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18 January 2006, 11:28 am
Heavy Air Makes For Plenty Of Excitement
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Acura Key West 2006
Key West, Florida, USA

Howling 20-25 knot winds and heavy seas challenged the fleet of 286 boats competing in Acura Key West 2006, presented by Nautica. The tough conditions left skippers and crews exhausted, excited and hoping for more of the same on Wednesday in Florida, USA.
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Michael BRENNAN (USA), owner of the Transpac 52 Sjambok, saw 21 knots of speed while screaming downwind under asymmetrical spinnaker. Boats in other high performance classes such as Farr 40 and Melges 24 were also going incredibly fast.

'Absolutely awesome sailing today. These conditions are perfect for the Melges because you get up on a plane and just take off,' said Philippe KAHN (USA), who steered Pegasus 575 to a pair of top ten finishes.

Most of the professional crews in the grand prix classes handled the difficult conditions without incident. Goombay Smash maintained its lead in the Swan 45 World Championship while Blu Moon held the top spot in Melges 24. However, there was some shuffling in Farr 40 as Nerone took the lead away from day one pacesetter Norwegian Steam.

Goombay Smash, owned by William DOUGLASS (USA), had another strong day with a 1,2 line to increase its lead in Swan 45 Worlds. Danilo SALSI's Italian entry DSK-Comifin held second, but now trails Goombay Smash by seven points instead of two.

'It was another good day today. We love it when it's blowing, when it's heavy out there,' DOUGLASS said. 'Our tactics were just to sail clean, sail fast, and keep consistent.'

British match racing veteran Chris LAW is calling tactics for DOUGLASS, a fourth year veteran of the class who was overall winner of the Swan American Regatta in 2005.

'Our tactics are just to keep out of trouble, avoid protest situations, sail the boat well and keep out of the corners,' LAW said. 'We're going fast, we have a good crew and we're just going to try and build on our points lead.'

Bellicosa, owned by Massimo FERRAGAMO of New York, USA, had superb day with a fourth and a first to move from ninth to third in the overall standings. FERRAGAMO admitted Goombay Smash has established itself as the boat to beat in the World Championship.

'They are not leading by chance. [Douglass] is a good helmsman and he has a very strong crew,' FERRAGAMO said. 'However, there are still several more days of sailing and a lot can happen.'

Nerone Takes Control In Farr 40

Skipper Massimo MEZZAROMA (ITA) teamed with tactician Lorenzo BRESSANI (ITA) to sail Nerone to a third and fourth yesterday. That effort vaulted the Italian entry from sixth to first in the overall Farr 40 standings.

Mascalzone Latino, another Italian boat, is four points behind in second. Three-time America's Cup winner Russell COUTTS (NZL) is calling tactics for owner Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA), who placed second in race four.

Barking Mad, owned by Jim RICHARDSON (USA), had the most impressive performance on the Farr 40 course - posting a pair of bullets. California professional Vince BRUN (USA) is tactician aboard Barking Mad, which moved from 16th to sixth.

'Our team has always sailed really well when it's windy, that is when we shine,' RICHARDSON said. 'We got two really good pin-end starts and never crossed behind anybody. We're ecstatic about winning both races today. It certainly puts us in better position... back in touch with the leaders.'

Warpath, owned by Fred and Steve HOWE of San Diego, USA, notched a 9,3 line on Tuesday and stands third - two points behind Mascalzone Latino. John KOSTECKI (USA), inshore tactician for Ericsson Racing, is taking a break from the Volvo Ocean Race to call tactics for the father-son team.

Tight In The Melges 24

Switzerland skipper Franco ROSSINI and his team aboard Blu Moon put up a pair of top five finishes to hold first in the Melges 24 fleet. Swiss Olympian Chris RAST is steering Blu Moon, which has yet to finish lower than fifth yet leads Philippe LIGOT's (FRA) Partners & Partners by just one point in the overall standings.

It was an extremely productive day for Pegasus Racing, which has three teams in Melges 24 and posted single-digit finishes across the board. California sailmaker Dave ULLMAN posted a second and a first in the big breeze to jump from seventh to third in the overall standings.

'We were going really fast today and are certainly happy with the results,' said ULLMAN. In addition to class honours, his Team Pegasus 505 entry won The City of Key West Boat of the Day.

TeamBOLD has turned in one of the more notable efforts of the regatta so far, winning all four starts in the Mumm 30. Owner Nelson STEPHENSON (USA), the USA Class President, is seeking his first victory in eight trips to Key West.

Britain took the lead in the International Team competition (The Nautica Trophy), which combines the results of three one-design entries from a particular country. John POLLARD's Melges 24 Excellent, Alessandro BARNABA's Fiamma and Grant GORDON's Fever make up Team UK, which has totalled 22 points - two better than Italy 1.

There were spectacular wipeouts and equipment breakdowns aplenty as a south easterly that gusted to 30 knots produced a slew of DNF and DNS designations on the results sheet. Rough seas also were a problem and helped bring down the masts on at least two big boats - Lloyd GRIFFIN's Hadley 40 Cash Flow and Pete HUNTER's Thompson 30 Wairere.

Bill WAGNER (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from Florida:© Thierry MARTINEZ/SEESEA.IT
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