Race Week sets sail with record numbers
By DORAN CUSHING
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
Overriding their 300-boat limit, organizers have accepted a record 327 entries for the 14th annual Yachting Key West Race Week.
It sails Jan. 15-19 in the waters south of Key West.
Included in the record turnout for what has become the premier sailing event in the United States are more than 12 entries from the Tampa Bay area or boats racing with local crew aboard.
With the huge turnout -- an increase of 66 boats from the Y2K regatta -- came changes in the course layouts.
To reduce congestion on the busy three-course configuration, event director Peter Craig of Premiere Racing, Inc., elected to add a fourth course and shift the mix of the fleets.
The new course, situated to the west of the existing circles and west of the main shipping channel leading into Key West, will handle the 38-boat Farr 40 Class and the 31-boat Mumm 30 fleet.
In a major departure from past years, when the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) entries sailed with event-mandated crew limits based on the size of the boats, Key West Race Week officials have abandoned limits to the number of crew allowed onboard and replaced them with crew-weight limitations.
Teams will not be required to weigh in, and compliance will be handled by an honor system among the competitors.
Crew weight can become a critical factor in sailboat racing when the stronger wind conditions require crew weight -- "rail meat" in sailing terms -- to be strategically seated on the windward edge, or rail, of the boats.
For a 30-foot boat, the weight limit of 1,260 pounds translates into a likely crew of 6-8 sailors.
Local sailmakers will have a presence at Key West aboard boats that are raced nationally and internationally.
Ethan Bixby of St. Petersburg will crew aboard the Greek-based Farr 40 Atalanti XI, which is defending its one-design class championship at Key West. Mark Ploch of Clearwater is expected to crew aboard the Puerto Rico-based Farr 40 Titan.
Kuli Kulinichenko of Tampa will crew aboard the Rhode Island-based CM 60 Rima in the feeder race from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Jan. 11 and during the race week. Among the boats that race in the Tampa Bay area and will be competing at Key West are Jeff Gale's B-32 Abbey Normal, Michael Carroll's Henderson 30 New Wave, Bill Rogner's Melges 24 Hurricane, Richard Gress' O'Day 40 Mother Ocean, Donald Fretz's B-25 Bedrbe and Frank McCarthy's Melges 24 Gang of Four. Other entries are Jack Vines' Antrim 27 Rasta Dog, Allen Thompson's J/120 Solar Express, Joe Blouin's 1D-35 Storyville and Gordon Schiff's Mumm 36 The Wall.
Competition at this regatta has been notoriously tough in past years, and many of the top names in U.S. and international racing are expected back.
The format for Yachting Key West Race Week calls for a total of eight races during the five-day event.
The prevailing breezy conditions are part of the attraction of this international regatta. It may be a party scene each night in the city, but regional and professional sailors can expect to spend five to seven physically-tough and mentally-demanding hours on the water each day.
Some of the international sailors who won't be competing at Key West have just begun a race that offers several contradictions and life-threatening conditions.
They are the most expensive modern multihulls built, but they're racing for zero prize money. The boats are the largest multihulls to gather in one place, but the event has a name that couldn't be any shorter -- The Race. Six monster catamarans, the largest being adventurist Steve Fossett's 125-foot PlayStation, left Barcelona, Spain, on New Year's Eve in a non-stop, no holds barred, no limits race around the world.
First boat to the finish at Marseilles, France, wins after sailing around the world's most treacherous capes and through the most dangerous waters. Some naysayers are predicting there won't be any finishers.
One boat, the radically designed Team Philips English entry, never made it to Spain. It was lost at sea on a qualifying run after the crew was forced to abandon the boat, which suffered structural damage during a storm.
Subsequent electronic tracking and air searches failed to locate the boat, but the crew was rescued in an emergency rendezvous with a freighter. Fossett is perhaps best known for his quest for world records in hot air balloons and small jets, but the Chicago-based commodities billionaire has logged numerous speed and distance records aboard PlayStation and other multihulls in preparation for The Race.
Florida's contribution to the list of sailing professionals competing in this pioneering event is Olympian Randy Smyth of Ft. Walton Beach.
Smyth joined the Team Adventure crew, which is skippered by New Englander Cam Lewis. The Team Adventure design -- 110 feet long, 60 feet wide and with a 150-foot mast -- is similar to Club Med (skippered by Grant Dalton) and Code One (with co-skippers Loick Peyron and Skip Novac).
Each of these three sister ships were made in France by the same builder.
Two older cats have made the starting line and, based on their longer history of sailing survival, may turn out to be the favorites. Team Legato, with veteran ocean racer Tony Bullimore at the helm, previously held the record for navigating the globe under the name ENZA.
At 90 feet, Polpharma-Warta (ex Commodore Explorer) is the smallest and oldest boat in The Race. A former record-holder for circling the world, the Polish entry is skippered by Roman Paszke.
With moderate wind conditions during the first 24 hours of The Race, the leading boats, Team Adventure and PlayStation, posted average speeds around 15 knots.
CHAMP IN CLEARWATER: Noted small boat champion Greg Fisher of Columbus, Ohio, will speak at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Sand Key on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.
The event, which is open to the public at no charge, will be hosted by the Windjammers of Clearwater sailing club.
Fisher, a sailmaker by profession, has won more than 12 national sailing titles in one-design fleets.
For more information, contact Mike Roberts, (727) 582-9023. The sailing center is located on Gulf Boulevard just south of the Clearwater Pass Bridge.
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