As the early entry deadline for January's Key West closes tomorrow, the list of big name entries is growing steadily, possibly the most serious list of sailors west of Auckland.
New "names" to be reckoned with are Steve Phillips of Arnold, Md., and Deneen Demourkas of Santa Barbara, who finished a surprising one-two in the recent 2002 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in the Bahamas. Earlier, Phillips has been better known for his success in a J/105.
Robert Johnstone of J-Boats pointed out, "In September he also won the 2002 J/105 North American Championship in Chicago in a 50-boat fleet, after winning at Annapolis in 2000. Combine that with the Farr 40 Worlds and you'd have to say that he's topped two of the most competitive owner/driver one-design classes one could sail in."
Time will tell, but Phillips, CEO of the Phillips Seafood Empire, has been on a steep learning curve. He placed 16th among 25 Farr 40s at Key West last January when he first took on this international class.
He had San Diego's Mark Reynolds, the Star boat supremo and ISAF World Sailor of the Year in 2000, as his tactician, although Reynolds will sail on Philippe Kahn's Melges 24 at Key West. Other Farr 40s will pick from the usual pool of world-class tacticians including Paul Cayard, Ian Percy, Robbie Haines, Stu Bannatyne and Chris Larson, to name but a few.
Even without Phillips, the J/105s will present an exceptionally strong turnout of perhaps 30 boats, including Gigi, David Wagner's entry from Chicago that finished third last January. He also was second in the Chicago NOOD Regatta and second in the solo Chicago-Mac race in June, although he isn't a dedicated weekend warrior.
"I only race the boat three weekends in the summer and two in the winter,"
Wagner said. "I have two little children, so I mostly cruise with the family. But it's better to do a little racing rather than none at all, especially when you can do it at incredible venues like Key West."
The number of J/105 entries will be topped only by the Melges 24s. Overall, J/Boats will comprise three classes---J/105, J/80 and J/29---with more than a light sprinkling of other J/Boats throughout the PHRF fleets. All told, they're about one-fourth of the total entry list.
The Melges fleet will be bolstered by two entries from the Team Pegasus stable---Kahn and Reynolds on one and Kahn's 13-year-old son Samuel, a.k.a. "Shark," on the other.
The international aura continues to grow with competitors from 15 countries and others facing free time as the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials for the America's Cup continue. Italy's Vincenzo Onorato has already changed plans following the elimination of Mascalzone Latino, which also freed up tactician Flavio Favini, who won the delayed 2001 Melges 24 world championship at the regatta last January.
Onorato and his Farr 40 Mascalzone Latino team (translation: "Latin Rascal") have chartered Breeze. Favini, helming again for Franco Rossini meets the new Melges 24 ruling duo, Harry Melges and Jeff Ecklund, on another of four race courses.
One-design classes include the 1D35, Farr 40, J/105, J/80, J/29, Mumm 30, Melges 24 and Corsair 28R trimarans. The Tartan Tens and Henderson 30s have built their numbers to one-design "sub-class" status this year - competing as groups within a PHRF class.
The PHRF presence remains strong, enhanced by the recent entry of Andrew Fisher's Swan 56, Vanish 2, from Greenwich, Conn. Santa Cruz 70s---Steve Gagne's Renegade and Bill Alcott's Equation---are at one end of the scale. John Burgess' Wavelength 24, Outtasight, from Gulfport, Miss. is at the other. In between there's the Transpac 52s, a new Farr 36 and the returning PHRF Boat of the Week, Othmar Mueller von Blumencron's Beneteau 1st 40.2 Dame Blanche.
Racing is scheduled from Monday 20- Friday 24 January, on four courses off the south shore of the island. Registration is on Sunday, Jan. 19. The regatta is open to entries in PHRF, one-design and IMS classes of 24 to 85 feet LOA. PHRF entries must have a rating of 175 or lower.