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18 January 2005, 09:10 am
Star-Studded Key West 2005 Starts With a Blustery Bash
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Key West Race Week 2005
Key West, Florida, USA

Bright sun and big breeze ushered in Key West 2005, presented by Nautica, with a Farr 40 photo finish, a Melges 24 victory of Olympian proportions and Esmeralda's continuing high adventures in South Florida.
Because of winds in the mid-20s gusting into the mid-30s, the race committee kept all 295 boats in port until noon and thus logged only one of two races scheduled, leaving eight on the burner through Friday. The sea state to the west was so rough that the three smallest boat classes in Divisions 1 and 2-Mumm 30, PHRF-3 and Corsair 28R trimarans-were grounded for the day.

Many of the 58 Melges 24s on Division 3 struggled, some shunning their asymmetric spinnakers entirely. But San Diego's Bill HARDESTY, though at the tiller of one of the lively sport boats for the first time, drove Philippe KAHN's Pegasus 575 through a mid-race crash to first place over veteran Dave ULLMAN and former world champion Flavio FAVINI, driving Franco ROSSINI's Blu Moon from Switzerland.

John COUMANTOROS drove Bambakou across the line a quarter-length in front of world champion Jim RICHARDSON's Barking Mad in a friendly Farr 40 feud between Newport, R.I. rivals.

Ken READ and Chris LARSON, sailing on Makoto UEMATSU's Transpac 52, Esmeralda, followed last week's thriller in the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West 'unofficial feeder race' by winning PHRF-1. Earlier, on Carrera, the Reichel/Pugh 81 owned by Joe DOCKERY of Stamford, Conn., they led a record-breaking charge despite losing three-quarters of their rudder in a knockdown near the end.

John YONOVER's J/109,, was dismasted before the start of its race on Division 2.

Chris and Kara BUSCH's Wild Thing, the 2002 Key West champion, was leading the 1D35 fleet on the first run when it crash-jibed into a roundup and had five boats sail past as it lay on its side. Busch, at the helm for the first time since regaining his Category 1 (amateur) status, blamed driver error. 'I turned too hard and couldn't recover. It's funny, because we had no problems practicing in stronger wins [Sunday]. I guess I was a little complacent.'

The entries represent 14 countries and 36 states and include, at last count, 17 Olympic medallists with 26 medals among them, led by Athens winners Kevin BURNHAM of Miami, Fla. and Sofia BEKATOROU of Greece, serving as crew on Pegasus 575 and Greek businessman George ANDREADIS' Farr 40, Atalanti, respectively.

Kahn, who has said he has more fun on a Melges 24, instead drove his Farr 40 to sixth place in that 18-boat fleet. Hardesty took over with a crew of Olympic medalists Kevin BURNHAM and Sweden's Freddy LÖÖF, Mark IVEY and Midge TANDY. They led all the way, despite sustaining minor damage when T-boned by Simon STRAUSS of Larchmont, N.Y. near the first leeward gate.

Hardesty said, 'I thought they were trying to cross us, but they tried to jibe and go behind us at the last moment and had a boat-handling problem. It got ugly after that. Their pole hit us and then their bow hit us at the rail.' Strauss dropped out. 'They came over to us on the dock and offered to take care of all financial responsibility,' Hardesty said.

Hardesty admitted that with the heavy conditions he was nervous driving a Melges 24 for the first time, 'but [the crew] made it easy for me. They hiked hard and we had good speed. It felt a lot like my old Laser days.'

Bambakou and Barking Mad swapped the Farr 40 lead twice before Coumantaros, with Britain's Ian WALKER calling tactics, regained the lead on the last windward leg and held it with a bold move on Richardson, who was backed up by tactician Terry HUTCHINSON.

'We were on starboard at the last cross but we lee-bowed him because we wanted to guard the right side,' Coumantaros said. 'It was very close, but Terry was a very gracious competitor. Another competitor might have thrown a [protest] flag.'

Russell COUTTS is sailing on Hasso Plattner's Farr 40, Morning Glory, from Kiel, Germany, which finished fourth behind defending champion Dirk De RIDDER's Mean Machine from Holland. His former Kiwi and Alinghi teammates are aboard Daniel MEYERS' Farr 60, Numbers, from Newport.

With recent travel problems on the East Coast, Coutts said, 'It took me six hours to get here from New York. They tried to drag me out last night, but I know where that leads.'

Brad BUTTERWORTH, his longtime friend and former tactician, said, 'We both still live near each other in Switzerland, so we stay in touch.' Except on the water at Key West, where they're sailing on different courses.

Key West 2005 sponsors are Nautica, Mount Gay Rum, B&G, Lewmar, Samson Rope Technologies, and the Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council. The Historic Seaport is the Official Site. Support also comes from a record number of 29 Industry Partners.

Results are available on the website via the link below.
Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF)
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