Another good show for Sea Turtle
Under a high-pressure weather system that was weakening through Thursday, while slowly moving east, there would be no opportunity for a new course record in 5-15 knots of breeze. It was a far cry from last year's 30th running of this event when both the monohull and multihull records were obliterated while many boats in the fleet posted finish times that were faster than the standing records.
Line Honors - First-to-finish the 2006 Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race, with a time of 18 hours, 45 minutes, 54 seconds, was Sjambok, the TP52 owned by Michael Brennan. Competing for the sixth year in a row, Sjambok was first in class A in 2005 after placing second four years in a row.
"It's a fun event to do," said Brennan as he headed into the awards party. "It was our sixth time here and this year it was a bit more mellow, but still very competitive with tacking duels with Rosebud in the middle of the night. It's well organized thanks to the organizers and race committee, and we've been reasonably successful, so it's one of my favorites."
Placing first overall in the 37-boat PHRF fleet was Sea Turtle, the Beneteau 38 owned by Jim Miller which last won overall honors in 2004. "This is not an easy trip," said Miller. "The way you win is to sail the boat hard all the time."
Originally from South Florida, Miller has only missed the start line for this event three times in its 31-year history. "It takes a team to win this race," he said referring to the crew that has sailed with him for years including Jim Henry on the helm and Tom Knowlton who is the point person and navigator and has been sailing with Miller for 25 years. "The object of this race is to sail out in the ocean, between the reefs to the west and the Gulf Stream current to the east. It's a navigator's race - the navigator is working 24 hours - and without a good navigator you can't win this race."
PHRF Class B was won by first-time competitor Bill Bollin on Stand Aside, a Thompson 870 sportboat built in New Zealand and the smallest boat in the race. "We'll be back," enthused Bollin. "I couldn't imagine better conditions for our boat - smooth seas, warm temps and sailing in paradise. We were doing 8-10 knots for most of the course and had the spinnaker up for all but the first 30 miles of the race. It's a neat racetrack and from a navigation standpoint really interesting and challenging. Nobody was bored on our boat."
Taking overall multihull class honors was Condor, skippered by Todd Hudgins, the first multihull to cross the finish line. With a time of 19 hours and 16 seconds, Condor, a Corsair 31, beat the ocean racing machines Ocean Planet and Solune, two Open 60s skippered, respectively, by noted distance sailors Bruce Schwab and Jean-Philippe Chomette.
"You have no idea what its like passing boat after boat - and Ocean Planet we just cruised right by," said owner and bowman Peter Freudenberg. He has had this Condor for just a year and noted that this race was "immensely satisfying" as they had not previously beaten Lei Loe and Rocketeer. With Keith Notary and Phil Styne rounding out his team, Freudenberg explained that the crew are "constantly moving forward and aft as Condor is extremely sensitive to weight distribution. Ours is a very heavy team effort."
"Interest in coastal racing is growing steadily in South Florida," said Chris Brown of the event that is a long-standing collaboration between the Storm Trysail Club and Lauderdale Yacht Club. "This is the largest fleet we've had in over 10 years." A veteran competitor now lending his support to the race organizers, Brown, like many other long-time participants, first competed in this race as a teenager with friends and family. He noted that while approximately half of the fleet will stay on for Acura Key West 2006, most boats head back to be home by Sunday.
Chris Woolsey also started doing this race with his dad when he was a kid. He explained the challenges of racing in this year's light air "More often than not this race is won at night. The boat slows down when people get tired, its easier to drift off and loose focus when things aren't happening," before adding that he keeps coming back "because it?s a great race and there's no place better to end up."