Things couldn't be tighter than they are in the Melges 32 class, where Star and Red are tied with 30 total points apiece. Star, owned by Jeff ECKLUND (USA), led the 20-boat class at the end of the initial three days, but suffered a pair of double digit results on Thursday. That enabled Red, skippered by Joe WOODS of Great Britain, to make up a three-point deficit. Tactician Morgan REESER (USA) gave a gutsy performance by sailing both races with a dislocated shoulder as Red posted a pair of eighths on Thursday. Meanwhile, Star suffered an 11th and a 13th, latter of which it was able to throw out. Star technically still holds the lead by virtue of tiebreaker based on winning more races than Red.
"It has been a curious day - almost brilliant, almost disastrous," WOODS said after arriving at the dock. "Ultimately, it was a decent day and we were able to close the gap on Jeff."
REESER, a two-time Olympian, is relatively new as tactician aboard Red as this is just his third event with the British team. He suffered the shoulder injury during race seven and had the dislocation reset by an on-water medic. However, it dislocated again and REESER was taken to the hospital after racing.
"Knowing Morgan, I am guessing that he will be sailing on the boat tomorrow," WOODS said. Red was leading the Melges 32 class going into the fifth and final day last January and was overtaken by Star. WOODS is hoping for a reversal of fortunes this year. "We'll see if we can finish it off and come away with the win this time," he said.
Farr 40, another professional-laden class, is also totally up for grabs with two races remaining. Barking Mad, which entered Thursday with a seemingly comfortable eight-point cushion, finished last in the 12-boat fleet in race eight. Skipper Jim RICHARDSON (USA) and crew still hold a one-point lead over Mascalzone Latino, the three-time defending World Champion owned by Vincenzo ONORATO of Napoli, Italy. "We rounded the first weather mark in second place, but we went backward from there. It was just a matter of poor boat positioning," said tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA), who blamed himself for the poor result. "What's disappointing is that we had an opportunity to go into tomorrow with a certain comfort level."
RICHARDSON won the Farr 40 class at Acura Key West for the first time in 11 attempts last year and is hoping to retain that title. Another threat is Joe Fly, owned by Giovanni MASPERO of Como, Italy, which is just three points out of the lead.
There was much rejoicing aboard Nanoq as the Danish entry pulled into its berth at the Schooner Wharf. HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark hoisted a beer with crew members to celebrate winning a race in Farr 40 class for the first time in three appearances at Acura Key West.
Prince Frederik got a great start, got lifted by a favourable shift and both upwind legs, rounded the second windward mark in first and held the lead on the finishing run. His best previous finish was a fourth last year.
"It was great sailing today and it felt good to win a race. That is always difficult in this class because it is so competitive with so many good sailing teams," Prince Frederik said. "We have learned a lot and improved quite a bit by coming to this regatta. This result is nice, but we still have a long way to go."
Melges 24, largest class in the regatta with 33 boats and packed with professionals like the Farr 40 and Melges 32, also has not been decided. UKA UKA Racing, the Italian entry skippered by Lorenzo BRESSANI (ITA), has sailed superbly and led at the end of each day's action. UKA UKA Racing counts four bullets and a pair of seconds in seven races and holds a seven-point lead that is solid but not safe.
"We have not won this regatta yet. There will be another two races tomorrow so we cannot sleep well tonight," BRESSANI said. "Seven points is a good margin, but not unbeatable. Blu Moon is our top competition so we will probably match race with them."
Swan 42 class has been closely contested throughout the week with three different boats holding the lead upon conclusion of each day's racing. Arethusa, skippered by Phil LOTZ (USA), was the latest to move into first - posting a first and a third on Thursday to overtake Jon HALBERT (USA) and Vitesse. Arethusa holds a one-point lead over Vitesse while first and second day leader Celeritas (Malcolm GEFTER of Newport, USA) is just four points astern.
"The fleet has been very, very tight. All six boats have been clumped together at most of the mark roundings," LOTZ said. "It really is anybody's regatta at this point. It's hard to think about covering anybody at this point. We just have to go out and sail our own race."
There is a tie in PHRF 4 between Lightning Rod and fellow S2 9.1 Elysium. Both boats have won four races so the tiebreaker went to the number of second place finishes and Lightning Rod, skippered by David EAMES (USA), has three compared to just one for Elysium (John NEVIN of Milford, USA). John STORCK Jr. and his team aboard Rumor have been spectacular in J/80 class, winning six of eight races thus far. Racing was particularly tight on Thursday and Rumor was rewarded with the Lewmar Boat of the Day award. Robert ARMSTRONG (ISV) continued his impressive performance in PHRF 2 aboard the J/100 Good Girl. The St Croix resident has reeled off seven straight bullets since finishing second in race one.
Action in this 10-race series concludes Friday, which is Acura Day.
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