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Six months to go and fifty one teams from fourteen nations are already signed up to compete against Irish world champion Conor Clarke and his Embarr crew. The Royal Irish Yacht Club crew will race at the 2017 Melges 24 World Championship that takes place from 28th July to 4th August in Helsinki, Finland. The Notice of Race has been published, online entry has been open for a while and Melges 24 sailors across the globe are invited to make their entries for this prestigious event organised by the Helsingfors Segelklubb (HSK) in co-operation with the International Melges 24 Class Association (IM24CA) and Finnish Melges 24 Class Association. 

Back in Helsinki after 14 years
It's been a while when the International Melges 24 fleet was racing in this part of the world. The first time for the international Melges 24 fleet of fifty six teams to race this north was in 2003 when Jacob's Creek Melges 24 Europeans were organised by the same hosting club HSK. Sailors might also remember the most recent title championship in this area organised by the Finnish-Estonian Melges 24 Class Association in Tallinn, Estonia in 2010.

IM24CA is happy to work again together with a bunch of people familiar from the past events' organisations to ensure the success of the title event. Perttu Rönkkö, 2017 Melges 24 Worlds Regatta Chair and Vice Commodore for HSK will be excited to host such international fleet of Melges 24s, especially for the Worlds this time: 'HSK is happy to host Melges 24 International fleet for the World title event. At the same venue the Melges 24 Europeans were held fourteen years ago, but the both club and surrounding area has been developing a lot during the last years. To serve our club members and foreign sailors better a new club house was inaugurated in 2010 which makes organizing such a great event even more comfortable here.

Published in Racing

A runaway victory of 31 points clear in a fleet of 72 boats in the International Melges 24 World Championship in Florida made Conor Clarke of Dun Laoghaire’s Royal Irish YC the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for November. With a crew of all the talents led by Clarke, Embarr’s exceptional performance off the wind was the outstanding feature of a very complete campaign.

As a result of an amazing Championship, with all placements of the series – apart from one – within the fifth position of the ranking, the Royal Irish Yacht Club team of Embarr IRL829 (2-75/DNS) has been crowned at the 2016 Melges 24 World Championship.

The crew has shown an extreme solidity and constancy all through the races, fascinating everybody for its asset and conduction of the boat in the downwind legs, that allowed them to take out amazing recoveries also when the starts hadn't been so good. important it is to have a closely knit crew to succeed in events of such an importance: "It's not jus"We work physically very hard downwind, hiking as if we were sailing upwind and this gives a great help to us, especially when you have wavy conditions as it has been during this World Championship - declared the owner of Embarr, Conor Clarke, who went on explaining how to about the technicalities: of course we have good sailors on board, our Olympians are amazing, but it also about attitude and knowledge of the surroundings. We've been in Miami for a while trying to understand the local conditions and benefit at the most from them. We've worked hard and our dream has come true", Clarke concluded. On board of Embarr together with the owner have sailed David Hughes, Stuart McNay, Maurice O'Connell and Aoife English.

With a gap of 31 points, Maidollis 3 ITA822 (5-15) by Gian Luca Perego, that was having on board the couple of former Melges 24 World Champions in 2012 Fracassoli-Fonda at helm and tactic respectively plus Giovanni Ferrari and Stefano Lagi, ensured the second position in the overall ranking, with a total score of 69 points. Third place went to Brian Porter's Full Throttle USA849 (8-2) with Andy Burdick, Sam Rodgers and Matt Woodworth in the crew, that managed to surpass Monsoon USA851 (3-7) that had the same overall score but worse partial results.

Disappointment filled in for Bora Gulari's Air Force One/West Marine Rigging USA820 (1-75/DNF) that, after having won the first race of the day, was still in place even for the second place on the podium, but got a BDF in the last regatta of the series, in this way slipping to the fifth position overall. It could have been a better World Championship also for Chris Rast's EFG SUI684 (13-8), World Champion in 2015 and European Championship in 2016, who didn't though manage to show all its potentialities and closed the event with an overall 13th place.

The Italian team Taki 4 ITA778 (1-7) secured its victory in the Corinthian division, exactly as it has been for Embarr, after the eleventh race of the series, disputed this morning in conditions of moderate and shifty breeze that forced the Race Committee to interrupt the race a few minutes after the start.
The crew of Marco Zammarchi kept working hard after the third place obtained in the Europeans of Hyeres and sailed very good races all through the World Championship, showing an amazing ability to adapt to the different sailing conditions of these days. On board of Taki 4 were sailing together with the owner: Giacomo Fossati, Matteo De Chiara, Niccolò Bertola and Giovanni Bannetta, with the support of Niccolò Bianchi as coach.

Only during the twelfth and last race of the series it has been possible to determine the rest of the podium of the Corinthian division: second place eventually went to Tõnu Tõniste's Lenny EST790 (5-6) with Toomas Tõniste, Kalev Tanner, Maiki Saaring and Andres Rohtla in the crew, World Champion in 2015 and European vice-champion in 2016, while third place went to Megan Ratliff's Decorum USA805 (2-11). This last crew by Megan Ratliff was also awarded as best female-skippered boat of the event and in this crew were sailing Megan's brother Hunter Ratliff, Zachary Hernandez , Alex Simon and Christopher Stocke.

The event found its conclusion with the prize giving ceremony that took place in the Jungle Island Plaza, at the attendance of many crews. After a few days of rest, the organizing machine will be activated again, already thinking about the 2017 Worlds of Helsinki. In the meantime, it has been announced that the 2018 edition of the Melges 24 World Championship will be held in Canada: there are very positive future perspectives for a class that seems to have found its rebirth.

Overall Results Top 5 of 74; 12 races, 1 discard)
1. IRL829 Embarr - Conor Clarke/Stuart McNay
2. ITA822 Maidollis 3 - Gian Luca Perego/Carlo Fracassoli
3. USA849 Throttle - Brian Porter
4. USA851 Monsoon - Bruce Ayres
5. USA820 West Marine Rigging - Bora Gulari

Overall Results (Top 5 of 37; 12 races 1 discard)
1. ITA778 - Taki 4 - Marco Zammarchi
2. EST790 - Lenny - Tõnu Tõniste
3. USA805 - Megan Ratliff - Decorum - Megan Ratliff
4. AUS812 - ACCRU - G. Nixon / K. Nixon
5. NED827 . Team Kesbeke/SIKA/Gill - Ronald Veraar

Published in Racing
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Undisputed leader at the Melges 24 World Championships his week in Florida is Royal Irish Yacht Embarr IRL829 (2-1-2): the entry skippered by Conor Clarke.

The good tactical calls, together with the amazing speed that the crew manages to reach in the downwind legs, is helping the Irish to maintain firmly the top of the ranking, leaving behind of 25 points its first follower, Maidollis 3 ITA822 (13-3-10), that after the good performances of the last two days, couldn't keep the same path also in the races of today.

Sailing with Royal Irish based Clarke is Aoife English, Maurice O'Connell and American Olympic 470 duo David Hughes and Stuart McNay, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics.   See more details in the Irish Times sailing column here.

Yesterday started with another sparkling day of sailing for the Melges 24 fleet. A day of lighter breeze allowed three more races to the series and brought about major changes to the overall ranking.

The major changes in the ranking, though, happened starting from the following places of the ranking: Air Force 1/West Marine Rigging USA820 (12-10-1) by Bora Gulari climbed to the third position, also thanks to the bullet of race number nine, while New England Ropes USA658 (18-8-15), third after the races of yesterday, was pushed down in sixth position. The fourth place belongs now to Argo USA853 (5-5-13), that yesterday wasn't even inside the top five, while fifth position is occupied by Monsoon USA851 (10-4-5). Full Throttle USA849 (7-6-20) fifth after the races of yesterday, slipped in seventh position after the three latest regattas of the series.

In the Corinthian division, the boats of the top three remained the same, but their order changed completely: Decorum USA805 (16-22-12/4-4-2) of Megan Ratliff abandoned the top of the ranking in favor of the Italian crew Taki 4 ITA778 (3-16-6/2-2-1) of Marco Zammarchi that, after having been daily best in Corinthian also yesterday, eventually reached the leadership of the division, sailing consistently even if the light breeze conditions are not the favorite of this crew: "We are happy for the outcome of the last two days of racing here in Miami. Sailing for the Europeans in Hyeres had been great fun, but here it is totally another story. The fleet is competitive, numerous and fast and for us the attention to be paid is double, because we have to focus both on the overall ranking and on the Corinthian division" declared Niccolò Bertola, helmsman of Taki 4. "Our closest opponent, in this moment, is Tõnu Tõniste's Lenny EST790 (1-14-21/1-1-4), that is chasing for us with just 3 points of margin: we will keep being focused on the races, we know the Estonian crew has the potential to win again a Melges 24 World Championship in our division, so the success of today cannot distract us from our final purpose".

The PRO, Anderson Reggio, couldn't be but happy for the development of this Championship: "We've had three great days of sailing here in Miami: the first two days reflected the reasons why sailors love to come to Miami, that are the strong wind and great waves. Today conditions were trickier and definitely lighter, but I feel I could still say that the fleet had good fun. The crews are fighting hard in each moment of the regattas, as it is also evident from the starts, when it often happens to have OCS boats, but I think it's also good in this way, we're in a World Championship, it is legit they are pushing hard!". About the composition of the fleet, Anderson added: "I think this is one of the most exciting fleets to watch: it doesn't often happen to see boats so spread across the race course, almost occupying all the space we have at our disposal. I can't wait to see the development of the last two days of regatta".

For tomorrow, Race Day Four, an amendment to the sailing instructions has been published: no preparatory signal will be given before 1.00 pm and the intention of the Race Committee is to run just one race. Two races will be left for Saturday, closing day of this 2016 Melges 24 World Championship. Even if the path towards the victory seems in some way already drafted, the three remaining races could bring about unexpected changes in the ranking, especially in the Corinthian division, where the hypothetical composition of the podium is in continuous evolution.

Overall ranking - Top 5 (74 Boats)
1. Embarr, Melges 24, Conor Clarke , Dublin, IRL, 2 -1 -1 -3 -4 -[5] -2 -1 -2 ; 16
2. Maidollis 3, Melges 24, Gian Luca Perego , ARcore, ITA, 3 -5 -3 -9 -6 -2 -[13] -3 -10 ; 41
3. Air Force 1, Melges 24, Bora Gulari , Detroit, MI, USA, 1 -2 -2 -16 -5 -[26] -12 -10 -1 ; 49
4. ARGO, Melges 24, Jason Carroll , New York, NY, USA, 5 -3 -4 -13 -7 -[16] -5 -5 -13 ; 55
5. Monsoon, Melges 24, Bruce Ayres , Newport Beach, CA, USA, 10 -4 -13 -7 -3 -[20] -10 -4 -5 ; 56

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A series long lead held this week by Irish Melges 24 Embarr continues in Miami, Florida today at the 74–boat World Championships. Skipper Conor Clarke has an eight–point lead over Italy's Gian Luca Perego. Third after six races is New England Ropes skippered by Tim Healy.

Sailing with Royal Irish based Clarke is Aoife English, Maurice O'Connell and American Olympic 470 duo David Hughes and Stuart McNay, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics. Results are here. Racing continues today.

It was clear since the beginning that the 2016 Melges 24 World Championship would have been a tough challenge for the crews, both because of the demanding weather conditions and because of the extremely high level of the sailors and their coaches, among the lasts a couple of Olympic medallists (Morgan Reeser and Kevin Burnham), too - that would have been out on the water. The first two days of racing didn't in any way mismatch the expectations.

The oceanic waves that, differently than expected, didn't decrease during the races of today, put under high pressure the crews that were in the water for the second day of racing of the 2016 Melges 24 World Championship. A breeze blowing from 150°-160°, with intermittent gusts up to 20 knots and well-formed wave, in some moments put in difficulty the crews, causing also a few damages to some boats that were forced to withdraw from today's races.

The day when the discard has come into play, daily best has been Brian Porter's Full Throttle USA849 (6-1-1), former Melges 24 World Champion that scored two bullets in races number 5 and 6 of the series and is currently occupying the fifth place of the overall ranking. The leadership, though, still belongs to Embarr IRL829 ([15]-4-5), that had an amazing performance in the first race of the day: despite being called OCS at the start and being subsequent penalized, the boat of Conor Clarke managed to bring on a stunning recovery over the fleet, closing a race that would have been considered lost by most in a very good position. In a second moment, moreover, the Irish entry had a redress for the OCS that was declared wrongly called, hence scoring three points in the first race of today instead of fifteen (3-4-[5]), bringing up to 8 points the gap of advantage over the first follower, Maidollis 3 ITA822.

It was another good day for Gian Luca Perego's Maidollis 3 ITA822 ([9]-6-2): the couple helmsman-tactician Fracassoli-Fonda, consolidated and successful in the Melges 24 Class, was consistent in today's races, scoring a ninth - eventually discarded - a sixth and a second with the brand new boat that, as it seems, is reacting well also to the most demanding conditions. The Maidollis 3 team is now occupying the second place of the overall ranking: "It was a tough day for most of the teams, starts have all been difficult also due to the big waves, but in the end we somehow managed to recover well. We are halfway now, it is necessary to keep being consistent and concentrated all through the remaining races" declared Perego, once back to the dock.

Third place in the overall ranking now belongs to New England Ropes USA658 (4-2-4) by Tim Healy, while Bora Gulari's West Marine Rigging USA820 (16-5-[25]) slipped in to the fourth position.

The fight was hard also in the Corinthian division, where the best of the day was Marco Zammarchi's Taki 4 ITA778 (18-16-6/2-2-1) with Niccolo Bertola in helm, that found in today's big waves and breeze its favourite conditions for sailing: once back on the dock, the crew expressed all its satisfaction for the good result of the day, but said that half of the Championship still has to come, so they cannot lose concentration, in particular in the next days when the lighter weather conditions will be a great challenge for them.

One of the favourites of the Corinthian group, the Estonian Tõnu Tõniste's Lenny EST790 (26-15-[OCS]/6-1-[OCS]), current Melges 24 Corinthian World Championship, had to leave the top of the Corinthian ranking to Megan Ratliff's Decorum USA805, due to the OCS they did clear themselves in the sixth race of the series, slipping down to the twentieth place in the overall ranking. "It was for sure a good day for us in the water" declared Megan Ratliff from Decorum "We've been able to find good speed, especially downwind with our pink kite! The fact that we've been in Miami for a while, trying to get to know the weather and the environment, probably is helping us to sail well".

Starting from tomorrow, the Race Committee intends to run two races per day, completing in this way a series of twelve regattas. Weather conditions, though, will have to be favourable enough to allow so: in fact, wind is forecasted to decrease sensibly, making the crews race in conditions that may be drastically opposed to those that they have been used to seeing in these days.

Overall ranking - Top 5 (74 Boats)
1. Embarr, Melges 24, Conor Clarke , Dublin, IRL, 2 -1 -1 -3 -4 -[5] ; 11
2. Maidollis 3, Melges 24, Gian Luca Perego , ARcore, ITA, 3 -5 -3 -[9] -6 -2 ; 19
3. New England Ropes, Melges 24, Tim Healy , Jamestown, RI, USA, 7 -6 -[14] -4 -2 -4 ; 23
4. West Marine Rigging, Melges 24, Bora Gulari , Detroit, MI, USA, 1 -2 -2 -16 -5 -[26] ; 26
5. Full Throttle, Melges 24, Brian Porter , Fontana, Wi, USA, 9 -15 -[18] -6 -1 -1 ; 32

Published in Racing

#sailorofthemonth – Conor Clarke, who cut his sailing teeth on Dublin Bay, is our Sailor of the Month for January after a dream debut at the Key West Regatta with his Melges 24 Embarr. In fact, "dream" is the theme of the story, as they made their debut in the kind of conditions you could only fantasise about in mid-January Dublin, with 18 knots of breeze in an air temperature of 25 degrees and sunshine sparkling on the bluest sea imaginable.

Cheerfully admitting that the Key West event has long been on his bucket list, Clarke had also brought out a dream team of all the talents with 470 Olympic hopefuls Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes as helmsman and tactician, while Maurice Prof O'Connell was there to knock them back into shape, particularly in the one race when things went pear-shaped, when he did it to such good effect that that they went up through the fleet from the crab grass to battling for the lead against the Norwegian crew at the last gybe.

Embarr did that so neatly that they clocked another bullet. By the final day, they were best-placed on the leaderboard to such good effect they didn't need that last day's racing to stay on top overall. But they sailed those final contests anyway, as you don't get fun sailing of that quality every time out, not even in Key West.

Published in Sailor of the Month

#keywestraceweek – Irish skipper Conor Clarke competed in Key West for the first time and came away with an impressive victory in Melges 24 class yesterday, winning eight of 11 races and beating the second place boat by 23 points. Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes, who are mounting a 470 Olympic campaign together, were helmsman and tactician aboard Embarr.

"It's a fantastic feeling to win in Key West," said Clarke, a Dublin sailor who's had the regatta on his bucket list. "Today's sailing was just amazing. We had perfect conditions... just what the brochure said it would be like."

"We said that yesterday was the best day of Key West 2015 but today beat it. 18 knots of breeze; crystal clear luke warm water and 25 degrees with sunshine. What more could any sailor ask for?

We didn't have to race the last two races today, mathematically we had won already but we enthusiastically raced all the races knowing that this was going to be a dream day of sailing.

We actually kept up the pace and delivered a first, a second and a first again so we finished with 12 points from 11 races.

What was probably our worst and best performance of the week came in the last race of the day. We had changed kites between races and after we started we spotted an issue with our pole. The tack line was underneath it so Mirthe had to climb out when we started our downwind to clear it. We had fought hard and were first to the windward mark and we actually dbn't lose much from this. When we hoisted we saw that the kite sheets were fed wrongly meaning we had to a "pit stop"" and untie and then retie them correctly. all good, we lost a couple of places but we coud fight back maybe... We went into a gybe and the kits sheets came off completely forcing us into an even longer pit stop. More places lost but finally we were back on the rad and moving fast.

The attitude changed on baord and we all became determined to get back into it. Prof was brilliant on weight calls and kite and the whole team pushed really hard physically. We clawed our way back to pip the ever improving Norwegians on Team RRH ( this team has really stepped up a few gears this week) to take the race win at the last gybe to the finish line.

The mood on board Embarr has never been better, We have won "Key West" convincingly and in good style. It has been fantastic and a joy to sail, a wonderful reminder of why we all do this"

Most of the marquee classes at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 came down to the last day of the regatta, which delivered the toughest conditions of the week. Howling winds and rough seas challenging the competitors on Friday, forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory.

That was certainly the case aboard Bella Mente, the mini maxi skippered by Hap Fauth of Minneapolis. Fauth steered the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer to first place in both races on Friday to hold off a stiff challenge from skipper Gunther Buerman and his team on Numbers.

"Our plan was to be in position to win going into the last day and that is what happened. The wind Gods cooperated today and gave us great racing. We rose to the occasion and were able to win both races," Fauth said. "I thought the whole crew did an impeccable job. We sailed hard in both races."

Bella Mente wound up winning six of 10 races in posting a low score of 19 points, two better than Numbers, which had four-time America's Cup winner Brad Butterworth aboard as tactician. Fauth captured his fourth victory in Key West despite a grounding incident on Wednesday that caused the team to absorb seven points in two races. Bella Mente was unable to finish Race 5 then limped to third in Race 6 due to a damaged keel bulb.

"We basically tanked two races and that was very hard to overcome, especially against this caliber of competition," Fauth said. "Numbers is very quick and very well sailed. Gunther, Brad and their guys did a terrific job and really pushed us the whole way."

Veteran professional Terry Hutchinson, who was recently named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for the second time in his career, praised the performance of Fauth and the rest of the crew. Hutchinson, an executive with Quantum Sail Design Group, is a relative newcomer to the Bella Mente program.

"Hap has a lot of experience racing this boat and does an outstanding job on the helm," Hutchinson said. "The one constant we had all week was superb starting and tremendous boat-handling. Every member of the crew really did a great job."

Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing. Sailors aboard the GC32 catamarans were hanging on for dear life all day as the high-tech speedsters were bouncing off waves and coming completely out of the water. Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1, said the foiling catamarans completed a downwind leg in just six minutes.

Skipper Flavio Marazzi led the Swiss entry ARMIN STROM Sailing to a one-point victory over ZouLou, the French entry skippered by Erik Maris. Keith Swinton served as tactician while Diego Stefani was headsail trimmer aboard ARMIN STROM, which finished first or second in eight of 10 races. Argo and Leenabarca were unable to compete in the last race after sustaining rudder damage in the rough conditions.

"The last two days were really fun. These are very cool boats and they were absolutely flying," Marazzi said. "Today was a bit tricky because of the swell. It's hard to find the fine line between pushing and backing off. It is very exciting, but also very dangerous."

Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog carried a three-point lead into the final day and decided to cover the second place boat in Race 9. Cutler finished fourth, but forced Dalton DeVos and the Delta team to absorb a fifth. That gave Hedgehog the breathing room it needed and Cutler repeated as class champ by a two-point margin over Argo, skippered College Sailor of the Year Graham Lundy of Yale.

"All five boats were very good so the competition was real tough," Cutler said. "Every boat won a race and we were the only boat that didn't finish last. It was real close racing and you could lose two or three boats in a hurry with the slightest mistake."

Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in the Olympics several times, called tactics for Cutler. Adrian Stead, a veteran professional from Great Britain, was aboard as strategist.

Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 was the first regatta for Tonnerre 4 under the ownership of Peter Vroon of The Netherlands. It didn't take the crew very long to figure out how to make the Ker 51 go fast as the Dutch entry led IRC 1 class for the final four days.

"We are very pleased to win such a strong class. I have an excellent bunch of sailors on the boat and they do all the work. My contributions are ballast and writing the checks," Vroon joked. "Obviously, the bigger breeze of the last two days was good for our boat."

Kevin George served as tactician for the 84-year-old Vroon, who won Key West for the second time. "It was just a case of putting the building blocks together and gaining momentum. We focused on getting good starts and just tried to sail a clean regatta," George said.

Tonnere also won the High Performance Rule sub-class, which consisted of five of the IRC 1 entries. Tonnere edged the Ker 43 Otra Vez (William Coates) in IRC 1 and the Carkeek 40 Spookie (Steve and Heidi Benjamin) in HPR. Impetuous, skippered by Paul Zabetakis of Stuart, Florida, topped the Swan 42 sub-class.

J/70 was 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 after pushing the line and being ruled on-course side (OCS) in the last race.

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 captured the Corinthian Division of J/70 class, which had 20 boats.

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, N.Y. Touch2Play won the tiebreaker by virtue of more first place finishes.

"We kind of 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."

J/111 also had a one-design class and Florida skipper George Gamble steered 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.

British skipper Joe Woods and his crew on Red set the pace in PHRF 1 from the outset and led at the end of each day's racing. Dave Lenz served as tactician aboard the Farr 280, which won five races and placed second or third in four others.

"Joe has sailed a Melges 24 and a Melges 32 so he's used to being on sport boats," Lenz said. "This entire crew has sailed with Joe on the 32 and that familiarity seemed to give us a slight edge from day one. We just had a little extra click of speed than everybody else."

Red closed the regatta with a pair of bullets and received the Quantum Sail Boat of the Day award. Woods was also the runaway winner of the Farr 280 sub-class, which had four boats.

Gerry Taylor secured his third class victory in Key West, steering Tangent to a wire-to-wire victory in PHRF 2. Veteran sailmaker Chuck O'Malley called tactics while headsail trimmer Jay Corcoran anchored a strong crew aboard the Cape Fear 38, which won every race but one.

Published in Racing

#keywestraceweek – It's basically a battle for second place in the Melges 24 class as Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his crew aboard Embarr have built a commanding 18-point lead. However, the runner-up position is very much up for grabs with Canadian skipper Richard Reid and his crew on Zingara holding a two-point lead over Mojo (Steve Rhyne, Kemah, Texas) and Team RRH (Jan Frederik Dyvi, Oslo, Norway).

Clarke takes up the story for Afloat.ie: 'Day 4 at Key West was the best yet. 3 races in good breeze, lots of planing and a return to the physical side of the Melges 24. Today we worked very hard and hiked as hard as we could but we were rewarded with a first in the first race, second in the second and first again in the third race. It allowed us extend our lead over Zingara and Mojo who are tied on points for second. The second race was the big battle and despite getting a second was maybe our best performance.

We had what looked like a decent start and hit the line, one boat up from the pin end at decent speed but conservatively back a metre or two(we are being conservative on the starts because we have a decent lead in the regatta and shouldn't risk being over the line) This allowed another boat lee bow us off the start and forced us to tack away very earl meaning we had to duck the whole fleet. On top of that it forced us away from our preferred left side and we got pinned out by some boats who tacked out with us as we tried to clear our air. We really struggled on the right side and didn't even start our recovery until we got back over to the left on the second half of the beat. By then we were well back from the front,, maybe even last. The second half of the beat was better and we picked a few shifts and hiked like crazy to get speed up and cross boats. These little things are the difference. We rounded in third (I think it was 3rd) and set off down the run like a scalded cat with Prof trimming, working up a sweat, powering us over waves and moving us around the boat to stay flat. Mojo had the measure of us in this race though and they held us off with some great tactical calls and very fast modes especially in the last downwind leg. A second in that race was very welcome indeed.

Sparkling conditions all day, just what the brochure promised.

There is some debate about whether there is 2 or 3 races tomorrow but we will be out there either way trying to finish just as strongly as the rest of the week'.

It probably won't be a late night on Duval Street for the sailors competing on Division 2 and 3 at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015. After doing three races in strong winds on Thursday, there are no doubt a lot of sore muscles, aching bones and tired bodies.

Not that anyone was complaining. Light winds on Wednesday led to just one race on Division 2 and 3, and organizers with Premiere Racing were keen to make up for that on Thursday. So the six classes competing on those two courses were sent out an hour early so the race committee could take advantage of east-southeasterly winds that held steady between 10 and 15 knots.

"The wind was absolutely gorgeous, and also quite stable. We never moved a mark during a race all day," said Wayne Bretsch, principal race officer for Division 3. "It was just a beautiful day for sailboat racing. The only way I would have enjoyed myself more is if I was racing."

Bradley Faber, skipper of the J/111 Utah, said it was a long day on the water and the crew aboard his boat enjoyed every minute of it.

"It was an exceptional day out there. Classic Key West conditions," Faber said. "We came here to go racing so the more, the better."

Utah got the gun in two of three races on Thursday, finishing third in the other only because of a blown out spinnaker. That strong performance earned Utah the Industry Partner Boat of the Day award and also enabled the Michigan entry to put pressure on My Sharona, which has led the J/111 class at the end of each day's racing.

Skipper George Gamble and his team on My Sharona takes a four-point lead into Friday, which is forecast to have similar wind conditions as Thursday. Race organizers plan to hold two races on divisions one and three and they should reach the 10-race series that was scheduled. Division two can have as many as 12 races and they will come close to that with an earlier start and three races planned for Friday.

"We had a really great day. The boat and the crew both performed very well," Faber said.
"We still believe we can win this thing. We're ready to do battle with My Sharona and see what happens."

Faber said Wally Cross, a professional with title sponsor Quantum Sail Design Group has made a big impact on his program. "We have a pro onboard who has really helped us a lot on how to sail the 111. Wally is doing a great job of teaching us the dynamics of the boat," Faber said.

Light winds that had predominated during the regatta were frustrating for Teamwork, the J/122 that has struggled to save its time on the smaller, lighter Farr 280s in PHRF 1. Skipper Robin Team was thrilled to see the breeze pipe up to double digits then went out on the water and took full advantage. North Sails professional Jonathan Bartlett is calling tactics on Teamwork, which won all three races on Thursday.

"Heavy air resuscitated us! The conditions we saw today were a definite advantage to the 122," Team said. "It feels extraordinarily good to have a day like this."

Teamwork jumped from fourth to second in the overall standings thanks to the three bullets. Red, a Farr 280 skippered by Joe Woods of Great Britain, still holds a commanding 11-point after placing first or second in all five races held Monday through Wednesday.

"It's mathematically possible for us to win, but we would need a lot of help from the other boats in the class," said Team, who won PHRF 1 in 2013 and finished second in 2014.

It was surprising to see reigning J/70 World and North American champion Tim Healy sitting in 15th place two days into the regatta. Perseverance skipper Bennet Greenwald predicted that Healy would battle back to be there in the end and he was spot on.

Healy and his crew aboard Helly Hansen have steadily climbed into second place in the 54-boat fleet, making a major move on Thursday thanks to a tremendous score line of 2-2-1. Tactician Geoff Becker, trimmer John Mollicone and bowman Gordon Borges comprise the crew aboard Helly Hansen, which trails class leader Calvi Network (Carlo Alberini) by three points.

"Our starts weren't great and some things didn't go our way," Healy said when asked about the slow start. "We've dug our way back by doing a little better job of playing the shifts and passing boats."

Healy, president of North Sails One-Design, captured J/70 class at Quantum Key West in 2013 and 2014. The veteran professional said the fact he had to fight back into contention is further evidence the fleet is getting deeper and stronger.

"People are learning the boats while the crews are getting better with more experience," he said.

Heavy air made for some spectacular racing in the GC 32 class with the foiling catamarans simply flying up and down the course. French skipper Erik Maris said his boat achieved 25 knots of speed while foiling downwind.

"These are the most fun boats I've ever sailed because of the incredible speed," Maris said. "When you are up on the foils and going 20-plus knots, the feeling is incredible. We go by the mini maxis like they are dead in the water."

Maris steered ZouLou to results of first and second on Thursday to take the overall lead away from skipper Jason Carroll and the Argo team. Those two entries both have 16 points, but ZouLou wins the tiebreaker based on posting the most recent first place finish.

"I've had many, many sailboats and this is just the best. It is very different than anything I've ever been on before," said Maris, who resides in the city of Junal les Pins. "It is a totally new dimension because of the speed, which can be a bit scary."

Flavio Marazzi, skipper of the Swiss entry ARMIN STROM Sailing, said Thursday's winds were not quite enough to enable the GC 32s to foil upwind. However, Marazzi said the high-speed cats can easily fly a hull and hit 14 knots of speed while sailing the same similar angles as the maxi monohulls. Competition within the class continues to develop and on Thursday there was only 30 seconds between the first and fourth finishes.

Competition in IRC 1 class tightened up before the three mini maxis left the dock on Thursday. Bella Mente, the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer skippered by Hap Fauth of Minneapolis, had received redress from the International Jury on Wednesday night after running aground on a shipwreck.

That redress hearing was reopened on Thursday morning and new facts were presented that prompted the Jury to reverse its decision to award average points to Bella Mente for Races 5 and 6, reinstituting the did not finish and third place results the boat originally posted and propelling Numbers into a tie for the overall lead.

Bella Mente and Numbers remain tied after both posted a first and second on Thursday. Gunther Buerman, a resident of Highland Beach, Florida, has chartered Numbers for this regatta and is very pleased to be battling for the victory going into the last day of racing.

"It's very exciting to be here and the racing has been quite fun," said Buerman, who has fuor-time America's Cup champion Brad Butterworth as tactician. "The racing has been very, very close and every second matters. What happens tomorrow will depend largely on the breeze and the length of the courses. There are a lot of factors with these boats and the results can be very weather dependent."

Things have come down to the wire in Melges 32 class as well with Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog maintaining the lead for the fourth straight day. However, Michigan skipper Dalton DeVos and the Delta team are just three points astern and those two boats will duke it out for overall victory for the second straight year at Quantum Key West.

"It is very similar to last year. Alec is a great sailor with a great team and that boat doesn't make many mistakes," said Dalton DeVos, a 23-year-old college student. "We just have to go out and sail our own race, go as fast as we can and try to make sure we are on the right side of the shifts."

Tonnere 4, the Ker 51 skippered by Peter Vroon of The Netherlands, held onto first place in IRC 2 with a pair of bullets on Thursday. Tonnere 4 is getting pushed hard by skipper William Coates and his team on the Ker 43 Otra Vez, which was second in both races on Thursday and trails by two points in the overall standings.

"We have a little bit of an advantage because we are the biggest boat in this division so we are able to get clear air and have control of our closest competitors," said Kevin George, tactician aboard Tonnere 4, which leads Otra Vez by four points in the HPR sub-class.

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#keywestraceweek – Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his crew on Embarr continue to increase their lead in Melges 24 class at at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015. Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes, who are mounting an Olympic campaign together, are serving as helmsman and tactician aboard Embarr, which won Wednesday's lone race and now counts four bullets.

Very light and shifty today. We were wisely postponed ashore by the Race Committee for an hour and some breeze was filling in by the time we got to the race area. We started conservatively (after our OCS yesterday) and had to find a lane off the start then try to pick our way through the fleet. We made it to the first mark in second behind Chris Rast on Zingara. Chris is an 3 times Olympian and is just back from an amazing 7th at the Moth Worlds in Australia. These guys are very sharp and we had our work cut out trying to get past them.

We didn't quite manage it on the downwind leg though we both seemed to stretch a little from the rest of the fleet. Zingara took the right gate downwind and we took thee left, not sure who rounded first but they were better positioned out of the left gate heading back upwind.

The left gate wasn't favoured but we feelt we had to not engage with them and fight for the right one which was closer to them. We chased them out to the left of the course and then decided to tack back and try to outdrag them for speed to the next mark. Luck went our way and as we went up the track we found that we were actually starting to almost lay the mark with a slight left shift and some good pointing ability. As we tacked onto starboard they had to duck us before tacking and we rounded first.

Great tactical calls on the next downwind and great depth and speed thanks to Prof on kite trimming and calling the weight around the boat. Only one race today as the committee ran out of time due to the late start and light and difficult conditions. Another first leaves us in a really good position but tomorrow is set to be much windier and Friday windier again. Lets hope we can keep the same performance in the different conditions. Updates here again tomorrow,

Based off early morning forecasts, it appeared a lay day might be in the cards for competitors. Some sailors might have already been making plays to play tennis or go fishing during an hour-long dockside delay.

However, organisers with Premiere Racing saw a small pocket of sailable conditions and sent the fleet out to the three race courses. Division 1 completed two races while Divisions 2 and 3 both got in one to keep the regatta moving along.

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Ireland's Embarr racing at Quantum Key West. Photo: Tim Wilkes

"We actually had pretty good pressure coming off the northerly beach," said Scott Nixon, tactician aboard the J/111 My Sharona. "It was about seven to eight knots from the northwest and we had a decent race."

Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1, had a building breeze on his course and decided to hold a second race on Wednesday. It proved a wise decision as the wind piped up later in the afternoon.

"We saw seven to 10 knots in the last race today, which was kind of surprising," said Alec Cutler, skipper of the Melges 32 Hedgehog.

Dave Brennan, principal race officer on Division 2, said the decision to send the boats out on the water came after organizers received live on-water reports from boats that had been sent out to determine exactly what conditions were.

"We were cautious because the forecast was not very promising," said Brennan. "We had boats out on the water and were watching the progress very carefully. We felt there was a good chance the breeze would stick and that we could give the sailors a race."

Brennan said conditions on his course, which includes the Melges 24 and J/70 classes, were perfectly fine for Race 5. However, the breeze steadily died and dipped below five knots, which is the threshold Brennan believes is necessary to start a race.

"We got in one good race on a day we didn't think we would have any so that's a plus," he said. "This regatta has always been about quality over quantity and we didn't think a second race today would be very good so we decided not to get greedy."

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First prize yesterday!

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Some of the best racing of the regatta has come in IRC 2, which includes the five boats competing in the High Performance Rule sub-class. Tonnerre 4, a Ker 51 that owner Peter Vroon is racing for the first time here in Key West, continues to lead IRC 2 after posting a third and a sixth on Wednesday. However, Tonnerre is winning a tiebreaker with the Ker 43 Otra Vez, which also has 19 points.

Skipper William Coates steered Otra Vez to a second and a fourth erase a three-point deficit to Tonnerre 4 and earn Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day honors. True (Kernan 47, Leo van den Thillart) and Spookie (Carkeek 40, Steve Benjamin) have also sailed well and are trail the leaders by just four and six points, respectively.

"We've been having some wonderful racing out there with both classes. There are a lot of good boats on the course," Benjamin said. "I, for one, like that we are being dual-scored. I think it shows that both systems are working."

Tonnerre 4 is winning the HPR sub-class with a low score of 15 points, just one better than Otra Vez and Spookie. Benjamin, who helped develop the HPR rule, said conditions make a big impact on the results as all the boats perform differently in various wind ranges.

There are three Swan 42-footers in IRC 2 and those boats also comprise a sub-class. Impetuous, owned by Paul Zabetakis, is tied with John Halbert and his team on Vitesse. All five boats in the Melges 32 class have proven to be well-sailed and things are tight after three days with skipper Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog leading the father-son tandem of Dalton and Doug DeVos by two and three points, respectively. Dalton DeVos is skippering Delta, which is currently in second place by one point over his father on Volpe.

"We have a small fleet, but everyone is either a world champ or a national champ or the College Sailor of the Year," said Cutler, the latter title being held by Argo skipper and Yale All-American Graham Landy. "I don't think there has been more than 30 seconds between the first and last boats in any race so far."

Canadian professional Richard Clarke is calling tactics for Cutler, the defending Key West champ who has not finished lower than third in any of the six races. "We've gone from first to third a couple times and we've gone from fifth to third a couple times. It's real easy to gain or lose in a hurry. Today, it all came down to who was able to get into that little vein of wind."

Jud Smith remained the leader in J/70 class for the second straight day, sailing Africa to sixth on Wednesday and adding two points to his advantage over Bennet Greenwald and Perseverance. Trey Sheehan steered Hooligan to third on Wednesday and is now tied with Perseverance on points.

"Everybody is working together very nicely and the boat is moving real well," said Michael Sheehan, who is crewing for his brother. "We were saying on the way back into the dock that we are not going to change anything. We are just going to keep doing what we've been doing."

Brad Boston is tactician on Hooligan, which has a home port of Put-in-Bay, Ohio and a team comprised of close friends who grew up together in the greater Cleveland area. Hooligan is part of the Flat Stanley Racing program, which also includes a Melges 32.

"We've been able to get off the line clean and we haven't taken any flyers," Michael Sheehan said. "Brad is really sharp about looking up the course and seeing what we've got coming."

Skipper Iris Vogel and her team on Deviation along with skipper George Gamble and his crew aboard My Sharona have been leaders of the J/88 and J/111 one-design classes at the end of each day's racing.

Veteran Quantum professional Kerry Klingler is calling tactics for Vogel, who has finished first in three races and second in the two others. This is the first one-design regatta for any of the J/88s competing here in Key West and Vogel said she's somewhat surprised to be the pace-setter.

"We've only being doing PHRF racing so we really don't know how we good we were," Vogel said. "It's exciting to be here competing against other J/88s and finally finding out if we're fast or slow."

Nixon, an Annapolis-based Quantum professional, said the My Sharona team put in a lot of time practicing prior to the regatta and that effort is paying off. "We've been pretty fast in all conditions," he said.

Rob Ruhlman, skipper of second place Spaceman Spiff, has been impressed with My Sharona's ability to accelerate off the start line. "My Sharona is killing it off the line. Today they got out there with clean air and just launched on the whole fleet. We have to do a better job of starting if we want to have any chance of beating them," Ruhlman said.

Tangent has been the dominant boat in PHRF 1, which is somewhat surprising since the Cape Fear 38 is a heavy displacement boat that doesn't normally perform well in light air. However, skipper Gerry Taylor and tactician Chuck O'Malley have handled the conditions well.

"I give all the credit to Chuck and the crew. They are accustomed to sailing in light wind on the Chesapeake Bay and that experience has helped us here so far this week," Taylor said. "We're very happy to be in this position and are looking forward to Thursday and Friday when the wind is supposed to be about 15 knots or more, which is right in our sweet spot."

Single digit winds are also not the preference of sailors aboard the GC 32 catamarans, which need a bit more breeze in order to foil upwind. Skipper Jason Carroll and the Argo team have been the most consistent of the four entries, winning three races and placing second in two others.

"I just think we have a little bit more time in the boat than the other three teams," Carroll said. "The light air has been a bit of a game-changer, but the boats are still fast and fun even in the conditions we've had so far."

Skipper Alex Jackson kept Leenabarca ashore on Wednesday because of damage to a carbon-fiber sprit. Repairs were made and that GC 32 will be back on the course Thursday when the wind should be ideal for the high-tech cats.

 

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#keywestraceweek – Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his team aboard Embarr continue to set the pace in Melges 24 class off Key West, which has attracted 13 entries. Clarke stayed hot with a third bullet to begin Tuesday before cooling off and finishing seventh in Race 4.

"The core group of this team has been together a while now and is excellent," said Clarke, who placed third and fifth at the Melges 24 World Championship. "We made good tactical calls today and had an ability to change modes."

Clarke, who hails from Dublin, is competing off the Conch Republic for the first time. "This has been a bucket list item for me personally. I've always wished I could do this regatta. To win in Key West would be a great accomplishment."

Party Girl, sailed by Jens Altern Wathne of Norway, won the day in Melges 24 class with a fifth and a second - earning the Lewmar Boat of the Day Award. Jorgen Altern Wathne is calling tactics for his brother.

Clarke recalls yesterday's events here: 'ok, so things didn't go entirely our way today. First race was good, we started really well bang on the line with pace and got to the top mark first a bit ahead of one of the Norwegian boats. They made some gains downwind though and arrived at the leeward gate right behind us. It was really light and we struggled for pace out of the mark and they beat us for the next leg to the top mark rounding just ahead of us. Great tactical calls from Huzie and pace from Stu and the team saw us split from them and pip them at the line to get our third win in a row.
Big delays in light breeze between races but finally the breeze seemed to settle and we were given a start sequence. there was some carnage at the start line and we were called back for being over at the start. Disaster. we were now clawing our way back into the pack and trying to pick our way through the fleet and on the second lap seemed to settle into a fast mode which saw us pass quite a few. There was a leading bunch though and we hadn't caught up enough by the end of lap 2 so we finished in a disappointing 7th. Still leading overall though and hopefully we can return to winning form tomorrow'

During 28 years of running a regatta off Key West, Premiere Racing has a remarkable record of getting in a complete series. Because of the consistent conditions off the Conch Republic, there have been very few lost race days.

However, that does not mean that race committee officials compromise quality just to give the competitors some action. Fair and equitable racing is the hallmark of this event and organizers always make sure to adhere to that tradition.

Tuesday at Quantum Key West 2015 brought dicey conditions that forced principal race officers make numerous tough decisions. There were some delays, a few false starts and even one abandonment, but by the time the day was over all three divisions had completed two races in shifty winds that ranged from 5 to 7 knots.

"We got two decent races and that's pretty remarkable considering what the race committee had to deal with," said Bennet Greenwald, skipper of the J/70 Perseverance. "Those guys were really on top of things. They did a very, very professional job."

J/70, largest class in the regatta with 54 boats, is sailing on the Division 2 course that is managed by Dave Brennan. A veteran principal race officer and Key West stalwart, Brennan was forced to delay several times in order to start races in stable winds.

"The breeze was very dodgy and moving through at 50 degrees so the trick was picking the right radial to kick the race off," Brennan said. "We want the sailors to have a reasonably square line. Prior to Race 4, we had to postpone three times to reset the line."

Brennan got the Melges 24 fleet started with a heading of 150 degrees and by the time he went into sequence for the J/70 fleet the wind had shifted to 180. He credited an experienced team of race committee volunteers for reacting quickly with regard to moving upwind marks and posting flags.

"We made the racing as good as we could. Actually, we were very fortunate that it was quite good," Brennan said.

Division 1 PRO Ken Legler was forced to abandon the first race of the day while all the boats were on the course while Division 3 PRO Wayne Bretsch had to recall the J/111 class back to the starting area after a significant shift made the course unfair.

Veteran sailmaker Jud Smith was the daily winner in J/70 class, placing second in Race 3 then getting the gun in Race 4. That moved the Marblehead (Mass.) resident to the top of the standings with a low score of 30 points, just one ahead of the aforementioned Greenwald.

"We got out to the course early and had a nice tune-up session with another boat, which allowed us to get accustomed to the conditions," Smith said. "I would have been happy with two Top 10 finishes on a day like this so I'm ecstatic to get a first and a second. We were fortunate to be in the right spots and I thought the team did a good job of changing gears." continued

Smith, who is head of Doyle One-Design, has his daughter Lindsay on the boat along with Marc Gauthier and Will Felder. The former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year says the entire crew participates in tactics and strategy.

Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler steered Hedgehog to victory in Race 3 and a third place finish in Race 4 to extend his lead in Melges 32 class to three points.

Legler kept the four classes on Division 1 out a bit later in the afternoon in order to complete a second race. Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth steered Bella Mente to victory in both races and now leads IRC 1 by four points over fellow 72-foot mini maxi Shockwave.

"It was a very tricky day, but our crew was very strong and managed to find the right gears," Fauth said. "We got great starts and just managed to keep the boat moving."

Dutch owner-driver Peter Vroon and his team aboard Tonnere 4 enjoyed a terrific day, posting a first and second to take over the lead in IRC 1. Kevin George is serving as tactician aboard Tonnere, a Ker 51, is doing its first regatta under Vroon's ownership and the crew has gotten up to speed quite quickly.

"We are using this regatta as a trial run for our season campaign," said Vroon, who will be heading to Antiqua and St. Barth's after Key West. "We are spending this week learning how to sail the boat. Of course, we came a long way to race here so it would be nice to win while we are at it."

Vroon, who resides in The Netherlands city of Breskens, is a two-time winner in Key West. Tonnere 4 now also leads the High Performance Rule sub-class after also posting a first and second under that scoring system on Tuesday.

After winning both races on Tuesday, New York skipper Iris Vogel tacked on a couple seconds on Tuesday to remain atop the standings in J/88 class. There is a new leader in the J/111 class after Florida skipper George Gamble (Pensacola) posted a pair of bullets on Tuesday.

Quantum Sail Design Group pro Scott Nixon is calling tactics for Gamble on My Sharona, which holds a four-point lead over Spaceman Spiff (Rob Ruhlman, Cleveland, Ohio).

"We got great starts and did not miss a wind shift all day," Gamble said. "The racing is amazingly tight. We won today's second race by about a boat length."

British skipper Joe Woods remained the leader in both PHRF 1 and the Farr 280 sub-class. Woods has steered Red to a solid score line of 1-1-2-2 so far and his low score of six is half as many as Decision, another Farr 280 skippered by Stephen Murray of New Orleans.

Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry Taylor of Annapolis, is another boat that has led at the end of each day's racing. Chesapeake Sails professional Chuck O'Malley is tactician on Tangent, which has won three of four races and also counts a second.

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#keywestraceweek  – Irish skipper Conor Clarke and his crew on Embarr posted a pair of bullets to seize the early lead in Melges 24 class, which has attracted 13 entries. Texas skipper Steve Rhyne, who has Mojo in second place after putting up a fourth and a second, said the Dublin-based Embarr had an extra gear when going downwind.

"We started well today and I thought we had good upwind speed, but we had a little trouble on the runs," said Rhyne, who has previously raced a J/109 and Melges 32 here in Key West. "We're new to the class and still figuring out the best way to sail the boat."

Clarke told Afloat.ie "Key West was good to us today. Two races in fairly light shifty conditions and we won both of them to lead overall. The result flatters us because we fought hard in each race and it's clear that a number of boats will be presenting a serious challenge this week.

In race 1 we started well and went left at first but realised that boats on the right were making better ground so we crossed to cover. There was a ding dong battle with Mojo most of the way.We rounded the top mark in first but closely followed by Zingara and Mojo. Tricky downwind tactics and ginger movements on board left us rounding with the Canadians on Zingara but having split tacks with them upwind we had some great tactical calls from Huzie and Stu and also great speed allowing us drag away from them to lead into the last leg and also extend our lead to the finish.

Race two was a different story. We fluffed the start and ducked the fleet on port tack to get out into clear air from the back of the pack. We were pushed right and away from where we wanted to be. Eventually we took our first opportunity to go right and for a while looked as if we were in very poor shape indeed. I looked like we might be well into the second half of the fleet but slowly we noticed that our call to get left was going to pay off and the boats out to the right started to fall back. We rounded the top mark in a close 3rd and managed to dig our nose into a slot to windward of the lead boats, Tramp and Mojo. From there we were able to get a tad lower with speed and direct events from there. It was more nervy than it sounds but we managed to round the leeward mark in first and, again, more nervily than it sounds, extended our lead from there to the finish.
A really good days work but we have much more to do. 4 more days to defend our position"

There is no better sight than a steady stream of racing boats either sailing or motoring out of the Historic Seaport harbor around 10 a.m. on Monday. That's a sure sign that the annual race week held off Key West is starting on time and with enough wind to get the regatta underway.

Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 got off to a strong start with the principal race officers on all three divisions able to complete two good races in 8-14 knot northeasterly winds.

"It was a good day of racing. Conditions were ideal and the courses were good," said Hap Fauth, skipper of the mini maxi Bella Mente.

Fauth had reason to be happy as Bella Mente was atop the standings in IRC 1 after the opening day of action. Tactician Terry Hutchinson played the shifts well as the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer posted results of first and second.

"Terry did a good job of putting us in sync with the puffs and our maneuvers were good," said Fauth, who is breaking six new sailors into his crew of 18.

Hutchinson wasn't happy about losing the lead in Race 1 as Bella Mente sailed into a patch of choppy air, which allowed the 66-foot Numbers to win on corrected time. Bella Mente must beat Numbers, which is being chartered by Florida resident Gunther Buerman, by just over three minutes in order to save its time over the smaller boat.

It was a very good day on the water for skipper William Coates and his crew aboard Otra Vez. The Ker 43 leads both IRC 1 and the High Performance Rule sub-class after getting two good starts and displaying superb upwind speed.

"We have a good boat with a great crew and we did a lot of preparation to get ready for this regatta," said Coates, a resident of Houston, Texas.

Otra Vez made its debut at Quantum Key West 2014 and Coates said the program got better as the year went along, capturing class honors at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. Mike Buckley, an All-American sailor at Washington College, is calling tactics for Coates.

"This boat was designed for IRC racing, which is why we're kind of surprised to being doing well in HPR," Coates said. "Our motto is never give up. We were really deep in that second race and gained it all back on the last lap just by staying in phase with the shifts and puffs."

Skipper Jason Carroll and the boys aboard Argo are the early pace-setters in the GC 32 class, which is making its debut in Key West. Winds weren't quite strong enough for the high-performance catamarans to foil upwind, but they were easily able to rise out of the water going downwind. Cameron Appleton, tactician for Alex Jackson on Leenabarca, said staying up on the foils downwind and flying a hull upwind make all the difference in this class.

"This is the first time we've ever sailed the boat and the learning curve is steep," Appleton said. "In relatively light and fickle conditions like we had today, it's tricky to keep the boats moving at top speed. We made improvement from Race 1 to Race 2 so that's a positive."

Appleton, who has competed in just about every monohull class out there, said succeeding in getting these state-of-the-art catamarans into perfect sync is quite rewarding. The GC 32 is capable of reaching speeds of 35 knots while foiling downwind. "These boats are quite sporty and it's very exciting sailing," he said.

Bermuda skipper Alec Cutler got off to a good start in his bid to repeat as Melges 32 class champion. Cutler, who has Canadian professional Richard Clarke calling tactics, placed second in both races on Monday.

J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 54 boats and the goal going into the first day was to avoid that deep finish that could prove costly. "You can't win the regatta on Monday, but you sure can lose it," Heartbreaker skipper Robert Hughes said. "You don't want to sail your drop race on the first day."

After finishing 11th in Race 1, San Diego skipper Bennett Greenwald got the gun in Race 2 and is the early leader while also earning City of Key West Boat of the Day honors. Hughes, who trails Greenwald by three points and leads Carlo Alberini (Calvi Network) by one, had a similar day with results of 13th and second. In fact, the top five boats on Monday all had one result of fifth or better and another result of 11th or higher.

"We almost had a great day," said Hughes, who lost seven places on the final leg of Race 1. "I'm pleased with our speed. We have new sails and have made some changes to the rig setup. This is the best this boat has ever gone."

Red is another boat that returned to the dock on Monday afternoon as the leader in two classes. British skipper Joe Woods corrected to first place in both races within PHRF 1 and thus also leads the Farr 280 sub-class.

"It's an interesting and tricky boat to sail. It's a 28-footer that feels bigger," said Woods, who previously raced a Melges 24 in Key West and has just three days of practice under his belt aboard the Farr 280.

Gerry Taylor captured class honors at Quantum Key West 2013, but had to miss last year's regatta due to work commitments. The Annapolis resident and his team on Tangent picked up right where they left off two years ago, winning both races in PHRF 2 on Monday.

Skipper Iris Vogel steered Deviation to victory in both races within J/88 class while fellow New York resident Robert Hesse is the early leader in J/111 after notching finishes of first and fourth.

 

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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

Organiser
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

Featured Sailing School

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Featured Clubs

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Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
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Featured Brokers

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Featured Car Brands

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ICRA
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Featured Events 2020

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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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