This little capital of the Conch Republic is back to normal now, returned to the ambience of pedicabs, Harleys, bicycles and roosters roving the rustic and historic streets.
It's a change of pace from the blizzard of boats that blew through for a perfectly wonderful week of Terra Nova Trading Key West 2004, presented by Nautica.
While much of the nation shivered, for five days it was the sailors' time to crow in consistently double digit winds that produced winners from five countries and 11 states coast to coast and allowed a Key West record number of nine races to be sailed. Conditions were so nice that there were moments when it looked like a swim meet. More on that later.
There were 301 boats in 10 one-design and 11 PHRF classes representing 18 countries and 32 states. Eighty were J Boats, sprinkled through both groups.
Underscoring the event's evolution into a global event through its 17 years, the big winner came from The Netherlands, and an epic human contest was played out between a young Frenchman and his much younger American adversary.
Peter De RIDDER, a 57-year-old Dutch investor who lives in Monaco, elbowed his way to the table and rolled the dice in the tough Farr 40 fleet, cashing out some world-class rivals with a one-point victory. That also earned him the Terra Nova Trading Trophy as "Boat of the Week" for winning the most competitive class and a share of the Nautica Trophy in the International Team Competition.
His 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,"
De Ridder said.
He has sailed most of his life on boats called Mean Machine, but he wasn't taken seriously as a contender. After all, when he had to drive his boat a year earlier in Key West---that's the class rule---he finished 15.
"I'd never helmed a boat at this high a level,"
he said. "We improved during the year, and here we started low key and sneaked into second place [the next to last day] with a fourth and a second---and all of a sudden we're tied with Barking Mad."
In the last race, Jim Richardson's perennial entry from Newport, R.I. chased him all the way to the finish line for second overall.
Mean Machine's tactician, Ray DAVIES of New Zealand, said, "I've done a lot of sailing with Peter, including the Admiral's Cup we won in '99. But this is huge. To win in a fleet like this is a special achievement."
Sebastian COL also sneaked up on people. While most observers tried to pick a Melges 24 winner from among several former world champions, including 14-year-old Samuel (Shark) KAHN of Santa Cruz and Hawaii, Col drove Philippe LIGOT'S P&P Sailing Team from La Rochelle back from a 59-point premature start penalty on Day 1 to a four-point win over the California prodigy, whose father Philippe wound up sixth.
As Kahn ran away from the fleet at mid-week, it was easy to overlook that Col, sailing consistently well and quietly, would be able to discard those 59 points after seven races and reel the Shark in decisively. In the final race Kahn passed Col on the beat to the finish for his third consecutive win and fourth overall, but he needed four boats between them.
Col said, "We wanted to stay close to Shark the whole time. 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."
Philippe KAHN said it was still a good week for Team Pegasus. "Without the throwouts, he [Shark] wins the regatta,"
he said. "But the French deserved to win. They're a great team."
The first five boats represented as many countries.
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 entries won races but he won three.
"Boat of the Day" honours were awarded to those that prevailed in the class with the most competitive racing each day. California entrants were recognized the first four days: Philippe KAHN (Melges 24), Santa Cruz, on Nautica Day Monday; John MACLAURIN'S Pendragon V (Farr 40), Los Angeles, on City of Key West Day Tuesday; Roger STURGEON'S Transpac 52, Rosebud (PHRF 1), San Francisco, on Mount Gay Rum Day Wednesday, and Tom COATES' Masquerade (J/105), on Lewmar Day Thursday.
Rumour, John STORCK Jr.'s J/80 from Huntington, N.Y. was Terra Nova Trading Boat of the Day for winning Friday's finale, which earned him fourth place overall.
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. Colin ANDREW'S Trumpeter, one of six C&C 99 entries from central Canada in this 11-boat class, 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. Seven-time Soling world champion Jorgen JOHNSSON steered So Far while 17-year-old Brian SMITH distinguished himself as tactician.
Some sailors also worked on their freestyles. Three hard-hiking crew members fell off a Farr 40 when their lifeline gave way at the start, and America's Cup star Peter HOLMBERG took a dive when Tom Hill's R/P 75, Titan, the biggest boat in the event, shrimped its spinnaker with a sheet wrapped around his left ankle. Two days earlier Titan bowman Ken NEVOR also went overboard in a similar incident. All were recovered safely.
Philippe KAHN summed up the general feeling afterward when he said, "It's a great event---a perfect regatta. The race committee did a great job. Starting 58 Melges 24s isn't easy. They talk on the radio and explain everything to you. It's awesome. It's the greatest regatta in North America."
Title Sponsor, Terra Nova Trading, L.L.C. (member NASD, SIPC & PCX), is recognized as an innovative leader in Electronic Direct Access Trading. The Chicago-based firm enables customers to electronically route orders to major markets and ECNs. Terra Nova Trading's technology partner, Townsend Analytics, Ltd., is the developer of the premier real-time trading platform, RealTick(r), which is also a Key West sponsor.
Nautica was the Presenting Sponsor. Their high fashion eyewear and elegant timepieces were awarded to each day's Boat of the Day, class champions, and the top three teams in the International Team Competition.
Mount Gay Rum, Lewmar, Samson Rope Technologies, Pearson Yachts, Raymarine and the Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council rounded out the official line-up. The Historic Seaport was the Official Site for the event. The Performance Sailing Industry Partner Program, now in its third year, features 26 companies that have made a multi-year commitment to the event.
Full results and lists of prizewinners are available on the event website at the address below.
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