Key West Contenders Emerge on Day Three

After Six Races at Key West 2010 Big Picture Takes Shape

Key West Heating Up

Key West, Fla - It is three days into a five-day regatta – normally the time when the contenders are separated from the pretenders. With six races completed and four more to be contested at Key West 2010, presented by Nautica, the big picture is taking shape under sunny skies. Tim Wilkes Photography

Barking Mad tactician Terry Hutchinson was intently reviewing the scoreboard after racing on Wednesday when he was asked if the American entry was a contender or a pretender in the 19-boat Farr 40 class.

“Probably somewhere in between the two at this point, but if we don’t get our act together and start sailing better we’ll be in the pretender category,” said Hutchinson, shaking his head about several missed opportunities that have Barking Mad in fifth place overall.

Skipper Giovanni Maspero and the crew on Joe Fly increased their lead in the Farr 40 class to five points over fellow Italian entry Nerone (Massimo Mezzaroma) on the strength of a 5-2 line on Wednesday.

“I think we are sailing fairly well. We have not won a race yet, which is a bit painful since we have been leading at times on the course,” Joe Fly tactician Francesco Bruni said. “We cannot complain when we have a five-point lead with four races to go. The owner is steering the boat very well around the course and we are very happy with our boat speed.”

Tim Wilkes Photography Plenty, owned by Alex Roepers of New York, posted its second victory of the series on Wednesday and moved from sixth to third in the overall standings.

Hutchinson, the 2008 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, was frustrated because Barking Mad had the lead midway through Race 5 and wound up finishing seventh. Skipper Jim Richardson (Newport, R.I.) and team are tied with the German entry Struntje Light (Wolfgang Schaefer) on points – just two out of third and 10 behind the leader.

“Joe Fly is sailing very well so they certainly look like the boat to beat, but there are still plenty of points on the table and things could change quite a bit between now and Friday afternoon,” Hutchinson said. “We just have to keep chipping away and hope we get some better karma.”

Bella Mente, the Reichel-Pugh 69 owned by Hap Fauth of Newport, R.I., stretched its winning streak to five with a bullet in the opening race on Wednesday and holds a commanding eight-point lead in IRC 1. Tim Wilkes Photography

“I’m very pleased. We have won every start except one and the crew has been just superb in its execution,” Fauth said.

Kelvin Harrup and Eric Doyle are combining on tactics while Sean Clarkson (main) and Brett Jones (jib and spinnaker) are the lead trimmers aboard Bella Mente, which would probably have to fall apart to lose the regatta at this stage. Fauth did not want to hear any of that talk.

“Sure we could be beaten. This will be a boat race right up until the end,” he said emphatically. “It was tough out there today. The wind was up and down and clocked hard right then back left a bit. The TP 52s came to the finish line on a much stronger breeze and two of them beat us on corrected time. Things could change quickly if the TP52s get the type of conditions in which they excel.”

Tim Wilkes Photography Decision, a TP52 owned by Stephen Murray of New Orleans, La., became the first IRC 1 entry other than Bella Mente to win a race when it corrected to first in Race 6. Interlodge, a TP52 owned by Austin Fragomen of New York, has finished second in four of six races and heads the pack in what appears to be a battle to be runner-up to Bella Mente.

“Bella Mente is very fast and very well-sailed so it will be tough to beat,” Fragomen said. “We’re most interested in winning the sub-class of TP52s, but obviously while we’re doing that we would like to contend for the overall class victory.”

Bill Lynn, a professional based in Marblehead, Mass., is calling tactics on Interlodge while Pete McCloskey (main) and Dave Armitage (jib) are primary trimmers. This is only the second regatta for Inter lodge since Fragomen took ownership of the Judel-Vrolijk design, which was launched in 2006.

Tim Wilkes Photography “We are still figuring out the boat so it’s great to be able to line up against three other TPs and gauge our performance. We are getting a little better every day.”

John Kilroy steered Samba Pa Ti to victory in second start on Wednesday to extend his lead in Melges 32 class, largest of the regatta with 22 boats. Completion of six races allowed each boat to drop its worst result and Samba Pa Ti tossed a 14th suffered in Race 1.

Star received redress for Race 5 after winning a protest, moving skipper Jeff Ecklund and team up to second place with a score of 29.4 – six-tenths of a point ahead of Ramrod (Rod Jabin, Annapolis). Jabin was a bit downcast on the dock after suffering an 18th in Race 5.

“I’m disappointed on a personal level because we were sailing in second and got wrapped up with the IRC 1 boats at a mark rounding and lost about 16 places,” Jabin said. “Tomorrow is going to be critical because we’ve already sailed our throw-out so every race is a keeper from here on out. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”

Tim Wilkes Photography Perhaps the most surprising entry in Melges 32 is Yasha Samurai, a newcomer to the highly-competitive, professional-laden class. Owner Yukihiro Ishida of Tokyo, Japan, vaulted from 11th to fifth in the overall standings after winning Race 5 and dropping a 16th from Race 2 and was selected as Mount Gay Rum Boat of the Day.

“To be fifth in this fleet with a new team is downright amazing, but I don’t pay much attention to scores at this point of a regatta,” said Charlie McKee, tactician aboard Yasha Samurai. “We had some good fortune today, but the breeze is supposed to build tomorrow and that could present some challenges.”

This is only the second Melges 32 event for Ishida, who has sailed Swan designs in Europe and a J/24 back in Japan. McKee, a Seattle native who owns a couple Olympic bronze medals, brings a positive, upbeat attitude as tactician. British pro Gerry Mitchell and Snipe standout Takumi Nakamura are serving as trimmers.

Tim Wilkes Photography “(Ishida) is having a lot of fun and has very good concentration when steering the boat,” McKee said. “He is very much a student of the sport. He thinks about the races overnight, analyzes things and comes back the next day with a lot of questions.”

It continues to be a three-way battle between UKA UKA Racing (Lorenzo Santini, Italy), Blu Moon (Franco Rossini, Switzerland) and WTF (Alan Field, United States) with only three points separating those top contenders.

Helmsman Lorenzo Bressani won Race 5 and added a third in Race 6 to take sole possession of first place with a low score of nine points. Flavio Favini steered Blu Moon to the exact same results (3-1) on Wednesday and moved into second with 11 points. Field, from Marina Del Rey, Cal., kept pace with a second and a fourth and has 12 total points.

Tim Wilkes Photography “It has been very good competition so far. The top teams have the same speed so the tacticians have been very important. Tactics has probably been 80 percent of the results,” Bressani said. “We are hoping tomorrow brings more wind to ensure the speed of the boat is most important.”

There is a new leader in IRC 2 as skipper Mike Williamson and the White Heat team overtook early pacesetter Pugwash on the strength of a bullet in Race 5. That was the second win of the week for the Summit 40, which now has a three-point advantage over the J/122 owned by David Murphy (Newport, R.I.).

Simon Shaw of Great Britain is calling tactics for Williamson, who splits his time between homes in London and New Castle, New Hampshire. This is the second time in three months that White Heat and Pugwash have squared off, having finished one-two in Class 3 at the IRC East Coast Championship off Annapolis in late October.

Tim Wilkes Photography Jeff Johnstone placed fourth in both starts on Wednesday and moved from second to first in J/80 class, which has attracted 19 boats for its Midwinter Championship. Brian Keane and the Savasana team have won two races and finished second or fourth in the others and have led the 14-boat J/105 class at the end of each day’s action.

Follow all the grand prix action, racing excitement, and results through the web-site blog and coverage, live tracking of the Melges 32 and J/80 fleets by Kattack, Scuttlebutt’s on the scene reports, and nightly on demand video by T2P on (after 9:00PM EST) and more.

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