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20 January 2005, 09:44 am
Long Day of Racing Sorts Out Contenders
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Key West Race Week 2005
Key West, Florida, USA

Nobody complained about a lack of competition yesterday at Key West 2005, presented by Nautica. An ambitious race committee gave competitors all the racing they wanted, running three races for all but the smallest boats and shaking out some contenders to the top.
Wednesday's weather: Wind 17-12k, NE.

Thursday's forecast: Wind N 15k morning, NW 10k afternoon.

'We had 17 legs of racing today,' said Andrzej ROJEK of Brooklyn, N.Y., who sailed his Swan 45, Better Than, to two firsts and a second. 'I think Duval Street is going to be suspiciously quiet tonight.'

Sailors too tired to party? With a five-point lead and three races remaining Thursday and Friday, Rojek's crew had the most to celebrate at the Swan fleet's party Wednesday night.

The small boats on the Division 4 course sailed the usual two races, but, for the first time since the Melges 24 Worlds were incorporated in 2002, the event ordered three go-rounds for everybody else. After Monday's high winds that allowed only one race, that got almost everyone back on schedule for the full nine.

Division 1-Swans 454s, Farr 40s, 1D35s and Mumm 30s-will have no throwouts, but everyone else can discard one after seven races.

The Farr 40s evolved into a four-boat battle with six points separating, from the top, Peter De RIDDER'S Mean Machine from Holland, Hasso PLATTNER'S Morning Glory, Germany; world champion Jim RICHARDSON'S Barking Mad, Newport, R.I., and John COUMANTAROS' Bambakou, Newport, R.I.

Plattner's boat was 1-10-2 on the day, but a double-circle penalty turn after hitting a mark cost him at least five spots. 'It could have been our best day,' he said, 'or it could have been our worst day.'

Richardson (3-1-7) said, 'The boats are so close that even in the race we won we led at the first four marks, Mean Machine caught us but we were able to get a starboard tack advantage and win by half a boat length.'

Mean Machine, the defending champion and Boat of the Week, was a steady 5-2-6, the latter its worst finish so far.

Deneen DEMOURKAS of Santa Barbara, Calif., with New Zealand's Hamish PEPPER as tactician, made a strong move on the Mumm 30s with two wins and a second, following a pair of deuces Tuesday, for a four-point lead over Bodo VON DER WENSE'S turbo duck out of Annapolis. The race committee had the M/30s sit out Monday because of the severe sea state on the Division 1 course.

Demourkas didn't mind having that day off. She injured her left arm while practicing in Sunday's heavy winds when the boat swerved out of control.

'I was just as happy not to race,' she said. 'My [left] arm was still sore. When we jibed we did a 'death roll' and I was washed back by a big wave. I was completely underwater holding onto the tiller and wrapped around a stanchion. Tuesday and Wednesday were better, although blowing a spinnaker may have cost them a win over turbo duck. '

Husband John DEMOURKAS is driving their other Groovederci, a Farr 40, with Olympic silver medalist Ross MACDONALD of Vancouver, Canada as tactician. John DEMOURKAS is less experienced. In the past he has been a member of his wife's crew and, like other competitors, was concerned about the conditions early in the week.

But he said, 'The anxiety of leaving the dock was a lot worse than getting out there and doing it.'

Tom HILL'S Reichel/Pugh 75, Titan 12, the largest boat among the 295 competing, stretched out in the lighter winds, not only finishing first as usual but stretching out enough to correct out over the top three Transpac 52s for first place in all three PHRF-1 races Wednesday.

Tactician Ben MITCHELL said, 'The 52s just light it up when it's windy, but with 17 knots or under we're close to saving our time on them.'

However, with three seconds following three firsts earlier, Makoto UEMATSU'S TP52, Esmeralda, has a seven-point lead on Titan 12 for the PHRF-1 title. Uematsu said, 'To tell you the truth, we can't touch the Titan, but we managed to stay close three times the hard way. It's very good competition in very good conditions.' Uematsu is trying to win his fourth championship in five years at Key West, the first in a TP52.

This is Rojek's ninth year at Key West. Ryan Malloy is the helmsman, Chris ZALESKI the tactician. 'If not for the experience we've had here over the years we wouldn't be where we are,' Rojek said.

Maspero GIOVANNI'S Melges 24, Joe Fly, from Canottieri Lecco, Italy, rode a 6-2-2 surge into first place by eight points over Pegasus Racing's entry, but there could still be some serious shuffling in that 58-boat fleet in the last three races.

Helmsman Gabrio ZANDONA summed up the day: 'Good wind, good sun, good team. We had very good starts all three times and always raced in the middle [of the course] in a conservative way and had enough speed to beat the rest of the fleet.'

The tactician is Morgan LARSON, the current world 505 champion from Santa Cruz, Calif. 'Thanks to him we were going the right way,' Zandona said. Larson demurred, 'They just brought me here to pick out the pubs.'

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Jack Hardway/
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