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22 January 2009, 10:03 am
Top Teams Tackle Tricky Conditions at Acura Key West
Barking Mad at the 2008 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship
Barking Mad, pictured at the 2008 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, has seized the lead in the Farr 40 event

Acura Key West Race Week 2009

Day three of Acura Key West 2009, presented by Nautica, brought some tricky conditions that challenged tacticians on all three courses.
While many of the series leaders stayed on top of the situation and further increased their advantage, there was a notable shakeup in the standings in the professional-laden Farr 40 class.

Mascalzone Latino, the Italian entry owned by Vincenzo ONORATO, had one of those days every sailor dreads. After winning three of the initial four races, Mascalzone Latino suffered a ninth and a 10th on Wednesday and dropped to third in the overall standings. A pair of poor starts, including an on-course-side in race six, had the three-time World Champions playing catch-up all day and that was a real challenge in the tough conditions.

Heavy air with significant oscillations and northeasterly winds that gusted between 12 and 18 knots included shifts of 20 to 40 degrees. While Key West was not in a deep freeze like much of the country, temperatures were definitely below normal. Barking Mad, owned by Jim RICHARDSON (USA), clearly handled the conditions well and posted a first and a second on Wednesday to produce a 16-point swing on Mascalzone Latino - going from six points behind to 10 points ahead.

"Mascalzone Latino had been sailing really well so it was a little surprising they had such a rough day. It was gusty with huge shifts so it was easy to get out of phase," said RICHARDSON, who captured Farr 40 class at Acura Key West for the first time in 11 attempts a year ago. "We were fortunate enough to have two solid races today. Conditions were very tricky, but we were patient enough and sailed well enough to get to the top mark at the front of the fleet and then were able to sail our own race."

Joe Fly, an Italian entry owned by Giovanni MASPERO, also posted a first and a second on Wednesday and moved into second place in the overall standings - eight points behind Barking Mad.

"We got great starts and were able to sail the shifts instead of the fleet, which makes a huge difference," said tactician Francesco BRUNI, who felt the team did a terrific job of bouncing back from a tough Tuesday that produced placements of fifth and ninth. "Our sail setup was better today and our way of trimming was more aggressive."

Joe Fly narrowly missed winning the World Championship last year, but was a disappointing 19th out of 25 entries at Acura Key West. "This has never been a good regatta for our team so it would be very rewarding to win," BRUNI said.

There was a change atop the leader board in IRC 2 as well with the newly-launched King 40 Soozal replacing the Mills 43 Cool Breeze. This is the first regatta for owner Dan WOOLERY aboard his new boat, but the crew is clearly figuring her out quickly as Soozal has finished first or second in four of six races. Soozal's performance earned Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day honours as winner of the day's most competitive class. WOOLERY, from Port Richmond, California, steered the Mark MILLS design to a first and a second on Wednesday.

"There were big wind shifts and huge velocity changes so you really had to be alert," said Pete MCCORMICK, main trimmer aboard Soozal. "It was one of those days when everything clicked. Robbie HAINES, our tactician, did a great job calling the shifts and the crew work was amazing."

UKA UKA Racing and Star continue to dominate the Melges 24 and 32 classes, respectively. Skipper Lorenzo BRESSANI (ITA) led UKA UKA Racing to a first and a second on Wednesday and the reigning World Champs now hold a commanding 12-point lead over Blu Moon (Franco ROSSINI, Switzerland). UKA UKA Racing has won four of six races, a remarkable feat in the highly-competitive Melges 24 class. Skipper Jeff ECKLUND (USA) and his team aboard Star also picked up their fourth victory of the week on Wednesday. However, a 10th suffered in race three combined with superb sailing from the British boat Red has ECKLUND clinging to a narrow three-point lead in the overall standings.

"The points are still too close for comfort. We gave away a few points by losing some boats and finishing fifth in the second race today," said ECKLUND, a Fort Lauderdale resident who is defending Melges 32 champion at Acura Key West 2009. "Red has always been fast and now that they have Morgan calling tactics they are going in the right direction. We just have to continue sailing consistently and make sure we don't make any costly mistakes."

With four-time defending champion Masquerade not competing this year, the J/105 class is suddenly wide-open and has seen a new leader every day. Max Power, skippered by Gerrit SCHULZE (USA), won both races on Wednesday to take over first place via tiebreaker. Eclipse, the opening day leader owned by Damian EMERY (USA), also has 14 points, but fewer first place finishes.

"Today our tactician had the course figured out from a global perspective. We wanted to start at the pin end and go toward the beach as far as possible. We were able to accomplish that goal and didn't get engaged with any one competitor," said SCHULZE, whose brother Stefan serves as team strategist. Tangent, the Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry TAYLOR (USA), had its string of four consecutive first place finishes in PHRF 3 come to an end. L'Outrage, a Beneteau 10-meter skippered by fellow Annapolis resident Bruce GARDNER (USA), posted a pair of bullets on Wednesday and closed the gap on Tangent to just one point. John STORCK's Rumor has won five of six races in J/80 class while Robert ARMSTRONG's J/100 Good Girl has done the same in PHRF 2.

Race Week News, Results and more at www.Premiere-Racing.com

Bill Wagner
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