Italy's Flavio Favini finished off a repeat Melges 24 triumph with a flourish at Key West 2003 Friday, while some of his successful peers played the hefty breeze like snake handlers hoping just to hold onto leads and claim class titles.
Wind was still whistling through the rigging as boats returned from a single windup race and the winners discussed their good fortune.
"This is our best win," said Alexandra Geremia, who shares ownership with helmsman Scott Harris in the Farr 40 Crocodile Rock from Santa Barbara, Calif.
Like Croc, Australia's Richard Perini also was delighted with a ninth place that earned him his second consecutive Key West championship in the aggressively International Mumm 30 fleet. The first six boats were from five countries.
With the 1D35 title assured, David Kirk's Détente, Chicago, along with all but one of the rest of the class, sat out the day. The exception was Doug and Dick DeVos' Windquest, which sailed to a solitary victory and second place overall.
The 14 Corsair 28R trimarans also stayed in port, allowing Bob and Doug Harkrider of Belvedere, S.C., sailing Bad Boys, to stand on their three-point lead over Donald Wigston's Whipper Snapper, Atlanta.
Favini, discarding a 12th, had no other finish worse than seventh and ran away on a 4-1-3-2 streak the last 2 1/2 days. Somehow, rivals have marveled, he just seems to make a Melges 24 go faster than anyone else, even after a year's absence with Vincenzo Onorato's America's Cup campaign.
The Key West Trophy for the International Team Championship, was won by Italy for the fourth time in five years by two points over Germany. The Italians' boats were Onorato's Farr 40, Breeze; Pierpaolo's Cristofori's Mumm 30, Printel Wind, and Maspero Giovanni's Melges 24, Joe Fly.
The Terra Nova Trading Boat of the Week Trophy was won by Zuni Bear, Richard Bergmann's J/105 from San Francisco. Zuni Bear started slowly but won three of the last four races to edge Jim Sorensen's Wet Leopard, Sag Harbor, N.Y., by one point, with three others within three points.
Among the heavyweights on the Division 2 course, George David's Nelson/Marek 50, Idler, from New York, had IMS wrapped up but returned to the elements to claim a second trophy by overtaking Bandolier, Charles Burnett III's 1D48 from Seattle, and win PHRF 2 by two points. Read, helmsman for Team Dennis Conner in the America's Cup challenger trials, drove the boat the first two days until David arrived Wednesday, then called tactics.
"Today was the best day by far,"
Read said of the uncommonly cold northeast winds of 20 knots gusting to 27. "This is what you go sailing for. It was a little chilly, but compared to Auckland this was a balmy summer day. I had fewer layers [of clothing] on here."
Perini, judging the weather by Australian standards, didn't entirely agree. "It's the coldest race I've ever done with the sun out,"
The day's high temperature was 57 degrees, a record Key West low for the date in the 137 years of local weather tracking, but it was far warmer than where many of the competitors came from.
Small craft advisories were posted as the fleet left port 1 1/2 hours later than usual, counting on a forecast that the early morning's 25-knot winds would ease to 20 by mid-day. Roger Sturgeon and his Rosebud crew from San Francisco felt right at home in the breeze as they nailed down PHRF 1 with their third win in four races to complete a turnaround, week-long domination of the other two Transpac 52s from California, David Janes' J-Bird III and Mike Campbell's Victoria 5.
"We were hoping to improve,"
said Sturgeon, 58, a retired software developer. "We had training wheels on for a while."
Bob Harkrider, who drives, is a semi-converted monohull sailor---lightnings, mainly---and he led Bad Boys' comeback from a 7-1-7 start with a 2-1-2 finishing string.
"In our first race we missed a shift and wound up on the wrong side," he said. "Then on Tuesday one of our crew, Doug Fisher of Ullman Sails, got sick and was unable to sail. My wife Sharon filled in and did a really good job. Finally, the luck turned and went our way. If you hang in there long enough it will sometimes happen that way.
"We were fast all week and that's always good. When you get into trouble it's easier to climb out of it."
Harkrider also said, "I was strictly monohulls until my brother took me out on a Corsair. It took one leg of one race to sell me on multihulls. It's a blast to be sitting there and going those kinds of speeds."
With the race committee deciding in advance to sail only one race Friday, Crocodile Rock had all but a lock following Thursday's disqualification of Jim Richardson's Barking Mad, Newport, R.I., in a three-way collision with Croc and Vincenzo Onorato's Breeze from Italy.
Croc's boat manager, Austin Herlihy of San Diego, prefaced post-regatta comments with a tribute to Fred Kirschner, a longtime successful ocean racer of the Coronado Yacht Club who had died two days earlier.
"We'd like to dedicate this win to Fred,"
Herlihy said. "He was a beautiful man."
Because most of the crew members are from San Diego, Harris said, "People think we're light-air sailors, but we love the heavier breeze."
Vince Brun, a 13-time world champion in various classes, was tactician. "Vince was awesome,"
Harris said. "When he's on board we're a very quiet boat, which I think makes it a faster boat. Everyone just knows his job and does it."
Geremia does her job, too---whatever is required. She bought the boat three years ago. "It's been a long time getting to this point,"
she said, "but we've worked hard. The guys are wonderful. We make a good team."