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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., 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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#keywest – Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, that captured IRC sub-class honors at Quantum Key West 2013 is back to defend this title later this month with Irish Olympic sailor Peter O'Leary onboard. 

Key West 2014 is gearing up for its trademark full week of racing on the aqua-colored waters off the coast of the Conch Republic. From the professional-laden 52 Class to top tier club-oriented programs in the PHRF classes, this midwinter classic offers something for everyone.

Spectators on the water will be thrilled by the sheer size and speed of the racing machines in the Mini Maxi class (IRC 1). Shockwave, skippered by George Sakellaris (Framingham, Mass.) will look to defend its title against fellow 72-footer Bella Mente (Hap Fauth, Minneapolis, Minn.) and the 69-foot Caol Ila R (Alex Schaerer, Newport, R.I.).

Action figures to be intense in the 52 Class (IRC 2), which features an international fleet of six boats loaded with the world's top professionals. Key West is the kickoff event for the 52 Super Series, which was won last year by Quantum Racing. Doug DeVos will skipper the Quantum entry in Key West with America's Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson aboard as tactician.

"We had a very successful 2013 season and are looking forward to getting off to a good start in 2014," said Hutchinson, noting that Ed Baird (strategist) and Juan Vila (navigator) complete a talented afterguard. "We love having Doug driving the boat. He's the leader of the whole program and brings great energy to the team."

Azzurra, owned by Pablo Roemmers of Buenos Aires, Argentina, took first in Key West last year and will have Vasco Vascotto calling tactics again as it seeks a repeat. Ran, which captured the 52 world championship, will look to improve upon its third place finish from a year ago with British pro Adrian Stead calling tactics for owner-driver Niklas Zennstrom.

"It's an impressive fleet and it's going to be quite a battle. Azzurra and Ran are both formidable programs and you can't count out boats like Interlodge, which is a real rocket ship," Hutchinson said.

Defending champion Decision, a Carkeek 40 skippered by Stephen Murray (New Orleans) headlines the High Performance Class and will no doubt duke it out daily with sister ship Spookie (Steve & Heidi Benjamin, Norwalk, Conn.).

Robin Team (Lexington, N.C.) and the boys aboard Teamwork will look to repeat in PHRF 1 while going against another J/122 and four J/111 designs in this competitive 8-boat class.

Rick Wesslund was a regular at Key West from 2004 to 2010 with his El Ocaso program and returns after a three-year hiatus with his newly-purchased J/122. "This is our debut regatta and we are really eager to put our best foot forward. We are cautiously optimistic, but know this will be a real good performance test for the boat. Robin has a terrific team and that is always a well-sailed boat so we will have to be on top of our game in order to win," said Wesslund, who earned the PHRF Boat of the Week honor in 2006.

Regatta chairman Peter Craig is excited about the 10-boat lineup in IRC 3, which will have such diverse designs as a Swan 42, Sydney 43, Mills 43 and Ker 43. Catapult, a Ker 40 owned by Marc Glimcher of New York, captured IRC sub-class honors at Quantum Key West 2013 and will be challenged by an influx of new entries.

Among the newcomers are Andrew and Linda Weiss (Mamaroneck, N.Y.), whose Sydney 43 was designed specifically to the IRC rating rule. Andrew Weiss is eager to see how his boat performs against boats of similar size, but different design characteristics.

"We are very happy with the makeup of the class. There is a nice mix of designs and a lot of strong teams," said Weiss, who has competed against the Swan 42s as well as Catapult and the Mills 43 Cool Breeze (John Cooper, Cane Hill, MI) in the past. "It will be interesting to see which boat comes out on top over the course of five days and in varying conditions."

Newport-based professional Tim Healy will be back to defend his title in J/70 class, which has attracted a whopping 62 boats. Runner-up Brian Keane (Weston, Mass.) and third place finisher Bruno Pasquinelli (Dallas, Texas) will also be back as the J/70 class contests its Midwinter Championship.

A real bounce-back one design at Key West this year is the J/80 class, which will have 13 boats on the starting line. Skipper Ron Buzil and his Vayu2 team will try to repeat as regatta winners against a deep fleet that includes former North American champion Rumor (John Storck) and several other accomplished programs.

"Our owners love coming to Key West and we're thrilled to have a very competitive fleet this year," said Chris Chadwick, national class secretary for the J/80. "Premiere Racing always puts on a quality regatta and the racing is second to none."

Talk to the owners and skippers heading for Quantum Key West 2014 and you will hear a similar story.

Dave Franzel attended what was known as Key West Race Week way back in 1981 as crew for a J/24 program. The founder of the Boston Sailing Center returned 32 years later as a J/70 skipper and was crowned as Corinthian champion after finishing eighth overall in the 39-boat fleet.

"I had an absolute blast. It was one of the best regattas I've ever been to. It made me wish I hadn't waited so long to come back," said Franzel, a resident of Somerville, Mass. "I was very impressed with the race management. The courses were sound and the starting lines were solid. We got in 12 races in five days and you can't ask for more than that."

Deneen Demourkas will be sailing her Melges 32 after being nominated for the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award for her performance on the Farr 30 circuit in 2013. Her husband, John Demourkas, will be racing in J/70 class as the couple makes their annual pilgrimage from Santa Barbara, Cal.

"John and I have been attending this event the last 14 years and we love the relaxation Key West affords, particularly after a hectic holiday season," Demourkas said. "And then there is Race Week, which always delivers. You can pretty much guarantee great sailing conditions, beautiful weather and good competition. Why wouldn't you be here?"

John and Linda Edwards have been bringing their Rhumb Punch racing program to the southernmost tip of Florida every January since 1999. Quantum Key West 2014 will be the 15th year of participation for the couple.

"There's just something special about Key West," said Edwards, a Maryland pharmacist. "You combine amazing weather with great competition, that's a perfect formula. If you don't love sailing in Key West, you don't love sailing."

The Rhumb Punch team has enjoyed plenty of success in Key West, winning eight of nine races to capture J/29 class in 2007. The Edwards moved into the Farr 30 class the following year and finished third in PHRF 1 at the 2010 regatta.

"It's become a family tradition. We come down every year with the same team and stay in the same house," said Edwards, who always sails with Quantum professional Clarke McKinney as tactician. "I think a big part of the attraction is that our wives love being in Key West. It's great to be somewhere warm in the middle of January and there is so much fun stuff to do."

"We have a terrific fleet and there should be some exciting competition across the board," said Farley Fontenot, executive vice president of Quantum Sail Design Group. "I think the reason this regatta survives and thrives is because it rolls with the trends of the sport."

This will be the third straight year that Quantum will serve as title sponsor and Fontenot said the Michigan-based sail-making company has enjoyed its partnership with Premiere Racing.

"It's been a great relationship because we both have the same interests in mind, which is to keep an iconic regatta moving forward in tough economic times," said Fontenot, who will be in Key West coaching the Melges 24 team aboard Delta. "Quantum's goal for this is to perpetuate our sport by supporting one of the greatest events in the country."

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#commodorescup – The build up for next Summer's Commodore's Cup event starts next month in Florida. Irish Interest in Key West features Cork Olympic sailor Peter O'Leary at the helm of the New York based Ker 40 Catapult, a boat tipped as one of three to form the Irish Commodore's Cup team next July on the Solent. 

Irish crews including O'Leary will be among the racing teams from across the USA and around the world getting ready to compete in the waters off America's southernmost city during the 27th annual Key West Race Week, scheduled Sunday through Friday, January 19-24.

Ireland is aiming to field a team at the Commodore's Cup next July and although the three boat team has yet to be officially announced it is expected the American Ker design will be flying the Irish Tricolour on the Solent. 

The 2012 built yacht will also feature Irish sailor Tommy Murphy on board with the American sailors, according to the Catapult crew entry.

The "wow" factor is clearly in play again for the 2014 edition. All three divisions will feature well prepared programmes gathering to enjoy great competition and renowned Key West sailing conditions, as they pursue coveted podium finishes.

The incredibly popular J/70 class is coming off a very successful Key West debut with the fleet topping 60 boats for their 2014 Midwinter Championship. Returning veterans and newcomers to Key West will experience big fleet racing with exciting starts, tight mark roundings, and close finishes. Both the J/70 Open and Corinthian winners will be recognised with daily and series trophies.

The variety of boat size and type are two of the elements that make Key West special, and big boat racing will again be a meaningful part of the 2014 story. Three 72 footers will test each other in the 'Mini Maxi' IRC class. 2013 winner George Sakellaris' Shockwave and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente will mix it up with Alex Schaerer's 2013 Rolex Capri Sailing Week champion Caol Ila R.

The 52 Class begins their second US Super Series in Key West. They'll continue the series at their 2014 World Championship in Miami next March. Alberto Roemmers and team Azzurra will be back to defend their 2013 title against five other high-powered programs.

The J/80s are the comeback class of the year. These one designs, strong players in Key West for many years, will feature quality and quantity with 14 boats currently on the scratch sheet.

Andrew Kerr, tactician on Ron Buzil's Vayu 2 shared his enthusiasm: "We are excited to have a growing fleet of J80's for this coming year's Key West Race Week. Key West is an important part of the J80 class' winter tour as teams gear up for the World Championships in Annapolis in late September. Racing at Key West always features world class competition in every fleet. Top level race and event management from Premiere Racing, coupled with fantastic sailing conditions, helps the event attract more and more J/80 teams who want to kick start the racing year!"

Handicap racing will also come in the form of a High Performance (HPR), IRC3, and two PHRF classes. For the PHRF racing, three number handicaps will be in play for three established wind ranges - a first in Key West - which is expected to produce even closer racing. All four of these classes boast serious programs, experienced racers and talented afterguards, along with some exciting, new models. A look at the scratch sheet tells a very promising story.

"As the curtain comes down on the 2013 racing season, the Premiere Racing team is looking forward to kicking off 2014 with a bang," remarked Event Director Peter Craig. "The make up of the Key West fleet is different every year, but one thing that never changes is the quality of the competition, which will come in the form of terrific one design, IRC, HPR and PHRF racing."

Regatta dates are January 19 - 24, 2014.

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Royal Cork's Anthony O'Leary's Antix, will have his son Olympic helmsman Peter on board the Ker 39 for RORC's weekend Myth of Malham race.

The offshore race starts this Saturday from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line. It is a 230–mile race from Cowes, round the Eddystone lighthouse and back to the Solent and marks the Irish Commodore's Cupper's offshore debut.

"Antix is entered for the Fastnet this year. We will have a good test in Ireland with the Dún Laoghaire to Dingle Race but the quality of the opposition and the route for the Myth of Malham is ideal for our preparations. O'Leary said. 'Looking at the long-term weather forecast, it looks like a northeast wind, which will suit the reaching machines more than us but forecasts can change ' he said.

'We are very happy with the changes we made to the boat last year but the best way to truly find out if you are fast is to race against the best' he added.

The RORC Season's Points Championship continues over the May Bank Holiday weekend with one of the longest races of the season. Fresh from victory in the North Sea Race, Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3, is the scratch boat in IRC One but will surely be under tremendous pressure from three Ker 40s: Harmen de Graaf's Baraka GP, Edward Broadway's Hooligan VII and Andrew Pearce's Magnum III. Mike Greville's Ker 39, Erivale III, is a former winner of the race.

120 yachts have entered the Myth of Malham Race and no doubt many teams see the race as a dress rehearsal for the first part of the Rolex Fastnet Race. However, the race from Cowes, around The Eddystone Lighthouse and back to the Solent, can be extremely tough, as the competitors in last year's race can testify.

In IRC Four Harry Heijst's Dutch S&S 41, Winsome, was one of only three yachts to complete last year's race, coming second overall and winning class. The veteran Dutch skipper will be racing agin this year and commented: "I am 67 years of age and I have done a lot of racing; round Britain and Ireland, the Fastnet, the Sydney Hobart and I remember a very tough St. Malo Race but I have to say that the 2012 Myth of Malham Race was one of the hardest races Winsome has ever done. The waves were five metres high going past The Needles and the cockpit filled up with water on several occasions. This year looks like it will be a colder race but hopefully in 20 knots less wind." For this year's Myth of Malham Race, Winsome will be defending their class title against 35 other yachts, including a gaggle of seven Sigma 38s and proven race winners, such as Jean Yves Chateau's Iromiguy and Noel Racine's Foggy Dew.

Two-Handed racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club has been going from strength to strength and 17 teams will take part in the Myth of Malham with just two crew on board. Robin Elsey is just 20 years of age and won his first ever RORC Two-Handed race last month, racing Figaro II Artemis 21 in the Cervantes Trophy Race with Sam Matson.

"Winning class in the Cervantes Trophy Race was just brilliant," commented Robin, " but the Myth of Malham is a very different race, it is very tactical with all of the different tidal issues along the headlands and it is a much longer race but it is so long that you can really get into a rhythm. It will be important for us to get the balance between going flat out and backing off just right but personally I am also looking forward to the race because I come from Cornwall so I will be racing in my own home waters."

Todd Wells' Je Vante is one of ten J/109s entered for the Myth of Malham. "The big entry shows that a lot of yachts are using the race as a significant part of training for the Fastnet. Depending on the weather, this will be a particularly sanitizing event for crews at all levels. Last year was incredibly tough but that is part of the attraction of offshore racing, you either talk about it in the bar or get on with it."
John Allison will be racing J/109, Jumbuck, for the first time but John and the vast majority of his crew are experienced offshore sailors. "In my honest opinion, the first 24 hours of any ocean race are easy, the next 24 the hardest, and then one normally settles into a pattern that gets progressively easier as each day passes. So maybe there is a case for saying overall, the Fastnet is not as hard as the Myth of Malham," commented John. " Having said that the race will be a good training exercise for the Fastnet, as it allows one to get familiar with that coastline in race conditions. As Jumbuck is a new boat for us for the race, it will bring the pleasure of bringing a crew and new boat up to speed, not just against other yachts, but also against weather and routing conditions."
Capstan Sailing's Yuri Fadeev is the skipper of Reflex 38, Intuition. "It's the first Fastnet for most of the crew, so we are taking qualifying races very seriously to get into shape. The crew is from UK, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine with a great mix of abilities but some of the guys have sailed with us for a few seasons now. As most of the races we do are on a commercial basis, safety is paramount, and most of the preparation effort goes into that, although we do like to give the competition a bit of a challenge, so making sure the boat is fast is always a good thing. I am sure the guys will know all about beating by the time we round Eddystone!"

Line Honours favourite for the race will be Andrew Budgen's Volvo 70, Monster Project. "This is the first time we have entered this race and dependent on the weather it could be quite hard but it is much shorter than the Fastnet Race and there is no Celtic Sea to worry about. The start mirrors the Fastnet but the weather at this time of year will be very different but saying that, the tide areas will be very similar. The crew is mostly friends that have previously sailed on our Volvo 60, all good amateur sailors. As always, the race will be a test of mental as well as physical strength."

Published in RORC

Ireland's 'Spiced Beef', Peter O'Leary's Star keelboat, finished eighth overall at the Bacardi cup in Miami, Florida at the weekend with a disappointing 27th scored in the penultimate race pushing the Cork man, sailing with Rodney Hagebols, out of overall contention in the 55-boat fleet.

O'Leary won the fourth race of the series in big breeze but failed to capitalise on this win in the latter half of the series that ended on Friday.

With points tight among the top contenders the big story of the regatta was the win of the 86th Bacardi Cup by the Florida team of Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg) and Brian Fatih (Miami). Having started their series on Monday by picking up the max number of points for an over early start, the duo worked their way back up the standings to end the penultimate day of the series in second overall.
"We started [the series] not in the best way, but we turned it around," said Mendelblatt, who previously won the Bacardi Cup in 2005.  "It was a disappointing start and it was my fault for not having a good first race. After that we've been very consistent with low scores. We won the last two races and everything went our way.  Winning the Cup again means a lot to me; it's really great because winning any big Star regatta is not easy at all! I am very happy to have had Brian with me.  He is a great crew and wanted to have his name on the Tito Bacardi trophy. The Bacardi Cup is a great event and now, with the addition of all the other classes, it's even more satisfying."
Mendelblatt and Faith, who represented the USA in the Star class at the 2012 Olympics, won the single race contested by the 56 Star teams on the final day of the series to move to the top of the standings with 26 points. 

Lars Grael and Mario Lagoa (BRA), who had been atop the overall standings throughout the week, took second overall with 30 points after placing seventh in the race.  Defending champion Xavier Rohart (FRA) ended the series tied on points with Grael after finishing the race in fourth place to take third in the overall standings.  The only change for Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen (ITA) or 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.) and Arnis Baltins, was in the point totals as both retained their positions in the top-five with, respectively, 33 and 41 points.

Class results here

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#bacardicup – Now fifth overall in the standings at the 2013 Bacardi Cup in Miami is Irish Olympian Peter O'Leary and Rodney Hagebols who have 13.5 points after finishes of 2.5-36-11.

Breeze just into the double digits made the second day of racing for the Cup a test of experience and persistence for the 56 Star teams racing on Biscayne Bay.

Two races were completed as the sunshine warmed temperatures into the low 70s, and, with three races scored a drop race now comes into play.  While Lars Grael and Mario Lagoa (BRA) remain first overall with two points net after adding today's finishes of 12-1 to their win of yesterday's lone race, less than 12 points separate the top-five teams.

Lars Grael and Mario Lagoa (hull 74) are the standings leaders after two days of racing for the 86th BACARDI Cup

"Races were similar to yesterday although the second race overall was more gentle," said Grael.  "On the first race today we did a wrong jibe and we rounded the mark fifth, closed the downwind leg 25th and finished 12th; it was a difficult race for us.  Second race of the day started well, we rounded the mark first and protected the position.  While fighting with Xavier Rohart we managed to keep a good gap with the rest of the field.  Overall we're happy because competition is tough and we're competing against Augie Diaz who is a local sailor and I believe has the home advantage."
Diaz, with crew Arnis Baltins, is just three points out of first place and knows winning this championship will come down to more than local knowledge.

"The first race was difficult, but we managed to do well," said Diaz of the win of today's first race. "We had better opportunities and with a little bit of luck we were able to round the weather mark third and then take the lead to the end. Second race of the day was more challenging because we decided to go on the right side of the course while the wind went left; I'm therefore happy with a 10th place. I have a lot of respect for Lars because he is very good in all conditions and in all venues.  I don't think I have a big edge by being local; really not as big an edge as he might think I have."

Third overall are the defending champions Xavier Rohart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot (FRA), who placed 6-2 today, a strong recovery from yesterday's finish of 25.  They carry eight points and are followed in fourth by the Italian team of Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen whose scoreline of 13-3-9 totals 12 points. Rounding out fifth in the standings is Irish Olympian Peter O'Leary and Rodney Hagebols who have 13.5 points after finishes of 2.5-36-11.

The Italian team of Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen are fourth overall with three races scored.

Racing for the Star class resumes tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6.  Starting on Thursday, March 7, the Stars will be joined on Biscayne Bay by sailors in the Viper 640, Audi Melges 20, and Melges 24 classes, along with the J/70 class which makes its event debut.  Racing, for all classes, will conclude on Saturday, March 9

Published in Olympic

#bacardicup – Royal Cork and Baltimore's Peter O'Leary is heading for Florida and Bacardi Cup next week where he lines up against some of his London 2012 Olympic rivals for the first time since Weymouth.

The Star keelboat however is no longer an Olympic class and the prospects of its reinstatement appeared premature this week. In Miami O'Leary will be crewed by former training partner Rodney Hagebols.

This time last year, and the Olympics just months away, O'Leary and Burrows launched a new Star boat for Bacardi Cup and although the Irish pair were one time regatta leaders they were pipped for a second year running by a French team for overall honours.

Headlining a week-long one design regatta, headquartered in Coconut Grove, is the 86th Bacardi Cup. Among the 62 Star teams registered are some of the storied class's most notable.  Leading the lineup are 2012 Star World Champions Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (France), who are also the BACARDI Cup defending champions.  They will face, among others, 1992 Finn Silver medalist Brian Ledbetter (Medina, Wash.) who has teamed with Canadian 2012 Olympian Tyler Bjorn; 2009 Star World Champion George Szabo (San Diego) sailing with Miami's Magnus Liljedahl, the 2000 world champion and Olympic Gold Medalist; two-time ('08, '12) Olympian Peter O'Leary (Ireland) with Rodney Hagebols (Australia); Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.); and two-time ('88, '96) Tornado Olympic Medalist Lars Grael (Rio de Janeiro, BRA.

Racing for the Star class gets underway on Monday, March 4.

Starting on Thursday, March 7, the Stars will be joined on Biscayne Bay by sailors in the Viper 640, Audi Melges 20, and Melges 24 classes, along with the J/70 class which makes its event debut.  Racing, for all classes, will conclude on Saturday, March 10.

More information here

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UPDATE: The governing body for the Star class is reporting that the earlier news of its reinstatement in the Olympics for 2016 is still "just a rumour".

In a statement, International Star Class Yacht Racing Association (ISCYRA) president Bill Allen said that while the Olympic committee in Brazil "may request an 11th medal for sailing", no decision has yet been made and likely will not be made until summer at the earliest.

"The spreading of rumours concerning Olympic status does not help our position," he added, saying he would inform Star class membership with any new developments as and when they arise.

#Rio2016 - Ireland's Star sailors Peter O'Leary and David Burrows could have another shot at Olympic gold in Rio if the latest news from the IOC is to be believed.

Sailing Anarchy reports that "the ink is dry" on an agreement to secure a place for the Star class in the sailing schedule at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The move is thanks to a "quirk" in IOC regulations that allow the host country of any Olympic Games to add an event of their own choosing, provided the hosts cover the costs.

And with local sailing duo Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada in the Star's top ranks - claiming the bronze in London 2012 - the return of the class certainly seems a no-brainer.

The only question remaining now is whether O'Leary and Burrows - who finished 10th in the class at Weymouth last summer - want to go for gold one more time in Rio!

Published in Olympics 2012
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