Lobster pots and knifing halyards
From a race sailed in unusually wet and squally conditions, hardly typical of the annual regatta’s reputation for regular breezes and radiant sunshine, the Quantum Racing team managed to keep their unbeaten record intact to increase their overall lead at the top of the US 52 Super Series at Quantum Key West.
The five leg windward-leeward contest was peppered with big shifts in the wind direction, which skewed the course at times to render it more of a drag race. But while it may in the end have required little in the way of tactical thinking, success came for those who kept their heads, made fewest mistakes – or at lease dealt with them best – during a dramatic and exciting sprint.
Quantum Racing extended her overall regatta lead ahead of Rán Racing which finished third in this one and only race of the day, while the 2013 regatta winners Azzurra had a much better race, finishing second.
The race leader, with owner-driver Doug DeVos steering, put her unblemished record in jeopardy when they were forced into taking the less favoured gate mark at the final turn due to a problem with her gennaker halyard which required the crew to cut it. Tactician Terry Hutchinson admitted later that he thought this had cost them not one but two places, but the breeze filled in for them and they managed to narrowly hold off Azzurra over the finish line.
The sudden changes in conditions and poor visibility brought many problems for the six TP52s. On the first run Rán Racing lost control momentarily when a gust hit, reducing her chances of challenging Azzurra for second. Hooligan's dramatic slowdown on the first downwind leg was due to having run into a lobster pot, which mid-bow crew Westy Barlow bravely jumped off the stern and managed to get it free from the boat. But the team, which is new to the circuit, put in a solid performance to finish fourth.
The course area is in a sort of minefield of obstructions like this: a similar incident happened last year here in Key West when Azzurra had to slow to a stop and back down to finally free their obstruction.
And there were costly problems for the Interlodge crew who dropped their kite into the water at the leeward gate which rendered them sixth in the race, also requiring them to cut their halyard.
Francesco Bruni, Azzurra’s strategist confirmed their crew was more satisfied with their second, even if they were slightly unlucky not to win: "It was really very shifty with a lot of rain, a lot of squalls. The wind was really everywhere and it was really hard for the race committee to set up a race course. One side was always a lot longer than the other, downwind was usually a one way track but with a lot of differences in intensity for the whole crew. We are pretty happy, it was better than yesterday and in the end we were quite close to Quantum Racing. For sure it looked like Quantum Racing went to the wrong gate last time down and we gained a lot then and in fact we were a tiny bit ahead but then just before the layline there was a big right hand shift came for them and they were okay, but in fact all credit to Quantum Racing they did a good race and are sailing very, very well.”
Of their winning day Quantum Racing's Doug DeVos commented: “The race had a little bit of everything, up, down and all around. There was good pressure before the start and when we were getting ready and right at the start and on the first leg the breeze just fell away. Then it came back with a vengeance in the middle and towards the end of the race, we had every condition it was really challenging.
"It is hard when you are out of the flow and you suddenly have different people doing different things calls, everyone scrambling, you have the wrong jibs up, the wrong spinnakers, and so you have to sail a little differently to try and keep it together. And there is just more commotion. But it all worked out.
"It is such fun to be back on the boat, sailing with the guys and having a chance to go racing.”
Steve Hayles, navigator on Rán Racing added: “It was an unusual day for this part of the world. It was exciting at times, but overall a very unusual and kind of different race. We are just a little disappointed. Up the first beat we were right there and then had two course changes because the wind was all over the place, and then had that little wipeout on the run. We were pushing really hard at the time to just get over the top of Azzurra at the time, that was the main issue. We rounded (the top mark) right on their transom and in these situations you really just have to go for it. There was a puff and just a little bit of a timing problem and that was unfortunate. But third is OK we are reasonably happy with that.”
Results after three races:
1 Quantum Racing (USA)m Doug DeVos (USA) 1,1,1 3pts
2 Rán Racing (SWE), Niklas Zennström (SWE) 2,2,3 7pts
3 Azzurra (ITA), Guillermo Parada (ARG) 3,3,2 8pts
4 Sled (USA), Takashi Okura (USA) 5,4,5 14pts
5 Interlodge (USA), Austin Fragomen (USA) 4,5,6 15pts
6 Hooligan (USA), Gunther Buerman (USA) 6,6,4 16pts