GMC Yukon Yachting Key West
Race Week 2000
January 17 - 21, 2000
Key West (Fla.) January 16, 2000
— On Monday, dress rehearsals are officially over. There will be no more time
to imagine just how flawless your mark roundings could be with one more practice
session; there will be no more time to brag about your improved boat speed
without an actual line-up against your class; there will be no more time to
theorize about approaching highs and lows and whether the week will bring
smooth-water sailing or something that’s more akin to racing inside a washing
If you are reading this on the eve
of Race Week, before the 263-boat fleet from 12 nations entered in the 13th
annual GMC Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week leaves the docks for Race 1, you
know that every boat in this regatta still has star potential — which is
something the J/29 class seems to understand well.
J/29 racers arrive at Race Week
this year with some age-old wisdom, which is actually branded on a class
T-shirt: “Yacht racing is like dancing. Everyone is Fred Astaire until the
It’s time to put on your dancing
shoes. Monday is Showtime!
Every year, the buzz about this
regatta is that it’s one of the most competitive—and that’s on a global
scale. If you could measure the level of competition by charting the level of
adrenalin that will start flowing at Monday’s start and finish lines, then
you’d have a rogue-wave-sized spike to illustrate just how competitive this
Race Week truly is. But since we won’t be able to take that measure, consider
Assembled here on this
southernmost island are 28 Farr 40s; a 21-boat 1D35 class where competition is
expected to be brutal; two Farr 40 World Champions, one Mumm 30 World Champion,
and a two-time Melges 24 World Champion (even though he’s taken a job this
week as tactician on a longer stead); twenty-six Mumm 30s; boats like Idler who
know what the Champagne Mumm Admiral’s Cup is all about, and Farr 40 skippers
with visions of CMAC dancing in their heads; 45 Melges 24s; Olympic medal-plated
names like Robbie Haines, Jeff Madrigali, Adrian Stead, and Steve Benjamin;
recent one-designs like the J/105, which has more-than
doubled its Key West class size in the past year; seven returning class
champions from 1999, along with past Yachting Magazine Trophy winner Highland Fling.
will be only one other regatta going on in January that can match the intensity
and competition of Key West, and that’s the America’s Cup,” says
AmericaOne mainsail trimmer Terry Hutchinson, who’s sailed every Race Week
since 1991, save for this year’s.
Hutchinson and his Cup compatriots
will be missing from afterguards this week. But even those sailors mired in the
day-to-day job of chasing the Louis Vuitton Cup know there’s one place to look
in January to size up the competition: “As it is the first major international
event of the year, Key West sets the tone for the boats to watch in the coming
year,” says Hutchinson.
This year’s boats-to-watch run
the gamut in vintage: from the just-splashed Farr 52 One Design, owned by Geoff
and Mary Stagg, to designs with a few more seasons under their keels.
Scream joins the big boats in the IMS lineup. If you stack the IMS fleet by
LOA, the Carroll Marine 60s headline the class. Irvine
Laidlaw’s Farr-designed CM 60, with Laidlaw at the helm, will have company on
the race course with sistership Rima
and Scream, which is rumored to be
faster around the track than her bigger friends. The two CM 60s have sailed on
the same course in Caribbean events, but this is the first time they have a
chance to duke it out in short-course racing around the buoys.
In a non-CMAC year, the IMS class
is smaller than last year’s. Returnees from 1999 include George David’s N/M
50, with Britt Hughes calling tactics, and Bache Renshaw’s Virago, with
74-year-old Renshaw helming starts and Bermudian Star sailor Peter Bromby
focusing on downwind driving.
If owner/drivers are the trend on
the grand-prix frontlines, then this year’s IMS class follows suit. Just over
half the IMS boats are listed as being owner/driven, and a new award, the Lewmar
Marine Trophy, will recognize the top IMS Group 1 owner/driver at series end.
Because there is a single IMS class this year accommodating boats from 42 to 60
feet, Premiere Racing will also recognize the winner of the smaller band of IMS
boats with a separate trophy daily.
If fleets had lifespans, then
one-designs at Key West would be the adolescent going through big growth spurts.
In recent years, no other classes have nurtured the growth at Race Week more
than the one-designs.
But it’s not just the volume of
O/D competition: the quality has grown into the take-no-prisoners kind of
racing. In the 1D35 class in 1999, a graph of class leads in the early part of
the week had more of a roller coaster skew to it, before Pete du Pont emerged
victorious. During the past year in this class, other boats have taken their
turns at capturing titles: Dan Cheresh and the Extreme
crew are the National Champions; Owen Krantz’s Joss
won at the San Francisco Big-Boat series; and Kip Meadows and roXanne
are Season Champions. So whose turn is it for a win in the regatta that opens
the 2000 campaign?
“On any given day, there are a
number of boats that could step up to the plate and get the job done. . . The
competition will be pretty brutal in Key West,” said Cheresh, racing in the
21-boat class with tactician Hale Walcoff. That pattern could be the rule on O/D
courses this week.
Back in the fall of 1999, we
reported that the Farr 40s had potential to pull 25 boats to the starting line
in our Countdown publication. Well, we were wrong: They have come to the
island this year with 28 boats.
There are several known
quantities: among them, 1998 World Champion Jim Richardson and the Barking
Mad crew, 1999 World Champion John Kilroy with Samba Pa Ti, and second-place Worlds finisher Vincenzo Onorato from
Italy. But there are also new boats and programs from different continents that
have not raced against each other yet. “This will be a very, very competitive
fleet,” says Richardson. “The competition is going to be unbelievable: In
fact, it’s kind of scary.”
There are Farr 40 entries from
Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and the U.S., and Race
Week will be the first major class regatta on this side of the world since the
boat’s CMAC selection. According to Richardson, he does not think the strong
international presence is a direct result of the recent CMAC selection; “I
think it’s more a factor of Key West,” he says. “But watch out next year
[at Race Week]: I think you’ll
see a lot more international entries then.”
Within the space of a year, the
J/105s have more than doubled their numbers at Key West. In 1999, eight J/105s
started with eight Viper 830s: This year, with 18 boats, the J/105s have their
own playing field on Division 3. Included in that group are West Coast, East
Coast, and Great Lakes boats — and some have crews from Canada and the U.K.
onboard. This growth trend in this class is expected to climb: 30 J/105s are
predicted for this summer’s Boatscape.com Block Island Race Week.
J/80s return for the third year in
a row with their own O/D class. The J/80s this year gained their
international-class status, so while the fleet at Race Week 2000 is a U.S/Canada
class, that picture may change for Key West 2001. According to Greg Morash, who
won this class at Block Island this summer, the competition has deepened as
J/80s have gained more presence at national and regional events. Pulling the
class into the international arena and revising the class rules, he feels, will
help to tighten competition up even further.
On Monday, on the Mumm 30 starting
line, you’ll see boats from France, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Sound
like a World’s fleet? “. . . everyone will be stepping their programs up
this year, in preparation for the 2000 Worlds in Miami,” predicted reigning
World Champion Ed Collins: He was right. The Worlds may not be until November,
but there are sailors here in Key West getting a jump on their preparation.
The J/29s return to Key West with
a new, lower crew-weight limit of 1500 pounds (lowered from 1600). In 1999 the
J/29s had their own class for the first time at Race Week, and their 12-boat
showing helped support a kind of renaissance for this 1982-launched design. Over
the past year, the class has reinstated class officers and adopted class rules,
and the weight issue was something they looked at closely. The J/29s have slight
PHRF adjustments (6 seconds a mile maximum) to distinguish between masthead or
fractional rigs and inboards or outboards.
45 boats, Melges 24s once again bring the largest class to Race Week, with four
of the top-five finishers from last year returning. In 1999, class winner Brian
Porter and the second-place team of Dave Chapin and Scott Elliott entered the
eighth and final race of Race Week '99 tied in points; Porter edged Elliott out
in the final standings. But this week, things could be different. Although
two-time World Champion Vince Brun will be racing on a Farr 40, Argyle Campbell
and Harry Melges round out the top-five players returning for a shot at a Melges
1999, the Key West Trophy was awarded for the first time last year to recognize
the top PHRF boat at this regatta. “PHRF racers are truly the bedrock of this
regatta,” said Event Director Peter Craig. “For the first decade of this
event, they represented well over half of the fleet . . . Race Week would not be
the same without this impressive PHRF contingent.”
Each year, this fleet brings the
greatest diversity to the regatta, and some new designs will appear on PHRF
starting lines this week. Look for sailing legend Buddy Melges on the Melges 32, a
speed modification of the Melges 30 owned by Peter Nauert. The Melges and 13
other boats make up a sportboat class, including Henderson 30s, Chris and Trice
Bouzaid’s Thompson 30, a Melges 30, and a Synergy 1000.
40 Cincos owned by Californian Mike
Campbell, a design developed from the twin-foil, canting-keel prototype Red
Hornet, makes her East Coast debut at Race Week. Race Week veteran Bill
Alcott returns after a one-year hiatus, this time with his sled Equation,
which will do battle with George Collins' record-setting Chessie Racing (ex-Pyewacket).
For Collins, what’s most fun onboard is to “get in the groove and go
fast,” so he and Alcott and their respective crews will be sparring mates for
the week, going fast together and taking these two SC70s on a sport-course
other boats that may also stick together like proverbial glue are the Tartan
Tens Think Blue, owned by Gary Disbrow,
and Liquor Box, owned by Chuck Simon
and Bill Buckles. These two T-10s finished 2-3, respectively, in PHRF 5 last
year. This year, more Tartans join them.
T-10s might be considered the forerunner of the big-boat one-design movement in
evidence today, and their Great Lakes one-design fleets are big. T-10 owners
tried to lure more owners south this year, but they fell short of enough boats
for their own class. (But let’s hope those owners in places like Detroit and
Chicago and Toledo read the Key West weather
reports this week and start to think about next January in sunny Key West.) The
top Tartan Ten for the week, however, will still be recognized with a series
are several other one-design classes that did not have enough boats for their
own start. These boats will sail as small level bands within PHRF classes, and
their top finisher at series end will be recognized with a trophy. In addition
to the T-10s, these classes include the Antrim 27s, J/24s, J/125s, and Tripp
26s. With ten boats, the Henderson 30s will be recognized with a daily
first-place prize, and first and second for the series.
In the après-racing hours,
sailors and their families will have plenty to do. There are
attractions of Key West to visit, and then there’s one attraction
that’s in the don’t-miss category, because it only comes to town once a
year: the Race Week Reception Tent. Open
for business every night, your wrist bracelet gains you access to fun,
fraternity, refreshments, and music all week under the Big Top.
And at the afternoon panel
discussions under the Tent, you’ll hear experts talk about Key West tactics;
be entertained by Cam Lewis (on Monday) as he tells the story of his 110-cat
capable of 40 knots; on Wednesday hear and see the very latest on the Louis
Vuitton Series. Join the debate and help establish the PHRF crew-weight limits
for Key West 2001 on Thursday. And on Tuesday, if you’ve still got competitive
juices to burn after you’ve reached the docks, put your running shoes on and
join the annual Saucony 5K Road Race.
The buzz about Race Week is that,
yes, it’s competitive. But when you look around at the fleet that’s
assembled here, it’s evident that this is more than just a tough regatta in a
warm place. As Terry Hutchinson muses about the first Race Week he’ll miss
since ’91, he remembers Key West as, “. . . the
one regatta in the world where there is unbelievable one-design racing, the best
handicap racing — and the most fun.” But for Mumm 30 skipper Nelson
Stephenson, Race Week occupies a higher plane: “The thought of twenty-six
identical and well-sailed Mumm 30s on the starting line for five days in Key
West is as close to sailing Nirvana as most sailors will ever realize.”
For more information
Goss: (203) 453-2731, Fax (203) 453-3026, CynthiaGoss@compuserve.com
Craig: (781) 639-9545, Fax (781) 639-9171,
Key West Media Center Page