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25 January 2002, 11:23 am
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photo:Tim Wilkes

Key West Race Week

Protest flags began to fly yesterday and Key West Race Week, Florida. The throng outside the jury tent grew.
Crunch time, and it started getting ugly at Terra Nova Trading/Yachting Key West Race Week Thursday.
In the IMS big-boat class, Idler, George David's Nelson/Marek 49 from New York, protested Isam Kabbani's C/M 60, Rima, but-alas-David did not slay Goliath. So now the Newport, R.I. entry has a small but seemingly insurmountable two-point lead going into the eighth and last race Friday.

In the Farr 40 fracas, John Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti protested George Andreadis' Atalanti XI and won but, wonder of wonders, the former Athens banker emerged with an overall lead one point better (4) than he held a day earlier-and Atalanti XI still hasn't had a finish better than third.

It's all Greek to many observers, but it has something to do with the new discard system implemented this year that allows a competitor to throw out his worst race after completing seven. The Wally Tsuha/Bob Hughes Heartbreaker is second.

In the Melges 24 world championship, Italian sailor Flavio Favini, sailing a boat owned by Franco Rossini of Switzerland, ran his win streak to five races before finishing seventh. With two races remaining, Favini has a nine-point lead, 36-45, over defending champion Harry Melges, who had a 2-4 day. Two-time world champion Vince Brun, 6-1 on the day, is next with 60 points and nobody else is in contention.

Two crews earned the luxury of becoming tourists on the final day: Chris and Kara Busch's 1D35, Wild Thing, from San Diego and Richard Perini's Mumm 30, Foreign Affair, from Sydney, Australia. Each clinched its one-design class with a race to spare Thursday and can afford to send Friday's final race to the discard bin and kick back.
Wild Thing never gave its competition an opening. The talent-laden boat won six of seven races-the last five in a row.

Gary Weisman, the North Sails president who was Wild Thing's tactician, said, "We had one of those good weeks"-the understatement of the regatta. "There are a lot of brains on the boat. Chris knows these boats really well, and we're all talking nice and quietly. Yesterday and today when there was more wind I thought we just handled the boat better than anybody else."

Wild Thing placed third at Key West last year and then second to Doug Devos' Windquest by two points in the 1D35 Nationals at Miami, but Kara Busch was conservative. "I expected to be in the top five here," she said. Her problem now is replacing her husband Chris and helmsman Ben Mitchell, who will be joining Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes America's Cup team in training at San Pedro next month.

Perini's Mumm 30, built in Malaysia, has never seen Australia. It was shipped directly to Sardinia for last year's class Worlds, then to Miami for the Lewmar Cup and finally to Key West. But it has an all-Aussie crew, except for tactician Steve Flam of Long Beach, Calif. and pitperson Capucine Pin of Annapolis, Md.

Flam also showed up this week wearing a hood and a thick facial coating of zinc oxide. He recently received major treatment for skin cancer-it's called a "face peel"-and said, "My dermatologist told me to stay out of the sun."
He did the best he could. Foreign Affair spent minimal time on the water this week, although the crew was leaning toward sailing a meaningless race today.

Several boats, including Foreign Affair, Doug Harkrider's F-28R trimaran and David Balfour's J/80, overcame temporary lapses in speed when they collected kelp on their rudders or keels.

Randy Smyth was 1-2 and has the title in hand. Harkrider, the F-31 national champion, said he thought the multihulls had made a good enough impression to be invited back. "We've had a lot of people stare at us as we go flying by," he said.

Bob Johnstone, who moved to the top of the J/105 class with a 5-1 day, said, "We had good starts and good speed, but it's very competitive. The top 10 boats are all in there." Defending champion Kerry Klingler has a comfortable lead in the J/80s, though not as overwhelming as last year. "It's hard for any person to dominate these races," Balfour said after his 1-6 led the way Thursday.

Idler's protest against Rima arose from a pre-start incident when Idler tried to keep its larger rival out of the starting box.

"We kind of took 'em up," said Idler tactician Ken Read, who drives the Stars & Stripes boat. "We wanted to push 'em up beyond the pin.

"Big boats here seem to have a pretty distinct advantage. With these wind conditions and a taller rig, getting off the line in front of them is important. We wanted to win, so we were the aggressor. I don't do all this match racing for nothing."

Andreadis' error occurred at the windward mark of Thursday's first race when he finished sixth. He tried to squeeze Atalanti XI around the mark in front of Samba Pa Ti.
"It was either that or they would have had to duck a lot of boats coming up [on the starboard layline]," said Jeff Madrigali, a member of Samba Pa Ti's afterguard.

Heartbreak tactician Terry Hutchinson noted, "It's so tempting to go in there instead of taking 15 transoms."
Atlanti XI tactician Robbie Haines took the setback well. "We just figure it's our throwout, anyway," Haines said.

Hutchinson said today's strategy won't necessarily be to attack Atalanti XI in a match race. "I think the wind's going to go light Friday, so our plan is just to sail. Certainly, we'll be in touch with them, but it's too easy to lose 10 boats if you take chances."

Boats of the Day

Monday/ Lewmar Marine Day: Nerone (Farr 40), Masimo Mezzaroma, Savona, Italy.
Tuesday/City of Key West Day: Foreign Affair (Mumm 30), Richard Perini, Sydney, Australia.
Wednesday/Mt. Gay Rum Day: Blu Moon (Melges 24), Flavio Favini, Switzerland.
Thursday/Yachting Magazine Day: Wild Thing (1D35), Chris and Kara Busch, San Diego, Calif.
Friday/Terra Nova Trading Day.

Full results from the event website.

Key West Race Week/News Editor
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