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16 January 2007, 10:20 am
A Day Fit For A King
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Acura Key West 2007
Key West, Florida, USA

Solid winds, sunny skies and warm temperatures ushered in Acura Key West 2007, presented by Nautica. Those factors resulted in a glorious start for a fleet of 260 boats, which for the first time in the 20 year history of the regatta is believed to include visiting royalty.
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HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, a member of the ISAF Events Committee, made his Key West debut in the talent-laden Farr 40 class and came away very impressed with the competition and conditions he found off the Conch Republic. An easterly breeze that held firm around 10-12 knots, enabled organizers to open the five-day regatta with two races for all 17 classes.

'This is a fantastic location for racing. The sailing conditions are excellent in every way with the great weather, stable winds and fairly flat water,' Prince Frederik said.

Second Season In Farr 40s

Prince Frederick, 38, has been involved with competitive sailing for six years now, starting in the Dragon one-design class. This is the second season in the ultra competitive Farr 40 class for His Royal Highness, who acquitted himself well by placing ninth out of 17 boats in race 1 on Monday.

'We have struggled with our speed in the past and finally today was the first time we were able to find that extra gear and stay with the lead boats,' he said.

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe BEKKING (NED) is calling tactics for Prince Frederik aboard Nanoq, which is the Eskimo word for polar bear. The Crown Prince blamed some tactical mishaps for a 13th place finish in race 2.

Having been involved with such athletic hobbies as skiing, tennis and jogging, Prince Frederik has found sailing to be an ideal outlet for his competitive side.

'The fact I can sail only a few weeks out of the year and still have an opportunity to compete against the real rock stars of the sailing world is very exciting, a real adrenalin rush,' he said.

Alinghi Into The Lead

One of the rock stars to which the prince was referring is Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL), who has won the America's Cup three times in a row. BUTTERWORTH is serving as tactician aboard Alinghi, which seized the early lead in Farr 40 class with a first and a second on Monday.

Syndicate head Ernesto BERTARELLI (SUI) has four members of his America's Cup team aboard his Farr 40 for this regatta and an opposing skipper said Alinghi's crew work was impeccable.

'As usual in this sport, the team that makes the fewest mistakes tends to win. Alinghi is awesome in that regard. Their tacks are crisp, their mark roundings are sharp and that ultimately grinds you down,' said John DEMOURKAS (USA), skipper of second place Groovederci.

Alinghi, which leads Groovederci by four points, was presented with the Nautica Watches Boat of the Day award.

Veteran pro Jeff MADRIGALI (USA) is calling tactics for fellow Californian DEMOURKAS (Santa Barbara), who is still chasing his first major victory in Farr 40.

Starts Key

'Jeff did a great job of getting us out of the blocks today. Our starts were fantastic and Jeff was picking the shifts real well,' DEMOURKAS said. 'It's comforting to put up two good results early, but we have to keep our nose to the grindstone in order to stay in contention.'

Numbers, a Carroll Marine 60 footer skippered by Dan MEYERS (USA) of Newport, R.I., is the early pacesetter in IRC 1, which features the eight largest entries at Acura Key West 2007. MEYERS has a star-studded crew that includes America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans Hamish PEPPER (NZL), tactician, Erle WILLIAMS (USA), trimmer and Jerry KIRBY (USA), bow.

I'm fortunate to have a group of really good guys who all perform their jobs at a high level, which makes my job easy,' said MEYERS, who won race 1 going away then tacked on a second in race 2. 'Hamish just won the Star Worlds so we're happy he joined the team. This is our first time sailing together, but our chemistry seems pretty good.'

This is MEYERS' 15th appearance in Key West and Monday's action provided a snapshot of why he keeps coming back.

'It would be difficult to find a nicer day for racing. The weather was beautiful and as usual the professional on-water organization was the highlight of the day,' he said. 'This committee always gets races off on time and runs square courses. It's good fair sailing.'

Joe Fly Lead Melges

Skipper Giovanni MASPERO (ITA) and crew aboard Joe Fly got off to a terrific start in Melges 24, thw largest class in the regatta with 47 entries. Helmsman Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA) and tactician Daniele CASSINARI (ITA) were in sync throughout while the crew work was flawless.

'This was a very, very good day for us. It's fantastic to begin a major regatta such as Key West with a first and a second,' ZANDONA said. 'We had very good speed and the crew work was magnificent. Giovanni runs this programme like an America's Cup and that organization showed today.'

John KILROY (USA) is debuting his new Boltin & Carkeek designed Transpac 52 in Key West and the early returns were positive. Volvo veteran Stu BANNATYNE (NZL) called tactics as KILROY steered Samba Pa Ti to the early lead in IRC 2 with a first and a third.

'This is our first major regatta with this boat so we are still learning it. We're a little behind the curve, but we are certainly pleased with how we're progressing,' KILROY said. 'We wanted this to be an all-around boat for doing a combination of offshore and buoy racing and seems to be performing the way we hoped.'

Legend Celebrates 70th Birthday

One of the true legends of the sport celebrated his 70th birthday at Acura Key West 2007. Rod JOHNSTONE (USA) is the founder and creative force behind J/Boats, a popular series of performance one-designs that comprise a whopping 31% of the 260 boat fleet.

JOHNSTONE is sailing one of his company's designs - Loose Fish, a J/120 owned by John NIEWENHOUS (USA).

'Those of us from the northeast tend to do better toward the end of the week after a few days of warm up,' said JOHNSTONE, who was delighted to become a septuagenarian on the opening day of Key West. 'This is the best place to go for sailing. We had our ups and downs, but there were perfect conditions today.'

Three generations of JOHNSTONEs are here this week with Rodney's granddaughter Rachel and son Jeff (current president of J/Boats) sailing on the J/92 Polar Express.

The Acura Grand Prix Awards - presented to the combined class winners of Acura Key West and the Acura Miami Grand Prix (on 8-11 March 2007) are destined to become some of the most sought after trophies on the international racing circuit. Perpetual awards are in the offing to the Farr 40, Mumm 30, Melges 32 and IRC big boat classes.

TV and Internet Productions will bring the racing excitement right into homes and offices around the world. Acura will sponsor a special daily internet production which will be available nightly on the official event web site and ESPN.com. Additionally a special Jobson Sailing production will be aired on ESPN 2, Sunday March 11 at 1:30 PM EST. View highlights from 2006 - applecart.tv/kw_preview.

Title Sponsor Acura is the Official Vehicle. Presenting Sponsor Nautica Watches is the Official Timekeeper. Day Sponsor Mount Gay® Rum is the Official Rum. Supporting sponsors are B&G (Official Marine Electronics), Everglades Boats (Official Mark Boat), Lewmar (Official Marine Hardware), New England Ropes (Official Rope), SLAM (Official Technical Gear), and Sperry Top-Sider (Official Footwear). Supplier Spaten is the Official Beer.

Acura Key West is also supported by The Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Council. The Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight is the Official Site.

Bill WAGNER (As Amended By ISAF). Image, It was a terrific opening day in Florida:© Tim Wilkes/www,timwilkes.com
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