, slowed to a dead standstill with the sail filled with water. Their resultant sixth place effectively handed victory to Azzurra.
"We knew that the first race was going to be the important one.” Recalled skipper-helm Guillermo Parada: “ At one stage we were a little bit lucky at the first leeward mark because Rán Racing dropped their spinnaker in the water and Quantum Racing had their problem with their jib earlier. That opened the door for us to go all out to win the race rather than trying to control our opposition. So from there on we were really focused on sailing every shift rather than trying to keep control of these two boats. We were able to win the race and they were fifth and sixth. We had already clinched the regatta. But we are always focusing on the season’s standings and so we want to beat Rán Racing and Quantum Racing when we can.”
Quantum Racing’s torn jib left them without the key headsail not only through that race but for Race 10 too, which took place in 11-15 knots, even more in the range of the required sail. Project Manager Ed Reynolds commented: “We were flying, launched off the start line. But we had been pushing the J2 jib well above its range. There is a small bleed in the backstay which just loads up the luff of the jib and it just went beyond. We were seriously red lined on that jib, but you just keep trying. A lot of what we do with this programme is to see. We know we are not going to get fired for anything, so we just keep pushing.”
Going into the final race it was a battle for second and third places with Rán Racing and Quantum Racing tied on points and Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s Botin Partners-designed Interlodge one point behind.
After a great start, Interlodge was quick to exploit the extra pressure and favourable lift on the right side of the course, leading around the windward mark ahead of Azzurra. Her win, the second of the regatta, with Rán Racing third and Quantum Racing taking their second fifth place in a row, ensured that it was Interlodge and her 2-1 for the day, which stole the second step on the podium at their first ever 52 Super Series regatta, with Rán Racing third.
Kris Matthews, Project Manager of Interlodge commented: “It is a little bit of a surprise to finish second overall. We limited our mistakes and a few teams had their mistakes in the first race and that opened up an opportunity in Race 2 we got away clean and were able to sail our own race then. We did know what to expect coming into the regatta. We though mid fleet was a goal but we thought it would be hard to match Rán Racing, Quantum Racing, Azzurra and Gladiator, with their time in the boats. We decided we were doing this regatta five months ago and so we did a lot of sailing last fall and got better.”
Adrian Stead on tactician Rán Racing added: “For us it was a bit of a disappointing end to the regatta. We were in contention on the first race and unfortunately the drop line snagged and we sailed right over the spinnaker and that was pretty much the end of the race by the time recovered it and so it was a sixth from that one and that kind of gave the series to Azzurra. The second race Interlodge sailed really well. We were fighting for third, trying to keep Quantum Racing behind us as well. We are philosophical. We let ourselves down at the gate not getting the spinnaker down but everyone is pushing the bottom marks pretty hard. This time we did not get away with it. We have come a long way since the beginning of the week. And we are looking to going racing in Miami at the World Championship. We are very positive about where we have got to this week.”
Doug DeVos owner-driver of Quantum Racing said: “It was a tough day for us. It started off really well when we had a chance of first place and were ready to go for it and then we blew up our jib and were never able to recover. That was the job we needed even more in the second race. We were sailing a little out wack, after one little thing seems to happen then other things follow and away it goes. The team dealt with well. It happens in sport. You deal with and have to stay positive, looking for opportunities.”
In the High Performance Class it was eventually Decision that came out on top following a week long battle with her Carkeek 40 sistership Spookie. Those two dominated the nine-boat HPR class with Spookie leading after the first two days of racing and Decision for the final three.
The regatta turned when Spookie, skippered by North Sails' Steve Benjamin, blew out spinnakers in both races on Wednesday and suffered results of third and eighth. Decision was more consistent and wound up placing first or second in nine of 10 races. John Lovell served as tactician for fellow New Orleans resident Murray, who took the helm after his father got injured on the second day of the regatta.
"It was unbelievably exciting to sail against someone of Benji's caliber, someone I admire and respect so much," Murray said. "I couldn't have scripted this any better if I tried. To win the regatta on the last leg of the last race was really amazing."
Murray said the Decision program couldn't be done without the support of his father, who steered the boat on Monday and Tuesday. Murray reserved special praise for his wife Shelley, who allowed him to attend Key West despite the fact they are in the middle of building a house.
"A lot of credit goes to Johnny Lovell. He was a coach and mentor of mine while I was growing up and it's a huge help to have him onboard making great call after great call," Murray said.
Decision and Spookie finished with 19 and 20 points, respectively, while the third place boat in High Performance class had 44 points. That was Chessie Racing, skippered by George Collins, also winner of the Farr 400 One Design class.
Barking Mad took over the lead in Farr 40 class on Tuesday and held it the rest of the way despite stiff competition from Helmut Jahn's Flash Gordon and German Wolfgang Schaefer's Struntje Light. It marked the third Key West victory for Richardson who has America's Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson back on board as tactician.
"Jim sailed his best day of the entire week. He was really on his game today. As a team, we sailed to win, sailed with conviction," said Hutchinson. "I'm not surprised at all. We have a good team with really good sailors. Our expectations are to always win."
Richardson said there were some races when Barking Mad was in fifth or sixth and managed to pick up a couple placements, which was crucial. "Fighting back when you're in a bad situation is huge because every point counts in this class," he said.
Brian Porter and his team on Full Throttle duked it out with Alec Cutler and the hedgehog crew from beginning to end in Melges 24 class, second-largest of the regatta with 23 boats. Full Throttle won race 9 to build a cushion then placed third in Race 10 to seal a three-point victory over hedgehog, which got the gun in the final start.
"It couldn't have been a nicer week," said Porter. "We had great wind, great competition and great race committee work. I really have to credit my crew. My team is really exceptional. As a group, we really work well together. Our biggest edge was downwind sailing. We had really good speed going downwind and I think that was a big difference."
Also winner of Boat of the Week, Porter has now won the Melges 24 class three times at Key West. He continued: "The fleet hasn't changed. The level of competition in this fleet is so intense and so much fun."
Runner-up Alec Cutler on hedgehog finished three points behind Porter, but it was apparent his team gave it everything they had all week long. Former Moth World Champion, Bora Gulari on West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes, worked his way up to finish third overall, followed by Argyle Campbell on Rock n' Roll in fourth. Don Wilson's Convexity rounding out the top five.
Andrea Pozzi took up the sport of sailing a year and a half ago and showed he is a quick study, winning the Melges 32 class at Key West despite it being just his fifth regatta. Bombarda finished first or second in six of 12 races and led the 11-boat fleet from start to finish, holding off a late surge by Alex Jackson's Leenabarca.
"This is a dream," said Pozzi. "It is the first regatta we have won so that makes its particularly special. We will always remember Key West 2013. It was a tactically difficult regatta with a lot of wind changes. It was very exciting sailing, lots of adrenalin every day."
Multiple world champion Lorenzo Bressana called tactics for Pozzi, who called his countryman "an artist" and "a genius". Federico Michetti, who has teamed with Bressani to win Melges 24 and 32 world crowns, was aboard as trimmer.
The J/70 class was the largest at Quantum Key West 2013 with 39 boats and the brand new design was showcased with some spectacular racing. North Sails pro Tim Healy and his experienced team on Helly Hansen seized the lead on Thursday then held it by winning both races on Friday. Geoff Becker (tactician), John Mollicone (trimmer) and Dave Reed (foredeck) comprised the Helly Hansen crew.
"It was really fun to figure out how to sail the boat," said Healy, a J/24 champion who was making his J/70 debut. " Right up to the last race we were working on tuning and experimenting with techniques. We went out early every morning and tinkered with sail trim and rig tune. We made progress every day and the crew worked very hard at fine-tuning every manoeuvre."
David Franzel captured the Corinthian prize in the J/70 class, consisting of 12 boats with no professionals aboard. Franzel sailed Spring to a steady stream of firsts and seconds within the Corinthian contingent.
Robin Team notched his third Key West victory aboard his J/122 Teamwork, which topped PHRF 1 in convincing fashion. Team said the heavy air that predominated during the week really favoured his boat, which finished first or second in nine of 10 races.
"It was a fun, fun week. We had a very competitive class, but the conditions were consistently ideal for our boat," said Team, who had North Sails pro Jonathan Bartlett aboard as tactician. "We had brand new sails and impeccable crew work. We gained more in the corners than we did going up and down the course."
It was another heartbreaking finish for skipper Bill Sweetser and his team on Rush, a J/109 that has competed in Key West ten times without winning its class. Sweetser has led the regatta on many occasions only to finish as runner-up, and that was scenario again this year. Rush led at the end of racing from Monday through Thursday, but surrendered the lead to Tangent on Friday. Skipper Gerry Taylor and his crew on the Cape Fear 38 closed the regatta with three straight bullets to nip Rush by two points.
Apparition, owned by Ken Colburn, won the Swan 42 class by the narrowest of margins - nipping John Hele's Daring by just one point. So close was the competition in Swan 42 that six of the seven boats won a race and only three points separated the top four finishers.
Final Results - top three in each class
KWRW Division 1 Course
High Performance Class (HPR - 9 Boats)
1. Decision, HPR Carkeek 40, Stephen Murray , New Orleans, LA, USA, 2-2-2-4-1-1-2-2-2-1; 19
2. SPOOKIE, HPR Carkeek 40, Steve & Heidi Benjamin , Norwalk, CT, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-8-1-1-1-2; 20
3. Chessie Racing, Farr 400, George Collins , Miami Beach, FL, USA, 6-4-4-2-4-6-4-4-5-5; 44
IRC 1 (Mini Maxi Class) (IRC - 2 Boats)
1. Shockwave, Reichel/Pugh mini maxi, George Sakellaris , Framingham, MA, USA, 1-2-1-1-1-2-1-1-2-1; 13
2. Bella Mente, Judel-Vrolijk Mini Maxi, Hap Fauth , Minneapolis, MN, USA, 2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-1-2; 17
IRC 2 (52 Super Series) (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Azzurra (SS), TP 52, Alberto Roemmers , Buenos Aires, Caba, ARG, 1-6-4-1-2-2-1-4-1-2; 24
2. Interlodge (SS), IRC 52, Austin and Gwen Fragomen , Newport, RI, USA, 3-4-2-5-4-1-5-2-2-1; 29
3. Rán (SS), TP 52, Niklas Zennstrom , Southampton, Hampshire, UK, 5-2-1-2-3-3-2-3-6-4; 31
IRC Sub-Class (IRC - 4 Boats)
1. Catapult (IRC), Ker 40, Marc Glimcher , New York, NY, USA, 3-3-2-2-1-2-1-1-2-2; 19
2. SPOOKIE (IRC), HPR Carkeek 40, Steve & Heidi Benjamin , Norwalk, CT, USA, 1-1-1-1-3-4-3-2-1-3; 20
3. Decision (IRC), HPR Carkeek 40, Stephen Murray , New Orleans, LA, USA, 2-2-3-4-2-1-2-3-3-1; 23
Farr 400 One Design (One Design - 4 Boats)
1. Chessie Racing (OD), Farr 400, George Collins , Miami Beach, FL, USA, 3-1-1-1-1-3-1-1-2-1; 15
2. Meridian X (OD), Farr 400, W.S. Shelhorse , Virginia Beach, VA, USA, 2-4-2-3-2-2-2-3-1-3; 24
3. Spaceman Spiff (OD), Farr 400, Rob Ruhlman , Cleveland, OH, USA, 4-3-4-2-3-1-3-2-3-2; 27
Farr 40 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Barking Mad, Farr 40, James Richardson , Boston, MA, USA, 1-4-2-3-3-1-4-3-2-2; 25
2. Flash Gordon 6, Farr 40, Helmut Jahn , Chicago, IL, USA, 3-6-5-2-1-6-1-2-3-1; 30
3. Struntje light, Farr 40, Wolfgang Schaefer , Lueneburg, GER, 5-1-1-5-6-3-3-4-1-6; 35
Swan 42 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Apparition, Swan 42, Ken Colburn , Dover, MA, USA, 7-3-2-1-4-4-3-1-3-5; 33
2. Daring, Swan 42, John Hele , Newport, RI, USA, 4-5-7-2-2-7-1-3-2-1; 34
3. Arethusa, Swan 42, Philip Lotz , Newport, RI, USA, 6-4-1-3-1-5-4-7-1-4; 36
KWRW Division 2 Course
Melges 32 (One Design - 11 Boats)
1. Bombarda, Melges 32, Andrea Pozzi , Milano, ITA, 1-8-6-1-6-1-2-5-2-3-8-2-; 37
2. Leenabarca, Melges 32, Alex Jackson , Riverside, CT, USA, 11-2-4-7-3-7-1-7-5-1-1-1-; 39
3. Swing, Melges 32, Keisuke Suzuki , Nishinomiya, Hyogo, JPN, 5-4-8-4-2-3-5-2-4-7-5-8-; 49
Melges 24 (One Design - 23 Boats)
1. Full Throttle, Melges 24, Brian Porter , Lake Geneva, WI, USA, 7-1-2-3-1-3-1-3-1-1-1-3-; 20
2. hedgehog, Melges 24, Alec Cutler , Pembroke, BER, 2-2-3-1-2-2-2-4-8-2-2-1-; 23
3. West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes, Melges 24, Bora Gulari , Detroit, MI, USA, 6-4-1-4-4-4-4-2-2-5-3-5-; 38
J/70 (One Design - 39 Boats)
1. Helly Hansen, J 70, Tim Healy , Newport, RI, USA, 23-14-3-3-1-1-19/SCP-1-6-2-1-1-; 52
2. Savasana, J 70, Brian Keane , Weston, MA, USA, 15-25-1-19-2-2-1-5-5-1-3-2-; 56
3. Stampede, J 70, Loring / Pasquinelli , Dallas, TX, USA, 18-33-5-1-4-12-2-7-4-4-5-7-; 69
J/70 (Corinthian) (One Design - 12 Boats)
1. Spring (COR), J 70, David Franzel , Somerville, MA, USA, 3-5-4-2-1-3-7-4-1-1-2-1-; 27
2. Nostalgia (COR), J 70, Blake & Lud Kimbrough , Newport, RI, USA, 4-6-1-7-2-1-1-1-3-3-1-7-; 30
3. B Squared (COR), J 70, Brian Elliot / David Hyer (T) , Sayville, NY, USA, 1-1-9-1-4-2-2-3-4-5-4-4-; 31
KWRW Division 3 Course
J 80(One Design - 4 Boats)
1. Vayu 2, J 80, Ron Buzil , Evanston, IL, USA, 1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1; 11
2. Participant III, J 80, G. John Krediet , Stamford, CT, USA, 2-2-3-1-3-2-2-2-2-2; 21
3. Courageous, J 80, Gary Panariello , Manhasset, NY, USA, 4-4-2-3-2-4-3-4-3-3; 32
4. Willy T, J 80, Dave Manheimer , Annapolis, MD, USA, 3-3-4-4-4-3-4-3-4-4; 36
PHRF 1 (PHRF_ToT - 6 Boats)
1. Teamwork, J 122, Robin Team , Lexington, NC, USA, 1-2-1-2-2-1-1-4-1-1; 16
2. Lake Effect, J 111, Robert Hesse , Youngstown, NY, USA, 2-3-2-4-3-3-6-1-4-4; 32
3. White Gold, J 44 MOD, James D. Bishop , Jamestown, RI, USA, 3-1-5-1-1-6-2-3-5-6; 33
PHRF 2 (PHRF_ToT - 8 Boats)
1. Tangent, Cape Fear 38, Gerald Taylor , Annapolis, MD, USA, 5-5-1-2-2-3-3/SCP-1-1-1; 24
2. Rush, J 109, Bill Sweetser , Annapolis, MD, USA, 2-1-2-1-3-2-5-5-3-2; 26
3. Rebecca, J 120, Glenn Gault , League City, TX, USA, 8-8-7-3-1-1-2-2-2-4; 38