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24 January 2004, 10:02 am
Mean Machine? Where|d they come from?
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Key West Race Week
Key West, Florida

Upstaging the Farr 40 establishment, the way Peter De RIDDER cleaned house Friday at Terra Nova Trading Key West 2004, presented by Nautica, he'll be paying excess baggage charges on his way home to Monaco and The Netherlands.
The Dutch investor is a longtime presence in world sailing with a series of Mean Machine racers but a relative novice in the slambang Farr 40 class. "We started low key," he said, "sneaked into second place [Thursday] with a fourth and a second, and all of a sudden . . ."

Winners of the class. Terra Nova Trading Trophy Boat of the Week for winning the most competitive class. A share of the Nautica Trophy International Team Competition victory, courtesy of the presenting sponsor.

Mean Machine was paired with Kristian Nergaard's Melges 24, Baghdad, from Norway as the Europe B team, which outsailed nine other Farr 40-Melges 24 global alliances.

"All of that makes it a very big day for us," </>IDe Ridder said, as he popped a bottle for the ceremonial champagne shower of his crew.

The only race they won was the last one. Mean Machine was locked in the midst of five boats in the 23-boat fleet separated by only two points as they sailed out into a cotton patch of whitecaps for the last of nine races, a Key West record, over five days. The emerald seas were churned up by 15-knot winds gusting to 23 knots the strongest of a solid week of moderate to heavy breeze.

Kelly, Andrew CHENEY'S Beneteau First 10 from St. Petersburg, Fla., received the Lewmar Trophy as PHRF Boat of the Week for winning PHRF 9, where six of the 10 racers won races but he won three.

Rumor, John STORCK Jr.'s J/30 from Huntington, N.Y. was Terra Nova Trading Day Boat of the Day for winning Friday's finale, which earned fourth place overall.

France made a strong runner-up bid for the Nautica Trophy with Sebastian COL'S victory over 14-year-old Samuel (Shark) Kahn in the Melges 24s, although Kahn won his third race in a row Friday---but Erik MARIS' Twins 2 was too far back in the Farr 40s in 13.

Kahn, the current world champion, won four of nine races and led most of the week as Col, sailing Philippe Ligot's P&P Sailing Team entry, dragged a 59-point anchor around the course for jumping the starting line Monday. But when Col was able to discard that score after the seventh race, the contest turned around.

Kahn, now trailing by five points, did everything he could except put the necessary boats between himself and the Frenchman. He match-raced Col off the pin end of the line and chased him relentlessly around the seven-leg, 14-mile course until passing him on the last upwind beat to the finish to win by three boat lengths, with his father Philippe a close third to claim fifth place overall.

"We got 'em on a shift," Shark Kahn said. "They were down and we were up. Everybody hiked their butts off."

Col said, "We wanted to stay close to Shark the whole time. We wanted to finish in the top five. We started in the same position as Shark, and by the middle of the first beat we were in front and were able to sail our own course and focus on going fast."

Were the Kahns disappointed? Not much.

"That's pretty good, two boats in the top five," Philippe Kahn said. "The French sailed fast. Without the throwouts, he [Shark] wins the regatta. But the French deserved to win. They're a great team."

The conditions all week were such that most of the 3,000 sailors who worked 301 boats from 18 countries and 32 states were going home happy, no matter where they finished.

"The first run was a lot of fun," Kahn said, revelling in the surfing conditions. "We got four firsts. We were more consistent than we were in the Worlds. But the French won fair and square."

His father said, "It's a great event, a perfect regatta. The race committee did a great job. Starting 58 boats isn't easy. They talk on the radio and explain everything to you. It's awesome. It's the greatest regatta in North America."

Shark and Col have a certain bond, as well. Both speak French. Kahn's father, a software entrepreneur, grew up in France, as did his mother.

"I picked it up listening to my parents talk," Shark said.

Certainly, De Ridder had no complaints, in any language. His first Farr 40 experience was 15 place at Key West last year.

"I'd never helmed a boat at this high a level," he said. "At the start I was a little bit nervous but controlled. The tighter it gets the more I like it and the better I start. I like it when the pressure is on. We were right at the pin end and lifted [on the wind]."

Mean Machine and Marc Ewing's Riot, from Northeast Harbour, Maine, both fired off the pin, kept going left and partway up the beat were able to cross the fleet on port tack. Mean Machine passed Riot downwind to take the lead for keeps, then fought off Jim RICHARDSON'S Barking Mad, Newport, R.I., by about four boat lengths at the finish.

Barking Mad was second overall, ahead of Crocodile Rock, the Alexandra GEREMIA/Scott HARRIS defending champion from California that reached the last day with a one-point lead but finished seventh in the finale.

"We had an OK start, but it's tough sailing," said Harris, the helmsman. "The fleet has improved . . . more boats, better prepared. Look at the guys on the winning boat."

The winning lineup: De Ridder, helm; Ray DAVIES, tactician; Sander Van Der BORCH, bow; Dennis GOETHALS, pit; Eduard Van LIERDE, floater-grinder; Marieke POULIE, floater; Dirk De RIDDER (no relation to Peter), downwind trimmer; Matt REYNOLDS, main; Jon GUNDERSON, upwind trimmer; Rutger Van EEUWIJK, mast. Davies and Gunderson are New Zealanders, Reynolds is from San Diego and all the others are Dutch.

Seven different boats finished first in the nine Farr 40 races.

Rich BERGMANN'S Zuni Bear from San Diego, last year's Boat of the Week, repeated its J/105 victory, by a hair, in an all-California showdown with Tom Coates' onrushing Masquerade from San Francisco. Zuni Bear won four of six races, then slipped to 9-6-7 as Masquerade closed out the week 1-4-1. That left both with 28 points but Zuni Bear with more wins for the tiebreaker.

Swan 45 and C&C 99 one-design fleets were new on the scene. Six of the eight Swans won races, but consistency was key for Thomas Stark's RUSH (Reloaded), Newport, R.I., with Ed Baird as tactician.

Wally Hogan's Trumpeter, one of six C&C 99 entries from central Canada, won four of the nine races.

The Swan Performance Trophy went to So Far, Lawrence HILLMAN'S Swan 48 from Chicago, for its consistent dominance in PHRF 8, where it was first or second in seven races.

Trimarans were introduced to the event two years ago and reached new heights this time. Bob and Doug HARKRIDER, hardcore Corsair 28R campaigners from Augusta, Ga., won four races to prevail over the Freudenberg/Hudgins Condor, Sewall's Point, Fla., and Ken Winters' Rocketeer II, Miami Beach, which had Randy Smyth on the tiller.

The new Corsair 24 class was won by Robert Remmers, sailing Breaking Wind from Buda, Tex.

Full results are available on the event website at the address below.
Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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