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19 January 2005, 10:01 am
The World Has Come to Key West to Win
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Key West Race Week 2005
Key West, Florida, USA

Walk around the docks at Key West 2005, presented by Nautica, and you'd think you were being bombarded by a battalion of Berlitz instructors. Original or reflected in accented English, the phenomenon is as much a part of the Conch Republic atmosphere this week as the 20-knot-plus northerly winds sweeping the four race courses.
Consider: The Farr 40 leader after three of nine scheduled races is Dutchman Peter DE RIDDER'S Mean Machine, which swapped wins on Tuesday with German runner-up Hasso PLATTNER, each with a New Zealand tactician, Tom DOTSON and Russell COUTTS, respectively.

The PHRF-1 class's undefeated leader is Japanese industrialist Makoto UEMATSU'S Transpac 52, Esmeralda, with America's Ken READ calling tactics for Uematsu and alternate helmsman Tom LIHAN.

The Melges 24 leader is Philippe KAHN'S Pegasus 575, driven by San Diego's Bill HARDESTY, with Sweden's Freddy LÖÖF and America's 48-year-old Olympic golden boy, Kevin BURNHAM, on the crew. At 1-6-1, they're one point ahead of Italy's Maspero GIOVANNI'S Joe Fly, with Gabrio ZANDONA driving and American Morgan LARSON as tactician.

Kahn, meanwhile, a native of France long settled in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Hawaii, is driving his Farr 40-Pegasus 80808-in fourth place, which combined with Peg 575's score puts the USA West team in first place in the International Team Competition for the Nautica Trophy.

And, finally, this personal note: John KOSTECKI of San Francisco, who skippered a Volvo Ocean Race victory for Germany's illbruck team in 2001-02, is calling tactics on Michael BRENNAN'S Sjambok from Newport, R.I. Mean Machine's floater is Anne Marie KOSTECKI, his wife since May 22, 2003. 'We met during the '97-98 Whitbread,' Kostecki said, 'in La Rochelle, France.'

All six Swan 45 owners list US home ports-but the boats are built by Nautor Swan in Finland. Alice MARTIN'S sky blue Painkiller from Chicago, with Great Britain's Chris LAW at her side, shares the lead with Andrzej ROJEK'S Better Than, from Newport, R.I., although Painkiller was facing a pair of protest hearings later Tuesday night.

Martin, who hadn't raced the boat before this week, is becoming comfortable at the helm, as she demonstrated with a 1-2 Tuesday. Although the wind was somewhat lighter than Monday, she said, 'The waves were bigger today. It's harder to drive when [the wind is] lighter. We left the dock a little earlier today and did some jibing practice, and we had perfect jibes all day.'

For Plattner, 4-1-4 so far, Key West 2005 is a major step toward the Farr 40 Worlds in Sydney in March. Coutts will continue with the team through that event, then switch to Plattner's maxZ86 for the Centennial Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii in July. 'We're trying to do all the little things better,' Plattner said, smiling. 'We're sailing well, but it's only been two days.' Coutts said, 'Hasso was driving very well. We had good speed, I think we learned something about our downwind sails Monday.'

Esmeralda is one of five TP52s having their way in PHRF-1 with five big handicap boats, including Daniel MEYERS' Farr 60, Numbers, from Newport, R.I. with five Kiwi members of Alinghi's America's Cup crew on board. The TP52s are first, second, third, sixth and seventh, with Tom HILL's R/P 75 Titan 12 and Numbers fourth and fifth.

Numbers tactician Brad BUTTERWORTH noted, 'We do pretty well with the 52s upwind, but when they turn downwind they're gone.' Read said, 'I think we have the boat dialled in. We've had pretty much the same crew going on two years now. It makes it good from a tactical standpoint because you can do anything you want to do and it works-and it doesn't hurt being fast.'

Titan 12 has easily finished first in all three races but owes everyone handicap time, which sometimes makes it difficult to cover its rivals from so far ahead. Crew member Jim ALSOPP said, 'We just cover our lunch.'

After Tuesday's Melges 24 racing Giovanni was laid out on the dock while a crew member massaged his injured left knee. Otherwise, he felt no pain after dodging disaster in the second race to wind up 1-3.

'We thought we might be over early at the start,' he said, 'but when they spoke our number on the radio we heard [bow number] '32,' not '42.' So we kept going until we were about 100 meters upwind and they called it again. Then we went back [to re-start] and passed the first windward mark in 35th place [out of 58 boats]. We were very happy to finish third.'

Mean Machine is sailing with something of a pickup crew. 'A lot of the amateur crew members are in school now,' Jon GUNDERSON said, 'and the bowman's wife just had a baby.'

The new bowman, Jeff REYNOLDS, brother of main trimmer Matt REYNOLDS, formerly sailed on John KILROY'S Samba Pa Ti. He said, 'We had good speed and good crew work. But there are some tough boats here. [Jim RICHARDSON'S] Barking Mad is the world champ, Mark REYNOLDS is on Pegasus, Russell COUTTS on Morning Glory. Any one of several boats could win.'

Results are available on the event website via the link below.

Tuesday's weather: Wind 21 knots from 020-015.

Wednesday's forecast: Wind N-NE 15 knots.

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Event Media
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