With 47 of the 287 entries from a record-matching 20 foreign countries, event director Peter Craig has been able to organize a powerful fleet of 10 international teams to compete for the Key West Trophy.
Each of a team's three designated boats will race in its own one-design class as well as participating in cumulative scoring for the trophy.
The three types of boats are Farr 40, Mumm 30 and Melges 24. The format, now in its seventh year, is similar to what the Admiral's Cup was when it was recognized as the "unofficial championship of offshore sailing."
Key West is inshore, but each of the three types of boats, some with partly professional crews, is deeply international and highly competitive in its own right.
"Each year the international team competition generates more excitement,"
Craig said. "It unites teams and competitors in the week-long contest. What was loosely modeled after the Admiral's Cup in Cowes, England has become a Key West tradition."
Bob Hughes' Farr 40, Heartbreaker, from Holland, Michigan., is returning to lead the USA Great Lakes team in defence of the title it wrested from the three-year grip of Italy. Team mates will be Jeff Dieman's Mumm 30, X-Press Cartel, from Chicago, and Brian Porter's Melges 24, Full Throttle, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Competition will include the new Farr 40 world champion, Steve Phillips of Annapolis, Maryland., sailing Le Renard for the USA Chesapeake team, and Italy's Flavio Favini, who won the delayed 2001 Melges 24 world title at Key West last year, driving Franco Rossini's Blu Moon as a member of the German team.
That trio also features Wolfgang Schaefer, with his Farr 40, Struntje light, and Bent Dietrich's Mumm 30, Rainbow. The Mumm 30 Worlds runner-up, Cristofori Pierpaolo's Printel-Wind, will be part of an Italian team that includes America's Cup campaigner Vincenzo Onerato on his Farr 40, Breeze.
Other teams will represent Australia, Europe A and B, The Netherlands, Canada and a third US team - Team Northeast.
The Farr 40s also will have their own intramural dogfight as some of the world's best sailors match tactical wits for owners who must drive. Gavin Brady, Vince Brun, Terry Hutchinson and Jesper Bank are among those fresh from the America's Cup, along with Paul Cayard, who was compelled to sit it out under contract to Larry Ellison's Oracle team, and new Star world champion Iain Percy, on Struntje light. The tacticians also are listed on the Web site.
The regatta, with nine races scheduled over five days, also has its first Russian entry in recent years: Vladimir Buteivko's Melges 24. Buteivko lives in California but will have an all-Russian crew, with Artiom Soloveychik on the tiller. Soloveychik sailed at Key West in 1998.
A UK team led by David Lavelle and admitting to "middle age" will race the chartered Farr 65 Juno in PHRF 2 with an informal match race against Formula1 Sailing sister ship Spirit of Minerva on the side. The latter is chartered by John Boyle, who will have some 20 fellow Chicagoans on board.
Canada, with 10 boats, is the largest foreign group, followed by Great Britain with nine. Domestically, 30 states are represented, led by Florida with 34, Illinois, 29; New York, 23; Texas and California, 20 each; Maryland, 15, and Michigan, 14.