The comments from the first day of the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week, the City of Key West Day, were nearly unanimous – epic sailing conditions in one of the best racing venues in the world.
“It was a sporty day,” said J.D. Hill (Houston, TX), owner of the J/122 Second Star. Hill was the first to enter Quantum Key West Race Week last June and he’s racing for the first time after having the regatta on his bucket list. “For years I’ve heard about all the great conditions and big breeze, and that’s what it delivered. We had winds between 15 and 20 knots with gusts to 25. It was a lovely day, plenty of action.”
The fabulous conditions helped spur Harm Müller Spreer’s (Hamburg, GER) Platoon in the 52 Super Series to Boat of the Day honors. Platoon posted a 1-1 and leads Takashi Okura’s (Newport, RI) Sled by 5 points. Spreer drives with all-world tactician John Kostecki (Reno, NV) calling the shots.
“Perfect. Perfect. It’s incredibly nice, warm, good breeze, shifty winds, great racecourse,” said Kostecki. “We had really good starts today, pretty good consistent boatspeed, good boat handling, somewhat went the right way most of the day. When you do all of those things pretty much right it means you do pretty well in this fleet. It’s hard getting them all right.”
It might be hard getting them all right, but not when you have trusted lieutenants at your side. The 13-man crew also includes mainsail trimmer Dirk de Ridder and headsail trimmer Ross Halcrow. Kostecki, de Ridder and Halcrow all won the America’s Cup with Oracle Racing in 2010 and the Volvo Ocean Race with illbruck Challenge in 2002.
“We got the band back together,” said de Ridder.
The 52 Super Series was one of five classes that sailed two races. Two other classes, the J/70 and C&C 30 One-Design, sailed three races, and the Performance Cruising Class sailed one race, all as scheduled. As is typically seen after the first day of a lengthy regatta, many class leaders have sterling score lines.
In the highly competitive J/70 Class, the largest class at race week with 42 entries, the story from the past two years remains the same – Carlo Alberini’s Calvi Network of Italy is leading the way.
Alberini won the class last year and in 2015, when he also won Boat of the Week honors. Along the way he and crew have been extremely consistent, never counting a finish worse than 11th in 19 races. After finishing 3-2-1 today, they’ve posted top 3 finishes an astounding 13 times over the past three years. That type of consistency is rare in one regatta, let alone over a three-year span.
“It always turns out right for us. It’s just very nice sailing,” said mainsail trimmer Karlo Hmeljak of Slovenia, a two-time Olympian (2008, ’12). “We escape winter to come here and sail in summertime conditions. We enjoy it a lot and maybe that’s why we do so well.”
Hmeljak said that their performance today is even more important because crews are not allowed to discard their worst finishes. So a bad finish adds points that can hinder an overall victory. Hmeljak said that their strong showing today was due in part to a good first leg.
Not only starts, but finishes were close too in the J/70’s – photo Quantum Key West Race Week/Martha Parker
“The first leg wasn’t that long so the first shift was crucial,” said Hmeljak. “We did very good playing the first shift and that was it. There was quite a big swell, especially downwind, and that made for huge differences between boatspeeds. We were planing, but just below full power so sometimes we had to work hard to get the waves.”
Henry Filter (Annapolis, MD) leads the J/70 Corinthian Division with Wild Child. “This weather is a so much better than last year, it’s just spectacular with the wind, waves and sun,” said Filter. “We got off the line OK today, and had good first legs, usually within or close to the top ten. But then we’d have a few mistakes and drop back, and in this class it can be hard to recover. A lot of these other crews have been racing together more recently, but I think our teamwork will improve as we keep racing.”
To no one’s surprise, another class leader that bolted out of the gates is Dan Cheresh’s (Saugatuck, MI) Extreme2 in the C&C 30 One-Design Class. Extreme2 posted three 1sts and holds a 5-point lead over Kip Meadows’s (Raleigh, NC) RoXanne, which finished 2-4-2. Meadows is competing in his sixth race week, returning to help support the class.
“You can’t beat the racing down here,” said Meadows. “We can finish better than 4th, that’s for sure. The right side of the course seemed a little better today. Whenever we came out of the left the boats on the right seemed lifted. Extreme2 is a very well-sailed boat. They’ve had the boat for a long time, have consistent crew and sail it very well. But they can be beat and we’ll give them all we can.”
Hill’s Second Star is tied for the lead in the ORC Class with Chris and Karen Lewis’ (Houston, TX) Kenai (J/44), each with a 1st and 2nd for 3 points.
“The chop made the racecourse a little lumpy and you had to watch out for the shifts,” said Hill. “A lot of our tactics were dictated by the faster boats on the racecourse. They took joy covering us sometimes so we had to stay out of their way. But it was all friendly competition.”
The friendly competition comes in the form of Kenai, which also hails from Lakewood Yacht Club in Houston. Second Star won the first race by 25 seconds and Kenai won the second by 13 seconds.
Rob Rhulman’s (Cleveland, OH) Spaceman Spiff took the early lead in the J/111 Class. Spaceman Spiff finished 1-2 and leads Jeffery Davis’ (Cleveland, OH) Shamrock by 1 point.
Laura Weyler’s (Williamsville, NY) Hijinks also finished 1-2 in the J/88 Class and also holds a 1 point lead over second place, which is held by Ryan Ruhlman’s (Bratenahl, OH) Spaceman Spiff.
Another tie exists in the Flying Tiger 7.5m Class, where Nigel Brownett’s (Long Beach, CA) Hogfish Racing and Brian Tyrell’s (Benton City, WA) 04 each have 3 points.
Todd Stuart’s (Key West, FL) White Rhino, a Swan 56, won the Performance Cruising Class.
For more information and complete provisional results, please visit the Quantum Key West Race Week web site.
Photo Quantum Key West Race Week/PhotoBoat.com