Athens Olympic gold medallists Kevin BURNHAM of the U.S. and Sofia BEKATOROU of Greece, silver medallists Charlie OGLETREE of USA. and Ross MACDONALD of Canada, three-time AC winning skipper Russell COUTTS, his former Alinghi mates and John KOSTECKI will be among some 3,000 sailors on 295 boats dealing with strong winds forecast for early in the week.
The Northern Hemisphere's largest and glossiest keelboat regatta is an egalitarian classic featuring world-class competitors side by side with a horizon full of deadly serious amateurs.
Nine races are scheduled on four courses over five days. All of the entries, including class splits, Sailing Instructions, Notice and Conditions of Race, schedule of events and much more are posted at www.Premiere-Racing.com
If the Storm Trysail and Lauderdale Yacht Clubs' annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race-the unrelated but 'unofficial feeder event'-was a preview, it should be an interesting week. With following north/northeast winds and regular 25-to-30-knot gusts, the majority of competitors finished Thursday faster than the old records, which were 13 hours, 14 minutes, 21 seconds set in 1995 for monohulls and 13 hours, 10 minutes, 14 seconds set in 2003 for multihulls. The overall winner on corrected time was Key West 2005 entry Sjambok, a TP52 owned by Michael Brennan of Annapolis, Md., which also broke the race record in 11 hours 35 minutes 38 seconds, 71 minutes behind the R/P 81 Carrera that led the 43-boat fleet.
Bekatorou, who with crew Emilia TSOULFA won gold in women's 470 before the Acropolis backdrop of her country, will sail on countryman George ANDREADIS' Farr 40, Atalanti, the Farr 40 winner in 2002 and '03. That gives Atalanti two gold medallists on board, counting tactician Robbie HAINES in '84. Andreadis is one of ISAF's seven Vice-Presidents.
Bekatorou has sailed enough on big boats to be comfortable.
'The main thing more difficult in a big boat is that you have to synchronize with more people. I will be helping to pull down the spinnaker, and then [store it] inside the boat because I'm the lightest crew member. We have really good trimmers and tacticians. I would like to help as much as I can, and I hope soon I can help more in tactics. You learn more things that you can apply to an Olympic campaign.'
Besides Burnham, Bekatorou, Ogletree, Macdonald, Coutts (gold in 1984), Kostecki (silver in '88) and Haines, other Olympic hardware heroes include JJ ISLER, Mark REYNOLDS, Jonathan and Charlie MCKEE, Jeff MADRIGALI, Randy SMYTH and John BERTRAND, plus New Zealand's John CUTLER.
There are no 470s or Tornado catamarans, so Burnham will sail on Bill HARDESTY'S and Alex Ascencios' Melges 24s, respectively. Macdonald will call tactics on John DEMOURKAS' Farr 40, Groovederci; Kostecki will fill that role on Sjambok.
Philippe Kahn owns Hardesty's entry but will drive his Farr 40, Pegasus, which with the Melges 24 will form the USA West team among eight entries in the International Team Competition for the Nautica Trophy. Combined points will determine the winner.
Reynolds will be Kahn's tactician in an 18-boat fleet that includes world champion Jim RICHARDSON'S Barking Mad (Terry HUTCHINSON) and defending champion Peter DE RIDDER of Holland with his 2004 Boat of the Week, Mean Machine (Tom Dodson).
Coutts will be on Hasso PLATTNER'S Farr 40, Morning Glory. Former Alinghi mates Brad BUTTERWORTH, Warwick FLEURY, Dean PHIPPS and Simon DAUBNEY will carry on without their former skipper on Dan MEYERS' CM 60, Numbers, from Newport, R.I.
Australia's James SPITHILL, the new helmsman for Italy's Luna Rossa challenge, will drive a Melges 24 entered by teammates Jonathan and Charlie MCKEE.
The entry list includes six one-design winners from last January: De Ridder's Mean Machine; Bodo and Nick VON DER WENSE'S Mumm 30, Turbo Duck, from Annapolis; the Richard BERGMANN/Shawn BENNETT J/105 Zuni Bear, San Diego; Bob HARKRIDER'S Corsair 28R trimaran, Bad Boys, Augusta, Ga.; Bob WILSON'S C&C 99, Trumpeter, Toronto, and the Chuck SIMON/Bill BUCKLES T-10, Liquor Box, Key West and Vermillion, Ohio.
Also, the 1D35s' most recent winner, David KIRK of Chicago, leads the class back after a year's hiatus. Their national title is on the line.
The Mumm 30s will be celebrating their 10th year in business by sailing for their North American championship.
PHRF winners returning are Mike ROSE'S J/133, Raincloud, Kemah, Tex.; the John DANE/Michael GRAY Melges 30, Tiburon, New Orleans; David HUDGEL'S Sydney 36, Bounder, Detroit, and Robert PATRONI'S Evelyn 32-2, Phaedra, from Pensacola, Fla.
One-design classes include the Farr 40, Mumm 30, 1D35, Swan 45, J/105 (a record 40), J/120, J/109, J/80, J/29, C&C 99, T10, Corsair 28R and the largest fleet of all, the Melges 24s with 61.
Division 1 (Swan 45, Farr 40, Mumm 30 and 1D35) will not discard their worst scores; the other three divisions will discard one race after seven are sailed.
Key West 2005 sponsors are Nautica, Mount Gay Rum, B&G, Lewmar, Samson Rope Technologies, and the Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council. The Historic Seaport is the Official Site.
Support also comes from a record number of 29 Industry Partners.
Premiere Racing is also managing the new Acura Miami Race Week 2005 ('the SORC renaissance'). Race dates are March 10-13, 2005, with ocean and Biscayne Bay racing.