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Two Irish boats completed Key West Race week in Florida yesterday as the series closed with lightning, thunder and torrential rain. 

In IRC 2, Tschüss, a MAT 1180, skippered by Christian Zugel with Cork Harbour connections and a big Irish crew onboard, including Maurice O'Connell, finished fourth from five according to provisional results. The Royal Irish Yacht Club's Checkmate C&C 30, skippered by Nigel Biggs, was sixth from 11. Results are here

Organisers were debating if the conditions were safe to proceed with two races to finish the J/70's, Melges 24's and C&C 30's in Division 2 and one for all other classes. 

With several titles at stake, but bad weather threatening, this was not an easy call. Forecaster George Carras from Commander's Weather described the moist tropical conditions in the atmosphere as "juicy and unstable," with a chance for more cells, but with nothing on the radar the fleet headed out of one more day of battle.

When they got out the harbor and headed into the southerly, the forecasted 8-15 knots turned out to be 20+ and building, with monstrous seas enhanced by the south-flowing ebb tide, especially in the Division 4 and Division 1 pre-start course areas. These seas hampered the Race Committees in their efforts to set marks and establish their race courses, so the PRO's pulled the plug for these classes for the day.

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At least one Irish boat will be among the 113 and counting for 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week next January. Royal Irish Yacht Club skipper Nigel Biggs, who has already competed stateside this season, will be racing his C&C30 in Florida. 

The number of entries to the 2016 edition of Quantum Key West Race Week has exceeded 100, indicating one of the strongest early turnouts in years to this mainstay on the international sailing calendar held over January 17-22, 2016. Currently there are 16 classes organised: nine one-design and seven monohull and multihull classes racing under handicap. This indicates a diverse range of boat types attracted to race in the winter sun in Key West, with teams from 10 nations represented among the entries thusfar.

One design classes include the following: Melges 24's (14 entries), J/70's (21 entries), J/80's (4 entries), Farr 280's (5 entries), Viper 640's (3 entries), J/88's (7 entries), C&C 30's (10 entries), J/111's (8 entries), and J/122's (2 entries).

Among the handicap classes, IRC 0, 1 and 2 have thusfar attracted 13 committed entries, and the three new class offered at this year's event are also gaining interest: ORC Club (9 entries), Multihulls (4 entries) and Performance Cruisers (3 entries).

Besides providing the best in race management on the water, organizers from the Storm Trysail Club will enhance the shoreside experience for all entries with afternoon seminars, evening prizegivings and social events, and full logistic support through their partners and vendors on site...plus the unique ambience offered by time spent in Old Town Key West.

For more information and to enter 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week, visit www.keywestraceweek.com

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#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.

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#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 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.

Published in Racing

#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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#keywestraceweek – Top American race fixture, Key West Race Week, starts this morning with Ireland's Melges 24 sportsboat, Embarr, the sole Irish entry this year, a different scenario from a year ago when Ireland's victorious Commodore's Cup team used it as a work–up regatta

Embarr hasn't raced since finishing fifth in the World Championships in San Francisco in October 2013.

There's a couple of changes to the line–up on board.

Mirthe Kramer joins from a match racing background in Holland and also Stuart McNay who sails with Dave Hughes (tactician) in a 470 in the US Olympic team. Huzie and Stu finished 3rd in the 470 in the ISAF Grand Final in Abu Dhabi recently and 2nd in Copa Brasil de Vela in November. The trajectory suggests Gold in Key West, maybe? As ever, Conor Clarke is back along with Maurice O'Connell trimming.

The team has just spent two days practicing in 18–knots in sparkling clear waters. The water is about 28 degrees and the air is 18-24 degrees.

Practice has gone very well in the past two days but it really needs to as most of the team haven't sailed together before and even the Embarr veterans haven't sailed with each other in over a year.

Embarr has in the past suffered from handling errors and lack of preparation time.

Key West has been a flurry of activity for the last four days as sailors swarmed into town for the annual race week that is being held here for the 28th year. Quantum Key West 2015, which begins today on the aqua waters off the southernmost point of the United States, has attracted 115 boats in 10 classes and competitors have been busily preparing and practicing.

Curious tourists looked on with interest as crew members loaded huge sail bags onto the mini maxis that are berthed at the docks in front of the Hyatt. Bella Mente and Shockwave are powerful 72-foot racing machines that require a crew of 18 professionals to race. They will square off in IRC 1 along with Numbers, a 66-footer that returns to the regatta for the first time in several years.

Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth and his team on Bella Mente will be seeking to repeat as class champs. Veteran pro Terry Hutchinson, who was just named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for the second time in his illustrious career, joins the team as tactician and is one of many new crew members on Bella Mente.

Hutchinson has helped owners to victory in the Farr 40 and TP52 class at this regatta, but this will be his first time racing a maxi off Key West. He will rely heavily on the recommendations of navigator Ian Moore as Bella Mente draws 17 ½ feet.

"It's going to be different because there are certain areas of the race course that we cannot go," Hutchinson said. "That affects your decision-making as a tactician. Half the challenge is to not run aground."

Shockwave is hoping to avoid the difficulties that prevented it from finishing one race and competing in two others a year ago. Skipper George Sakalleris shook his head when recounting the mishaps, which began with hooking a lobster pot on the way out to the race course. Paul Cayard, a member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, is the new tactician aboard Shockwave.

"That's one of the wonderful things about having this program, it gives you an opportunity to race with some great sailors," said Sakalleris, a resident of Framingham, Mass. "Paul Cayard is certainly one of the best and we are very happy to have him aboard."

Numbers was a regular competitor in Key West for many years under owner Dan Meyers, who steered the boat to victory a few times. Work commitments have prevented Meyers from participating the last few years, but he has chartered his boat to Gunther Buerman for Quantum Key West 2015.

Buerman is grateful to have also gotten many members of the old Numbers crew, including renowned tactician Brad Butterworth. The four-time America's Cup winner knows the boat extremely well and was eager to get her sailing again.

Sakalleris said Shockwave and Bella Mente cannot afford to get into any match racing battles and forget about the smaller boat. "There might be situations when (Numbers) can hurt either one of this. If we pick a fight with each other, she could sail right past us."

Premiere Racing volunteers working the crane at Truman Annex are busier than usual this year as the four high-tech catamarans in the GC 32 class are dry-sailing, meaning they are hauled out of the water at the end of each day's racing.

These are foiling catamarans capable of doing 30-40 knots in the right conditions. One mistake could lead to a catastrophic capsize and testament to the danger of racing in the GC 32 class is the fact the sailors wear helmets.

"The level of stability is so much lower from what you have in a keelboat. You have to make fine adjustments in everything you do in order to keep the boat under control," said Jason Carroll, skipper of Argo. "Whenever you're going that that fast there is a chance you can hurt yourself if something goes wrong. We're still learning this boat so there is a chance we could stick the nose in the water."

Most of the boats competing in Quantum Key West are berthed at Historic Seaport, either at The Galleon docks or Conch Harbor. Walking the long and winding floating piers at The Galleon is like going to a boat show as the slips are filled with Melges 24s, J/111s, Swan 42s and such sleek designs as a Ker 43, Mills 43 and J/125.

Those latter three are among 11 boats competing in IRC 2 with the Swan 42s and High Performance Rule entries also being scored separately as a sub-class. Spookie, a Carkeek 40 sailed by the husband-wife team of Steve and Heidi Benjamin is defending champs in HPR. They will be challenged this year by two newcomers - Tonnerre 4 and True.

Skipper Peter Vroon recently took possession of the Ker 51 previously known as Varnua, which he said had a solid track record. The Netherlands resident said he wanted a slightly larger platform than Tonnerre de Breskens, which he successfully campaigned the previous six years.

True is a Kernan 47 that that is farly new to skipper Leo van den Thillart of Newport, R.I. This will be the first round-the-buoys regatta for van den Thillart since modifications were made to the boat, which enjoyed some success under the name of Katana.

"This year is a bit different since we have combined with the IRC fleet. We'll have more varied competition between the two boat types, which I think is good," Benjamin said of the HPR entries.

The Melges 24 class has doubled in size since last year and will feature 13 entries, including six from foreign countries. Michigan skipper Thomas Ritter steered Tramp to second place at Quantum Key West 2014 and admitted it will be tough to repeat that performance with several strong programs joining the fleet this year.

"I think the two Norwegian boats will be very serious competitors. Mikey (Kevin Welch) has historically done well while Steven Boho has been very religious about campaigning The 300," Ritter said. "Of course, there's always a surprise. You get here and think you have the fleet figured out, but as the week develops something completely different happens."

J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 54 boats and features a who's who of top professionals. This is the third year the popular sport boat has competed in Key West and Tim Healy is the two-time defending champ. The North Sails executive is the clear-cut favorite again after capturing both the J/70 World Championship and North American crown.

"We have another real strong fleet down here this year and I think there are a number of boats that are capable of contending," Healy said. "The class is maturing and people are learning how to sail the boats better."

J/111 and J/88 are new one-design classes in Key West and feature seven and six boats, respectively. Cleveland skipper Rob Ruhlman steered Spaceman Spiff to victory in PHRF 1 class last year and is looking forward to racing exclusively against sister ships.

"Most people would rather race one-design as opposed to PHRF or any other rating system. Coming from a Lightning background, that is certainly my preference," said Ruhlman, who hasn't done enough J/111 racing to handicap the fleet here. "There just hasn't been enough one-design competition in this class to be able to say there is a clear favorite."

PHRF 1 features a pair of hot new designs in the Farr 280 and C&C 30. Those two speedsters will be challenged by more established designs such as a J/122 and Farr 30. Robin Team sailed his J/122 to victory in this class two years ago while finishing second in 2014.

PHRF 2 features another past winner in Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry Taylor of Annapolis. Taylor missed Key West last year for the first time since 2004 and is thrilled to be back racing off the Conch Republic.

"I've always loved sailing in Key West," Taylor said. "The competition is top-notch, the regatta management is first-class and you can't go wrong with high wind and warm weather."

It doesn't hurt to almost always be in contention as well. Taylor captured class honors in 2011 and 2013 while finishing second several times. That history makes Tangent one of the pre-regatta favorites in PHRF 2 class, which includes such divergent designs as a C&C 121, J/105 and J/80.

"There are some different boats in the class than we have seen in the past so it will be interesting to see how we match up," Taylor said.

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#Qkeywest – Ireland's Peter O'Leary on board the Ker 40 Catapult still has it all to play for in the final day of Key West regatta today. In IRC 3, an extremely competitive 10-boat class with a diverse group of designs, is still very much up for grabs.  Arethusa, a Swan 42 skippered by Phil Lotz, maintained the lead for a second straight day by placing second in the last two races on Thursday. Catapult, owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, is seven points behind in second. Tonnere de Breskens 3, a Ker 46 campaigned by Peter Vroon of The Netherlands, is just one point behind Catapult.

Key West 2014 got off to an atypically slow start due to difficult conditions the first couple days, but reliably strong winds off the Conch Republic certainly delivered on Wednesday and Thursday. Organizers with Premiere Racing have crammed six races into the last two days and just like that all three divisions are on the threshold of reaching the regatta goal of 10 for the week.

Northerly winds ranging from 12 to 16 knots allowed for another three-race day on all courses.

Hap Fauth's Bella Mente has pretty much secured overall victory in IRC 1 class on Thursday. The Minneapolis resident has steered his Judel-Vrolijk to first place in five of nine races in totaling 15 points, three better than runner-up Caol Ila R, a 69-footer owned by Alex Schaerer. With only one race scheduled on Division 1 for Friday, Bella Mente needs only to complete the course in order to win the regatta.

Spookie, the Carkeek 40 skippered by North Sails pro Steve Benjamin, has clinched victory in the High Performance Class. Heidi Benjamin is calling tactics for her husband, who has won five races and placed second or third in the other four in totaling 15 points.

IRC 3, an extremely competitive 10-boat class with a diverse group of designs, is still up for grabs. Arethusa, a Swan 42 skippered by Phil Lotz, maintained the lead for a second straight day by placing second in the last two races on Thursday. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, is seven points behind in second. Tonnere de Breskens 3, a Ker 46 campaigned by Peter Vroon of The Netherlands, is just one point behind Catapult.

Dave Brennan, principal race officer on Division 2, is hoping to complete two races on Friday. That may not be possible with afternoon winds expected to exceed 20 knots, which might be too much for the J/70s and Melges 24s on the course.

Standings after Four Days - Top Three in Class

Mini Maxi Class (IRC 1) (IRC - 3 Boats)
1. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth , USA, 15
2. Caol Ila R, Alex Schaerer , USA, 18
3. Shockwave, George Sakellaris , USA, 24

52 Class (IRC 2) (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Quantum Racing, Doug DeVos , USA, 20
2. Ran, Niklas Zennstrom , UK, 23
3. AZZURRA, Pablo A. Roemmers , ARG, 29.5

52 Class (Super Series) (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Quantum Racing (SS), Doug DeVos , USA, 20
2. Ran (SS), Niklas Zennstrom , UK, 24
3. AZZURRA (SS), Pablo A. Roemmers , ARG, 28

High Performance Class (HPR - 4 Boats)
1. SPOOKIE, Steve & Heidi Benjamin , USA, 15
2. Riot, Marc Ewing , USA, 21
3. Decision, Stephen Murray , USA, 23

IRC 3 (IRC - 10 Boats)
1. Arethusa, Phil Lotz , USA, 26
2. Catapult, Marc Glimcher , USA, 33
3. Tonnerre de Breskens 3, Peter Vroon , NED, 34

Melges 32 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Delta, Dalton DeVos , USA, 13
2. Hedgehog, Alec Cutler , BER, 14
3. Helly Hansen Inga from Sweden, Richard Goransson , SWE, 27

Melges 24 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Little Wing, Nicola Ardito , ITA, 7
2. Tramp, Thomas Ritter , USA, 18
3. Zingara, Richard Reid , CAN, 25

J 70 (One Design - 60 Boats)
1. Helly Hansen, Tim Healy , USA, 15
2. Savasana, Brian Keane , USA, 42
3. Boats.com, Ian Atkins , GBR, 46

PHRF 1 (PHRF_ToT - 8 Boats)
1. Spaceman Spiff, Rob and Ryan Ruhlman , USA, 28.5
2. Fireball, Team Fireball , USA, 30
3. Teamwork, Robin Team , USA, 31

PHRF 2 (PHRF_ToT - 7 Boats)
1. Rush, Bill Sweetser , USA, 15
2. Heat Wave, Gary Weisberg , USA, 28
3. Rhumb Punch, John and Linda Edwards , USA, 29

J 80 (One Design - 12 Boats)
1. Vayu2, Ron Buzil , USA, 12
2. Rumor, John Storck, Jr , USA, 35
3. Blue Jay, Bob & Cheryl Hayward , USA, 40

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#QKeyWest–  Peter O'Leary's win  in IRC 3 earned the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day award for him and the crew of Catapult in yesterday's second day of the Quantum Key West regatta off Florida Keys. Veteran professional Geoff Ewenson is calling tactics for Glimcher, who captured an IRC Sub-Class at Quantum Key West 2013. This year Glimcher is also joined by Irish Olympic sailors Peter O'Leary and Dan O'Grady, part of a work up for this Summer's Commodore's Cup on the Solent.

In the above video skipper Glimcher from New York confirms to Key West interviewer Bill Wagner the Ker 40 is joining the Irish Commodore's Cup team in July in a full on campaign based in the UK. 

After yesterday's performance Catapult now lies second overall, in the ten boat fleet, just three points behind the Swan 42, Vitesse.

IRC 3 was the most competitive class on Tuesday with the top five boats finishing within a minute of each other on elapsed time and the top eight boats inside of three minutes on corrected time.

"What a spectacular day of racing. We had a big build-up and were not disappointed," said Glimcher, who finished just 17 seconds ahead of Vitesse on corrected time. "Winning Boat of the Day is very exciting for the Catapult team."

Rain squalls and wind shifts couldn't put a damper on the competition during Day 2. Multiple storm bands that were quite severe at times challenged the race committees and forced delays. Ultimately, perseverance and patience paid off as Division 1 completed a race while Divisions 2 and 3 got in two each.

"We were seeing massive wind shifts - pre-squall and post-squall. The breeze went in a circle for a while," said Ken Legler, veteran principal race officer on Division 1. "We had to move the signal boat a couple times and once we got a race going we had to move the weather mark a couple times."

After postponing twice, Legler got a start away at 2:25 in the afternoon and it was a wild ride for the five classes competing on Division 1. Doug DeVos, skipper of Quantum Racing, saw 30-plus knots on the wind gauge.

"We saw just about everything out there. On a crazy day like this it's important for everyone to remain calm, which is the way it was on our boat," DeVos said. "You try to keep guessing what will happen, but you don't get too antsy when something different happens. You just have to accept that this is what we have and adjust."

Quantum Racing, with America's Cup veterans Terry Hutchinson and Ed Baird giving DeVos advice on tactics and strategy, scored its third straight victory in the professional-laden 52 Class. DeVos was all smiles to hold a four-point lead over Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, Great Britain) following two challenging days off the Conch Republic.

"We feel really good. How can you not? You just want to keep yourself in the regatta when the conditions are difficult. Our team is not only keeping us in it, they have us winning races," DeVos said.

Caol Ila R, the 69-footer skippered by Alex Schaerer of Newport, R.I., took first place in the Mini Maxi class ahead of 72-foooters Bella Mente and Shockwave. It was the second victory in three races for Caol Ila R, which can benefit from sailing in clean air while the two bigger boats battle it out.

"In a way it's an advantage for them," admitted Mark Mendelblatt, a member of the Shockwave afterguard. "There are times when we can tack on them and push them back, but we also have to be aware of Bella Mente."

Decision maintained the lead in High Performance Class for a second straight day after placing second in the day's lone race behind fellow Carkeek 40 Spookie. It's a tight class with only three points separating the first and fourth place entries.

"We are very evenly-matched with Spookie and it seems like we've been swapping leads with them every leg, which is exciting," said Murray, who also praised the performance of the Farr 400 Rock & Roll and the McConaughy 38 Riot. "Really, any of these boats could win the regatta. They are all well-sailed and it's been great competition so far."

Vitesse, a Swan 42 skippered by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, has displayed superb consistency in placing second in all three races against a tough fleet in IRC 3. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, has sandwiched a pair of bullets around a seventh and stands second overall with nine points.

"We have a great crew and they are sailing the boat very well in trying conditions," Halbert said. "The wind was all over the place today - we saw everything from five to 35 knots with 30 degree shifts. It was important to anticipate the wind oscillations and change sails accordingly."

Catapult's victory in IRC 3 earned the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day award. Veteran professional Geoff Ewenson is calling tactics for Glimcher, who captured an IRC Sub-Class at Quantum Key West 2013.

IRC 3 was the most competitive class on Tuesday with the top five boats finishing within a minute of each other on elapsed time and the top eight boats inside of three minutes on corrected time.

"What a spectacular day of racing. We had a big build-up and were not disappointed," said Glimcher, who finished just 17 seconds ahead of Vitesse on corrected time. "Winning Boat of the Day is very exciting for the Catapult team."

Boat-handling was at a premium on Division 2 as the J/70 and Melges 24 classes were buffeted by the big breeze. There were plenty of knockdowns and round-ups as the sport boats with oversized spinnakers were pounded with sudden gusts.

Skipper James Allsopp and his team on Moxie showed tremendous skill and strategy in winning both races in J/70, largest class of the regatta with 60 boats. Former College of Charleston sailor Zeke Horowitz was on his game calling tactics on Moxie, which led after the first day of racing last year as well.

"We went out there with a plan and we stuck with it. Everything just kind of came together for us today," said Allsopp, who competed collegiately at the Naval Academy. "We got off the line well in both races and did a good job of managing the shifts. We had a good time today."

It was equally rough-and-tumble for the Melges 32 fleet with Tuesday race winner Deneen Demourkas reporting that all seven boats suffered a knockdown at some point. Demourkas steered Groovederci to victory with Cameron Appleton calling tactics and is two points behind Hedgehog (Alec Cutler, Bermuda) in the overall standings.

"I like the heavy air. You'll never hear me complain about it being breezy," said Demourkas, a finalist for the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award for 2013. "This is a strong fleet. Every boat has the potential to win the regatta."

Principal race officer Wayne Bretsch and his team on Division 3 worked overtime to get in two races, staying on the water until after 5 p.m. Vayu2, the defending regatta champ skippered by Ron Buzil of Chicago, got the gun in Race 3 after placing second in Race 2 and leads J/80 class by seven points.

There is a nice duel shaping up in PHRF 2 with a pair of J/111 entries - Team Fireball (Eddie Fredericks, Annapolis) and Spaceman Spiff (Rob and Ryan Ruhlman, Cleveland, Ohio) tied with seven points after three races. Team Fireball holds the overall lead by virtue of two bullets.

Skipper Bill Sweetser and the Rush crew extended their lead in PHRF 2 by posting a second and a first on Tuesday. Rush is six points ahead of fellow J/109 Heat Wave (Gary Weisberg, Gloucester, Mass.).

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#keywest – Ireland's 2014 Commodore's Cup bulid up began yesterday when Cork helmsman Peter O'Leary took his first tack at Key West regatta on American yacht Catapult, one of three proposed boats to contest this Summer's Commodore's Cup for Ireland. Beijing and London Olympian O'Leary, sailing in Florida with amongst others 1996 Olympian Dan O'Grady from Howth, lie fourth overall in a fleet of ten in IRC 3.  Scroll down this page for full results in IRC 3. As previously reported as well as the former Irish Olympians it is understood the New York Ker 40 has a cohort of of potential Irish Commodore's Cup crew onboard, skippered by Marc Glimcher.

A warm and sunny Monday morning greeted the sailors at Key West yesterday. The light and shifty winds meant a 90 minute delay and time for more coffee and conversation. The voice of Race Officer Dick Neville announcing a planned start was a welcome relief as it meant there would be competition on opening day.

Within minutes of Neville's announcement that race committees were planning a 1 p.m. start on all three courses, there was a flurry of activity as sailors sprang to life and began getting boats ready to go racing.

In the 21 years that Premiere Racing has been running the annual regatta off the southernmost tip of Florida there have only been a handful of days without any action. Despite a gloomy forecast, this would not be one of them.

Ken Legler completed two afternoon races on Division 1 while fellow principal race officer Wayne Bretsch got one start off on Division 3. Dave Brennan on Division 2 was not as fortunate as the breeze never stabilized long enough for his race committee to go into sequence.

"I thought Wayne Bretsch and his team exercised great patience and restraint. They waited and waited to make sure it would a fair competition then made do with what they had," said Jahn Tihansky, tactician aboard the J/80 Vayu2. "It was really nice to have a race on a day when it looked like it might not happen."

Skipper Ron Buzil and the Vayu2 team had reason to be happy after taking first in the 12-boat J/80 class for Race 1. Tactician Andrew Kerr knows the waters off Key West well and made the right calls on Monday.

"Andrew is a real guru down here and he nailed it. He kept us in breeze and kept us moving," Tihansky said. "We got out to a nice lead and were able to extend it. We came off the line cleanly, stayed in the middle of the course and picked up a couple puffs on the first beat that allowed us to pull away."

Fireball, a J/111 skippered by Eddie Fredericks, earned the victory in PHRF 1. Rounding out Division 3 is PHRF 2 with skipper Bill Sweetser and his team on the J/109 Rush coming away victorious in Race 1.

"It was certainly a challenging day. There were some big shifts and you had to kind of hunt for breeze," Sweetser said. "That being said, it was day that you needed an astute tactician and Tom Babel had us in the right place at the right time both upwind and downwind."

Legler got things going on the Division 1 course once he was confident a 4-7 knot zephyr from the south-southwest would hold. Skipper Doug DeVos and his crew aboard Quantum Racing figured things out the best in the 52 Class, winning both races. Tactician Terry Hutchinson and strategist Ed Baird combined to rally Quantum to victory in Race 1 after rounding the first weather mark in fourth.

"There's a fine line between luck and great strategy," Hutchinson joked. "We had a really nice comeback in the first race. We got two nice lifts on the second beat then found an isolated breeze on the run to the finish," Hutchinson said. "Our goal was to come ashore with five points or less so we are very happy with how things worked out."

Ran, the British entry skippered by Niklas Zennstrom, placed second in both races. Azzurra, the defending regatta champion owned by Pablo Roemmers of Argentina, posted a pair of thirds as just four points separate the top three boats.

"It was very tricky, but we ready things pretty well. Niklas got two fantastic starts and we had pretty good speed," said Adrian Stead, tactician aboard Ran. "We sailed the boat about as well as we could in the conditions so we are pleased. It was a good opening day."

In Mini Maxi class, the two 72-footers Bella Mente and Shockwave owe time to the 69-foot Caol Ila R and that made the difference on Monday. Newport skipper Alex Schaerer and his crew notched a first and a second to take a one-point lead over Minneapolis skipper Hap Fauth and the Bella Mente team.

Alec Cutler took a year off from the Melges 32 class, but you would not have known it from his performance on Monday. The Bermuda skipper steered Hedgehog to victory in both races to build an early three-point lead over Dalton DeVos and Delta. Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in multiple Olympics, is calling tactics aboard Hedgehog, which earned the City of Key West Boat of the Day honor for its strong performance.

"It was kind of crazy out there. We had a five-knot breeze that was up and down with 40 degree shifts. Our class caught up to the bigger boats ahead of us, which made things really tough," Cutler said. "We would have been very happy with a one-four today so to put up a couple bullets it's a pleasant surprise. I thought our crew did a great job of staying patient and sticking with the wind we had instead of searching for something that may not have been there."

Vitesse, a Swan 42 owned by Jon Halbert of Dallas, Texas, placed second in both races to take the opening day lead in the highly-competitive IRC 3 class. Mark Reynolds, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Star world champion, is calling tactics on Vitesse.

"The forecast said the wind would go right, but it actually went left. Fortunately, we went left and it worked out," Reynolds said. "We had good starts and got some good breaks."

In a class comprised of diverse designs, the top three spots in IRC 3 are held by Swan 42-footers. Massachusetts skipper Charles Kenahan steered Mahola to a pair of third place finishes and stands second overall.
J/70 is the largest class in the regatta with 60 boats and the majority of skippers supported the decision to not attempt a race. Brennan, who has been running Division 2 in Key West for years, said he never saw more than five knots of breeze and did not feel it was stable enough.

"Key West is about high-quality racing and we just simply could not provide that with the conditions we had out there today," Brennan said. "We waited and waited for sailable conditions and made every effort, but it became obvious it just wasn't going to happen."

Dave Ullman, the renowned California sailmaker who has competed in Key West many times in various classes, said it was difficult to bob around on the water for almost three hours, but applauded the race committee for not trying desperately to get in a race

IRC 3 (IRC - 10 Boats)

1. Vitesse, USA4240, Jon Halbert - 2, 2, ; 4
2. Mahalo, USA4245, Charles Kenahan - 3, 3, ; 6
3. Arethusa, USA4216, Phil Lotz - 7, 1, ; 8
4. Catapult, USA1253, Marc Glimcher - 1, 7, ; 8
5. Tonnerre de Breskens 3, NED46, Peter Vroon - 4, 8, ; 12
6. Cool Breeze, USA60432, John Cooper - 6, 6, ; 12
7. Tsunami, USA4215, Stephen Polk - 9, 4, ; 13
8. Christopher Dragon, USA4304, Andrew & Linda Weiss - 5, 9, ; 14
9. Otra Vez, USA61137, William Coates - 10, 5, ; 15
10. White Gold, USA4994, James D. Bishop - 8, 10, ; 18

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