Key West 2011 delivers classic conditions

Melges 24 Fleet Action, Start of Race 2 - Key West Race Week 2011
©2011 JOY
Key West 2011, presented by Nautica, has a Maxi Boat owner defying doctor's orders by driving an entry. Why? Because Key West is one of his favorite places to sail and delivers the rare combination of warmth and wind that 134 boats in 13 classes were treated to on Tuesday.

Dan Meyers underwent knee surgery seven weeks ago. He is supposed to be sticking to a program of rest and rehabilitation, not bouncing around the ocean on a 72-foot sailboat.

'The conditions today were simply spectacular. It was really picture perfect,' Meyers said following a day of racing in 12-14 knot southeasterly breezes in 80 degree temperatures. 'If you could sign a deal to have that type of weather every day, you would not think twice. It's been absolutely beautiful the past two days.'

Meyers and his crew of top-flight professionals on Numbers had a strong outing on Tuesday, posting results of first and second in two races to take over the lead in the Mini Maxi class. Action is so tight among the maxis that three of four boats are tied with nine points apiece.

'It's all about the team. We have a lot of talent onboard and the guys do a great job of compensating for an owner with a bad knee,' Meyers said.

'And a bad attitude to boot,' joked tactician Brad Butterworth.

Butterworth, a four-time winner of the America's Cup, made all the right calls while other renowned pros such as trimmer Warwick Fleury and bowman Jerry Kirby helped Numbers move from third to first in the overall standings.

'It's very early in the regatta. We still have six races to go,' Meyers said. 'I thought the race committee did a terrific job of getting two races in today. They went into a start sequence almost as soon as the first race was over because they knew the wind was dying.'

Nearby on the docks in front of the Westin Hotel, the mood was mixed aboard Vela Veloce, which narrowly held onto the lead in IRC 1 class. The Canadian-flagged Southern Cross 52 placed last in Race 3, but rebounded to take second in Race 4 and has the edge by tiebreaker over Decision (Stephen Murray, New Orleans).

'We had a very good start in the second race today and were able to hold our lead almost until the end,' said skipper Richard Oland, who was nipped at the line by Anema and Core (Ennio Staffini, Annapolis). 'We had pretty good speed in the lighter air and our execution of maneuvers was outstanding.'

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Stu Bannatyne is calling tactics while former Canadian Olympic medalist Richard Clarke is serving as strategist aboard Vela Veloce, which won the 2010 IRC Gulf Stream Series.

There is also a tie for the lead in the RC44 one-design class, which is making its debut in Key West. Skipper Vincenzo Onorato steered the Italian entry Mascalzone Latino to victory in both races on Tuesday to take the lead from Team Aqua and skipper Don Wilson.

'It was a very good day on the water for us and I am quite pleased,' said Onorato, whose syndicate is the Challenge of Record for the next America's Cup. 'I give a lot of credit to my tactician for calling the right shifts today.'

Italian pro Francesco Bruni is calling tactics aboard Mascalzone Latino, which won the most recent RC44 event off Miami. This is only the fourth regatta for Onorato since he joined the class. 'We are improving with every day, and you can see that out on the water,' he said. 'It is a very competitive class and we must continue to sail well in order to win.'

Peter Vroon, who hails from the seaside town of Breskens in the Netherlands, extended his lead in IRC 2 by steering Tonnerre to a solid line of 2-1 on Tuesday. The Ker 46 has not finished lower than third in the eight-boat fleet and holds a three-point advantage over White Gold (James Bishop, Palm Beach, Fla.).

'This is my first time competing at this regatta and I am enjoying it very much. The weather is wonderful and the racing has been very exciting,' Vroon said.

Melges 24 is another grand prix class that has a tie for first place after two days of racing at Key West 2011. Skipper Lorenzo Bressani steered UKA UKA Racing to a pair of third place results on Tuesday and the Italian team is now equal on points with opening day leader Blu Moon (Franco Rossini, Switzerland). American Jonathan McKee is tactician for reigning world champion UKA UKA Racing, which earned Lewmar /Navtec Boat of the Day honors.

There was a change atop the standings in Melges 32 class with skipper Steve Howe steering Warpath to victory in Race 4 to finish the day one point ahead of Leenabarca (Alex Jackson, Riverside, Conn.). California-based pro Morgan Larson is calling tactics for Howe, who has placed no worse than sixth in the 21-boat fleet so far.

'We call ourselves the Band of Brothers and every single member of the team works really hard to make the boat go fast,' said Howe, a resident of Portland, Oregon. 'It was choppy out there and things got tough when the wind went light toward the end, but we kept our focus the whole way and got a nice win.'

Jim Richardson does not have regular tactician Terry Hutchinson aboard Barking Mad this week, but that hasn't prevented him from taking the lead in Farr 30 class. Hutchinson is unavailable due to commitments to Sweden's Artemis Racing America's Cup program, but amateur Marty Kullman is filling in nicely and helped Barking Mad post results of first and second on Tuesday.

'We battled really hard today. We were in third after two legs in the first race and were able to pass Groovederci (Deneen Demourkas), we were in fifth at one point in the second race and came back to win,' said Richardson, who has pros Morgan Trubovich and Skip Baxter trimming the sails. 'We had a great last beat in the second race. Marty had a strategy and it worked out just the way he had planned.'

San Francisco skipper Thomas Coates and the Masquerade crew maintained their lead in J/105 class, but by just one point over Brian Keane and the Savasana team. Coates captured class honors at Key West from 2006 through 2008, but Keane was J/105 champ the past two years when Masquerade did not attend.

'We're thrilled that Masquerade is here this year. They're the best and have won this regatta more than anybody,' Keane said. 'Masquerade is sailing fast, but there are other elite boats in this fleet. Eclipse (Damian Emery, Shoreham, N.Y.) dominated the U.S. circuit last year and is capable of coming out on top here.'

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