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2 February 2003, 03:17 pm
Sometimes Racing is as much a Matter of Surviving as Winning
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Key West Race Week
Florida

A year earlier, Richard Bergmann's California crew might have won the J/105 class without a DSQ in Race 1. It was their luck that week that they couldn't discard the race because the class was one shy of the minimum for discards.
This year, with Shawn Bennett driving, they struggled in the middle of the keenly competitive pack for the first half of the regatta, then caught fire and won the title, along with the Terra Nova Trading Trophy as Boat of the Week and the Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day award for winning Race 5 on Wednesday.

In the Farr 40s, Crocodile Rock of Santa Barbara, co-owned by Alexandra Geremia and Scott Harris and helmed by Harris, sailed with a mostly San Diego crew that included tactician Vince Brun. Croc didn't win a race but shook off its nearest rival in the protest room and was the only boat among 24 from 10 countries with only one double-digit finish, proving that consistency pays better in the end. Croc was Lewmar Marine Day Boat Of the Day on Thursday and won the rough-and-tumble international class quietly but handily.

Another example was Robin Team's J/120, Teamwork, from Beaufort, N.C. No contender in PHRF-5 won more than one race, and Teamwork needed a tiebreaker to wrest the title from Andrew Wilson's Tripp 38, Fitikoko, and with it the Lewmar Marine Trophy as PHRF Boat of the Week for winning the most competitive PHRF class.

Finally, defending Melges 24 champion helmsman Flavio Favini of Italy won only one of eight races but tossed a 12th to beat perennial Key West contender Brian Porter by 14 points and Norway's Kristian Nergaard, sailing with current world champion Harry Melges on his crew, by 19.

Italy, with no help from Favini, won the Key West Trophy in the International Team Competition for the fourth time in five years, laying claim to what some call the unofficial world championship of sailing. Favini, driving Franco Rossini's Blu Moon representing bordering Switzerland, was a member of the German team that finished two points behind.

Most of the 45 foreign entries sailed in the three classes comprising that competition---Farr 40, Mumm 30 and Melges 24---and 10 in each class were scored among themselves for team purposes. The Italians' boats were Vincenzo Onorato's Farr 40, Breeze; Pierpaolo Cristofori's Mumm 30, Printel-Wind, and Maspero Giovanni's Melges 24, Joe Fly.

Germany's mini-armada was Dr. Wolfgang Schaefer's Farr 40, Struntje light; Bent Dietrich's Mumm 30, Rainbow, and Rossini/Favini.
Overall, there were 290 boats from 21 countries and 30 states competing in nine one-design and 11 handicap classes of the leading winter regatta, where temperatures and conditions varied throughout the week. The 70-degree days gave way to an Arctic high that covered the eastern third of the U.S' --- but temperatures were still far warmer than where many of the competitors came from. The north-northeasterly winds on Friday brought gusts to 35 knots.

Few complained, not even Ken Read, who experienced the elements more than anyone. Read was helmsman for Team Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes until it was eliminated from the America's Cup challenger trials at Auckland, where it is summer in January. At Key West he drove George David's N/M 50, Idler, from New York, until the owner arrived at mid-week and Read switched to tactician.

Meantime, when Idler took an opening-day hit from an IMS rival, Larry Bulman's Farr 49 Javelin from Annapolis, Read took a swim. "I went flipping over the rail," Read said. "I was fully in the water. I had to swim back to the boat. [But] we won the race. That's something to be proud of."

Although Idler clinched IMS with a day to spare, it came back out to race under its dual PHRF handicap to come from behind and win PHRF-2, as well. Read said it was, "the best day by far. 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."

Two peers didn't share Read's enthusiasm for the blustery conditions. Greek banker George Andreadis arrived looking for his fourth consecutive Farr 40 victory and third straight Boat of the Week honor. He was in third place before the last day but out of the running for first. Thus, with small craft advisories posted and the last day's schedule delayed and cut to one race because of morning winds of 25-30 knots, he chose not to sail.

Longtime participant Bill Alcott of Detroit also left his newest Equation in port the last day. The Andrews 70 turbo sled formerly known as Magnitude was still in its West Coast downwind configuration facing another windy charge around the buoys, with no chance of overtaking Roger Sturgeon's Transpac 52, Rosebud, in PHRF-1.

Two other classes on the Division 2 course were packing up even as others left port. Because David Kirk's Détente from Chicago had first place secured, all but one of the other 1D35s saw no point in putting their boats and sails at risk. The exception was Doug and Dick DeVos' Windquest, which sailed alone for the heavy weather experience.

With wind gusts over 30 during the postponement time, Race Director Peter Craig abandoned the Corsair 28R trimaran class on the last day. The sole multihull class enjoyed some of the closest racing in the fleet. Bob and Doug Harkrider's Bad Boys, Belvedere, S.C., celebrated their three-point win over Donald Wigston's Whipper Snapper, Atlanta, Ga. and they all took the rest of the day off. Finally, there was Australia's Richard Perini, who raced reluctantly to protect his Mumm 30 lead from the threat of Printel-Wind, which was also runner-up in the recent class Worlds.

"It's the coldest race I've ever done with the sun out," Perini said, smiling.

Perini, sailing Foreign Affair with a different crew, repeated his victory of 2002 as the Mumms set the strongest tone for the event's increasingly international quality. The aptly named Foreign Affair was one of five entries from different countries among the first six finishers. He also was the leading member of the Australian trio that finished third in the International Team Competition.

With peak sustained wind velocities hitting 15, 12, 11, 15 and 20 knots through the five days of racing, a premium was on changing gears from day to day, not only for the racers but the race committee, which earned high marks.

After one particularly fluky and shifty day at midweek, Barking Mad tactician Gavin Brady, who has sailed America's Cups, the Volvo Ocean Race and the world match-racing circuit, said, "The race committee guy on that course is the best I've ever seen."

His reference was to Division 1 principal race officer Ken Legler, whom he was yet to meet."He doesn't make it a mystery for the competitors," Brady said. "He talks to us [by radio] and lets us know what's going on: 'Hey, guys, I'm only going to do one race today . . .' He needs to write the book on how to run a race committee." The PROs on the other three courses---Bruce Golison, Dave Brennan and Wayne Bretsch---and their crews were no less proficient in maintaining the event's reputation for solid race management.

Brady also figured in a critical protest with Crocodile Rock that found Croc sandwiched between Barking Mad and Breeze, banging sides and busting stanchions. Barking Mad, an arm's length to weather on port tack, was disqualified for failing to respond to Croc's hails for room to tack (Rule 19.1) to avoid an obstruction---i.e., a starboard-tack boat that was following Breeze to the weather mark.

Croc tacked anyway. Nobody was seriously injured, the boats sustained only superficial damage and Croc was left with a 20-point lead and one race remaining. Otherwise, Croc's win was based on solid sailing.

"We consider ourselves light-air sailors because we're from San Diego," Harris said, "but we've also sailed a lot in San Francisco. Vince [Brun] was awesome. We're a very quiet boat, which I think is faster. We each have our own jobs and we just do them."
The Zuni Bear gang also liked the conditions. Bergmann said, "We were happy to see the wind pick up the last two days because that favors us. We're used to sailing in 20-25 knots, while other boats tend to back off a bit when the breeze comes up."

Next year there will be a new presence at Key West: a Swan 45 fleet. The renowned yacht manufacturer, based in Pietersaari, Finland, is producing a racer-cruiser line with a standard carbon fiber rig, and nine are already committed to race at Key West.

Swan marketing director Enrico Chieffi said, "Right from the start, we set out to create an owner/driver one-design class that would survive the test of time and remain competitive for at least 15 years. There are too many so-called one-designs that seem to go out of fashion in no time at all."</>

Craig said,
"This is right in line with our tradition of introducing the best new products at Key West. We intend for there to be two separate Swan classes. The first will be a one-design Swan 45 class and the other an 'open' class exclusively for Swan boats that would include the Swan 56R and likely race under the PHRF handicap rule."

A new Nautor Trophy will go to the top performing Swan at Key West 2004.

For the full results and some fantastic photos, please visit the event website at the address below.
Rich Roberts/ISAF News Editor
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