Fantastic Finish at Key West Race Week!

J Boats NewsWith epic, “fresh to frightening” conditions, the 15-25 kt winds and enormous choppy seas challenged the competitors on Friday; forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory. Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing.

The J/70s were the largest class of the regatta with 54 boats and featured a slew of top professionals. It was a week-long dog fight that saw constant changes at the top end of the standings. Skipper Carlo Alberini and his Italian team on CALVI NETWORK emerged as overall winner thanks to single-digit finishes in nine of 11 races.

Branko Brcin served as tactician while Sergio Blosi and Karlo Hmeljak handled the trimming aboard CALVI NETWORK, which closed the regatta with a second after posting a steady string of fourths and fifths. That remarkable consistency in such a competitive class earned CALVI NETWORK the ultimate prize at Quantum Key West Race Week – Boat of the Week.

“The talent level in this class is very high. We came to Key West because we are very excited about the J/70 fleet and want to race against the best boats,” said Alberini, who won the European Championship last year. “To win here is the best feeling. This might be the most important win of my career because we beat the world champion on the water.”

CALVI NETWORK totaled 49 points, eight better than the Mexican entry FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO that is skippered by Julian Fernandez Neckelmann. Italian pro Vasco Vascotto called tactics on FLOJITO, which closed the regatta strong with a first and second on Friday. Tim Healy, the reigning J/70 World Champion and two-time winner here in Key West, finished third on HELLY HANSEN after pushing the line and being ruled on-course side (OCS) in the last race. The balance of the top five included Jud Smith’s AFRICA in 4th place (an early regatta leader) and Dan & Gannon Troutman’s PIED PIPER in fifth.

Gannon Troutman, the 12-year-old skipper of PIED PIPER, was the talk of the regatta after finishing fifth in the talent-laden J/70 class- winning a race while also posting a second and third.

San Francisco skipper Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED captured the Corinthian Division of J/70 class, which had 20 boats; he also finished 7th overall.. Behind him it was a tough battle for the 2nd and 3rd. Going into the last set of three races, Brian Elliot’s B-SQUARED held a 3 point lead over Heather Gregg’s MUSE. However, in the epic, windy day it seemed Heather got her groove on and beat them in every race. Tied on points, Heather’s MUSE team took 2nd over Brian’s B-SQUARED. Rounding out the top five were Geoff Pierini’s SURGE in fourth and Craig Tallman’s JAYA from Santa Barbara, California in fifth.

The J/88 class was decided on Friday with Rob & Sandy Butler sailing TOUCH2PLAY RACING to victory in both races. That clutch performance gave the Canadian entry the same amount of points as DEVIATION, skippered by Iris Vogel of New Rochelle, New York. TOUCH2PLAY won the tiebreaker by virtue of more first place finishes.

“We put the pressure on (Deviation) by winning the last race on Thursday. We still trailed by two points so we knew we had to come out and win both races today,” Rob Butler said. “Our crew was really dialed in and we had very good boat speed. I’m proud of the team for doing what we had to do in order to win the regatta.”

Behind these two, it was David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA that took third, narrowly beating out Joe & Jeff Pawlowski’s EASY EIGHTS in fourth and Chester Kolascz’s SARALYSIA in fifth.

The J/111s saw Pensacola, Florida skipper George Gamble steer MY SHARONA to a wire-to-wire victory. Quantum pro Scott Nixon called tactics on MY SHARONA, which displayed superb boat speed in all conditions in winning five races and placing second or third in four others. After a slow start, the 2014 Key West Race Week winner, Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF, closed strongly to take second overall for the regatta. Third was Brad Faber’s UTAH. Early regatta leader Bob Hesse sailed consistently to take fourth and lying fifth was William Smith’s WOOTON.

The “tale of the tape” in the PHRF class could be boiled down to wind and waves conditions. The first half of the week it was generally light to moderate, but the last two days it was much heavier breezes with extremely steep chop. Reveling in the last half of the races was Robin Team’s J/122 TEAMWORK- a previous regatta winner in the class. After posting three 1sts and two 2nds in the last five races, TEAMWORK secured yet another podium finish for the regatta, winning PHRF Class Boat of the Day and also taking second overall. Similarly, Rick Wesslund’s J/122 EL OCASO came on strong in the last half to take third overall in class.

It was clear there was a “pecking order” nearly from the first day of the race week. In the end, Jon Weglarz’s J/105 THE ASYLUM from Chicago, Illinois took second place with nine 2nd places in 11 races! Third overall was Henry DeGroot’s J/80 WIRED.

Sailing photo credits- Tim Wilkes; Sharon Green/ Ultimate Sailing; Steve Lapkin/ H2oShots; Ingrid Abery; Allen Clark/ Photoboat