Wednesday, January 28, 2015

J/Newsletter- January 28th, 2015

J/122E cruiser racer sailboatBoat Show Update!
(Newport, RI)- In addition to the Seattle boat show taking place this week, be sure to pencil these dates to go see more of the coolest sailboats in the J/Boats line-up in Gothenburg, Sweden and Boston, MA.  Here is what’s happening at each place:

J/70 SCA Racing Volve Race sponsorGothenburg Boat Show- Jan 31- Feb 8
From January 31st to February 8th, the J/70 will be on display at the Gothenburg Boat Show in Sweden.  Like the rest of Denmark and Germany, the J/70s are gaining tremedous momentum throughout Sweden as dozens of new sailors have fallen in love with it!  Plus, talk to Peter at the show about the upcoming Swedish Sailing League in J/70s!  For helpful information, please contact Marstrand Yachts- Peter Johansson at mobile# +46-735-430-800 or email-  For more Gothenburg Boat Show information.

Seattle Boat Show- Go Now!!
It’s the last weekend!  Hightail it down to the indoor exhibition center and check out the spectacular new navy blue J/122E and the mucho rapido J/88 family speedster!  The J’s are comfortably indoors at CenturyLink Field.

Plus, Friday night is “Sails & Ales” Night of Craft Beers! Show-goers can taste and toast the very best in craft beers while shopping for the J/Boat of their dreams or wandering the three acres of accessories exhibits. Free beer with a boat deposit!  Contact Bob Ross ( or Ben Braden ( at Sail Northwest in Seattle, WA.  More Seattle boat show information here.

Boston/ New England Boat Show- Feb 14-22
The boat show is located at Boston’s enormous waterfront Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and will be featuring the J/88.  The show runs from February 14th to 22nd.  Make sure to keep your loved ones in mind for Valentine’s Day!  What better gift from the heart than a J/88 or J/70 wrapped in a giant red bow with roses!  Ask Rich Hill or George Lowden how you can make that happen, contact them at ph# 781-631-3313 or email-   For more New England Boat Show information.

Montego Bay YC Pineapple CupPineapple Cup Preview
The Mad Dash to Mo’Bay
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)- Set to begin Friday, February 6, the 32nd edition of the venerable Pineapple Cup – Montego Bay Race will send the fleet on a challenging 811nm course to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Immediately after the start, racers cross the Gulf Stream for the Northwest Providence Channel. The middle of the race offers a fetch down the eastern side of the Bahamas Island Chain toward the tip of Cuba. The final stretch is typically a sailor’s dream: a 240-mile downwind sleigh-ride from Cuba’s eastern tip, known as the “Windward Passage” (the namesake of a famous 72 ft Gurney-designed boat by the same name?), to the finish at Montego Bay.

“You can expect every point of sail during the race,” said PRO Chris Woolsey, “and I always advise teams to save their spinnakers for the last legs, since in some conditions this race can be a war of attrition.”

“If I think about all the great distance races out there, whether it’s Newport to Bermuda, Rolex Fastnet or Middle Sea, they all have something that makes them unique and interesting,” said Mike Hennessey.  “In this case, it’s special to be racing in warm conditions in the middle of February, with beautiful long stretches of reaching and running where you can let the boat cut loose.  Then you arrive, and the Montego Bay Yacht Club provides the best hospitality – with great warmth and friendliness – of any race I’ve ever participated in!”

Montego Bay Race course around Cuba and Windward PassageWith entries hailing from as far away as Michigan and California, none will be more supported by well-wishers than the one representing Jamaica itself.  Sailing in IRC division, the J/120 MISS JAMAICA will have aboard Montego Bay YC Commodore Nigel Knowles and his 16-year-old daughter Zoe Knowles, who is Youth Commodore for the club. “It felt only right to have our own team compete in a race that we run (in partnership with Storm Trysail Club and Lauderdale Yacht Club),” said the elder Knowles, “and the breaking news now is that we have the youngest-ever participant aboard as well.”

Knowles said his team will arrive in Fort Lauderdale February 3rd for two days of training before the start. “It will be a fairly steep learning curve; we’ve mostly never sailed together as a group but one of us (Jim Wilson) has sailed on an identical boat, and we are all very active in a smaller version of the boat, the J/22, which we sail every two weeks at Montego Bay and Kingston.”

Knowles looks forward to going head-to-head with the other J/120 TAMPA GIRL; however, that boat is signed up to be scored under PHRF while MISS JAMAICA is sailing IRC.

Joining MISS JAMAICA in IRC is Mark Jordan’s J/122 MISS MARIS from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. And, joining Bill Terry’s TAMPA GIRL from Tampa, Florida in PHRF is Chris Saxton’s J/145 VORTICES from Plymouth, Michigan.

“The Pineapple Cup-Montego Bay Race has a special place in the hearts of sailors,” said Race Coordinator Evelyn Harrington, ”both for the unique challenges of its course and for the warm Jamaican hospitality waiting at the finish.” Harrington explained that every boat has a local host – “somebody to be a familiar face in a strange place” – and sailors are treated to a week of fun that includes parties and events with a local flare and a final dinner, dance and prize giving ceremony on Friday, February 13.  “And now that we are part of something bigger – the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series – we have a great chance to showcase our race on the world stage.”

The Pineapple Cup– Montego Bay Race is endorsed by the Jamaican Tourist Board and managed by the SORC. JetBlue is the Official Airline of the race and sponsors include the Montego Bay Yacht Club, Storm Trysail Club, and Lauderdale Yacht Club along with Appleton Estate Rum and SelectBrands.

For more information or to follow the race, visit or contact Pineapple Cup Race Coordinator Evelyn Harrington at 876-979-8469. Visit the race blog at and Facebook at

J/22s sailing San Francisco BayThe West Coast’s Wackiest Race?!
(San Francisco, CA)- If the mission of an event is to maximize participation, the first step might be to throw out the highly refined race management manual. Setting perfect start lines for perfect windward-leeward courses is fine for the hard-core racers, but not as much for the casual competitor.

One race that has hit on a winning formula is the “Three Bridge Fiasco” (3BF) on San Francisco Bay, which kicks off at 0900 on Saturday, January 31. According to the San Francisco Bay Singlehanded Sailing Society (SSS), the race organizers, over 350 boats are expected.

The “3BF” is a reverse start pursuit race which begins and ends at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, rounding marks near SF Bay’s 3 major bridges: the Golden Gate, the San Francisco-Oakland, and the Richmond-San Rafael. The marks can be rounded in any order and in any direction. The start and finish line may also be crossed in either direction.

With 5-second intervals between starting times, there are often several dozen boats attempting to start, in both directions, at the same time. Mix in late starters and the race committee has its hands full keeping track of who is starting.

For the racers, the seemingly simple task of starting, rounding all 3 marks and finishing is misleading. With light morning wind and a building 3.7 knot ebb, how you choose to complete the course is pivotal to race success. Also, the demolition of the old San Francisco-Bay Bridge with its extended safety zone forcing boats into the shallows near the Oakland end will add additional interest- - - if they make it that far!

The overall winner is the first boat back to the GGYC finish line after completing the 21.5 mile course. In addition, many one-design and PHRF division awards are handed out at the Awards Party.

The race attracts large one-design divisions and several hundred PHRF boats. Registered so far are large numbers of J/105s, J/22s, J/24s and J/70s. According to Bruce Stone, a local J/105 sailor from St Francis YC, “We’ve organized into two five boat J/22 teams for bragging rights, TEAM LOVE and TEAM WAR with some notable characters aboard each boat that some of you might be familiar with:

TEAM WAR skippers- Kurt Wessels, Andrea Cabito, Nolan Van Dine, Ethan Doyle, and Chris Raab
TEAM LOVE skippers- Mike Rutledge, John Collins, Craig Fletcher, Bruce Stone, and Russ Silvestri.”

According to Bruce, “Of course, wind will trump tide. Starting after the flood ends, at slack.  My read of the tide is that I want to grab the early ebb on the shore and head west to Blackaller, then reach across the bay trying to find some late flood and get through Raccoon Straits toward Red Rocks, rounding to starboard, then take the ebb going north to round Yerba Buena Island to starboard and some leftover ebb to get back to the Golden Gate YC finish line.  Will be fighting some ebb getting to Red Rocks, and later on will face the ebb from Berkeley Circle to Yerba Buena but I think that is way better than going the other way.  It all depends on the wind, naturally!!”

But whatever happens, at the end of the day nearly 350 boats will head for their berths with another “Fiasco” inextricably tattooed into their sailing memories.  For more Three Bridge Fiasco sailing information

USA J/70 “J/70 Denmark- sailing leaguePremiere Sailing League" Launches
(Chicago, IL)- The new Premiere Sailing League promises to change the way we think about amateur sailing in the USA.  Announced at the Strictly Sail boat show in Chicago, the series kicks off this August and will be comprised of four district qualifying regattas that divide 72 sailing club teams by region (North- Chicago; South- New Orleans; East- Newport; West- San Francisco) to compete for top ranking. The best four teams from each district then compete head-to-head in the Premiere Sailing League National Championships to be held in Annapolis, Maryland during the United States Sailboat Show in October.

“The Premiere Sailing League (PSL) is the first event of its kind in the USA,” said PSL’s Director and Founder, Ben Klatzka, an avid sailor and successful businessman who recently moved from Germany to Newport, RI to pursue his dream of bringing the sailing league format to the public. “It is structured after the enormously successful sailing leagues pioneered in Germany and Denmark (, with the objective of strengthening community and camaraderie within the sport of sailing by providing an integrated platform that brings sailing clubs together to compete at both a local and national level.”

The success of the European sailing leagues has been a source of inspiration for Klatzka, who says he will someday be able to include a national sail-off in the mix. He is working with a Board of Advisors comprised of experienced sailing industry professionals for advice on how to best build the Premiere Sailing League and will be sharing details with the public over the coming weeks and months.

J/70 Premiere Sailing League“To reach the broadest audience, Premiere Sailing League regattas will be held close to shore, have a stadium-style atmosphere and utilize the latest social media technologies, allowing the sailing and general public to support and encourage their teams,” said Klatzka. “With these spectator-friendly initiatives, we hope to create strong fan bases for the clubs similar to more traditional professional sports teams in the United States.”

Each of the Premiere Sailing League teams will be made up of four sailors representing yacht clubs and sailing organizations. Sailing will be conducted in fun, easy-to-sail J/70s.

“Having seen what the new J/70 sailing leagues in Europe have done to excite and promote grassroots sailing, we’re really excited to support Ben’s initiative in the USA,” said Jeff Johnstone from J/Boats.

Klatzka will soon announce a Warm up/Test Run Event at the beginning of the season for prospective competitors, team and event sponsors, and organizers for host venues.

For more information, please go to or contact Benjamin Klatzka at +1-617-480-8775,

J/Sailing News

The Sun Never Sets on J's Sailing Worldwide

The end of January again saw masses of sailors from all four points of the compass and at least six continents assemble at one of the “can’t miss” regattas on the winter calendar- Quantum Key West Race Week.  With 74 boats in attendance, the J/Teams again made their massive presence felt both on the water (with nearly 60% of the total fleet in attendance) and at the post-race “tent party” where just about everyone you saw was sailing a J/70, J/88, J/111 or J/122.  Not surprisingly, the trophy presentations every evening reflected that camaraderie and fun amongst the J-Tribe.

Leading up to Key West Race Week was the infamous “reach around the keys”, the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race that saw a J/145, a quartet of J/120s and a J/111 participating.  Further east into the Caribbean, the large, fun-loving and very active J/24 fleet in Barbados enjoyed the first of many Caribbean regattas during their winter race week.

Down Under, the J/70s sailing in Sydney, Australia had a fabulous time racing as a one-design class for their first time in the Australian Sports Boat Association National Championship held on Sydney Harbour.  Just prior to that event, the J/70s also sailed the 179th Sydney Harbour Australia Day Regatta- one of the world’s longest, continuously running events!

Hopping across Eurasia, we find J/70s again fielding a very strong fleet for the third “act” of the YC Monaco Winter Series, sailed off Hercules Harbor in Monte Carlo.  The J/70 fleet continues to grow strongly in Monaco and the winter series have enjoyed teams participating from Italy, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Russia and France.  Many are preparing not just for the upcoming J/70 Worlds in La Rochelle, France, but also the J/70 Europeans being held in Monaco in October.

Read on! The J/Community and Cruising section below has many entertaining stories and news about J/Sailors as well as cruising blogs about those who continue to enjoy the Caribbean and the South Pacific, staying warm while others are trying to stay warm up north.  Check them out!  More importantly, if you have more J/Regatta News, please email it or upload onto our J/Boats Facebook page!  Below are the summaries.

Regatta & Show Schedules:

Oct 24- Mar 8- Monaco J/70 Winter Series- Monte Carlo, Monaco
Dec 13- Feb 7- Quantum J/70 Winter Series- Davis Island, FL
Feb 6-8- Primo Cup- YC Monaco- Monte Carlo, Monaco
Feb 6-13- Pineapple Cup- Montego Bay YC- Montego Bay, Jamaica
Feb 18-21- J/27 Midwinters- New Orleans, LA
Feb 20-22- J/24 Midwinters- Davis Island YC- Tampa, FL
Feb 23- RORC 600 Race- English Harbour, Antigua
Mar 4-7- Bacardi Miami Sailing Week- Miami, FL
Mar 5-8- Heineken St Maarten Regatta- St Maarten
Mar 13-15- J/30 Midwinters- New Orleans YC- New Orleans, LA
Mar 27-29- J/22 Midwinters- Jackson YC- Ridgeland, MS
Mar 27-29- St Thomas International Regatta- St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Mar 30- Apr 5- BVI Spring Regatta- Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Apr 13-18- Les Voiles St Barth- Gustavia, St Barthelemy
Apr 16-19- Charleston Race Week- Charleston, SC
Apr 24- May 2- EDHEC Sailing Cup- La Rochelle, France
Apr 26- May 1- Antigua Sailing Week- Falmouth, Antigua

Boat Shows:
Jan 23- Feb 1- Seattle Boat Show- J/122E, J/70 and J/88
Feb 14-22- New England Boat Show- J/88
Apr 9-12- Apr 9-12- Strictly Sail Pacific- Oakland, CA- J/70, J/88, J/111

For additional J/Regatta and Event dates in your region, please refer to the on-line J/Sailing Calendar.

Germans Top J/70 Monaco Act 3
(Monte Carlo, Monaco)- The competition and participation continue to increase in the J/70 Monaco Winter Series.  After a long holiday break over Christmas and New Year’s, the J/70 sailors in Europe got back to business in the third installment of the series in Monte Carlo; an event marked by a wide range of conditions that included no wind to lots of wind and waves.

The PRO at YC Monaco knew he was up to a daunting task of getting off a good series given the weather forecasts for the three-day weekend.  With a light winds forecast for Friday, the question was how much breeze would persist for Saturday and Sunday.  Ultimately, while Friday’s sailing was canceled, the next two days of racing produced some amazing racing- sun, fun, 16-20 kts winds and 5.5 foot waves Saturday and 10-13 kts winds and 3 foot waves on Sunday.  In total, the fleet enjoyed five awesome races off Hercules Harbor.

J/70s sailing off Monte Carlo, MonacoWhat became self-evident was the German teams in attendance were not only well-sailed, but were sailing in the event as a precursor to their J/70 Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga events and with an eye towards the J/70 Worlds in La Rochelle, France in July and the J/70 Europeans in October in Monte Carlo.

Surprising both the top-flight German teams as well as the local J/70 cognoscenti at YC Monaco was the performance by Steffen Hepberger & Dennis Mehlig’s team on ESPRIT D’EQUIPE.  Posting only top three scores of 3-2-1-3-2, Hepberger’s crew seemingly mastered the very tricky local conditions to win the regatta with just 8 pts net.

Second overall was a rapidly ascending United Kingdom crew, Ian Wilson’s JOYRIDE with a 4-1-2-2-4 tally for just 9 pts net.

The Blankeneser Segel Club Hamburg showed up with a brand new J/70 for the Monaco event. Skipper Claas Lehmann with crew of Björn Athmer, Marc Daniel Mählmann and Dennis Ruge sailed a very strong regatta after a disappointing first race.  In the end, their 8-3-6-1-3 record vindicated their ability to sail in the top three.

Rounding out the top five were the top two YC Monaco teams- Ian Isley & Francois Brenac’s ST ANDREWS in fourth with 16 pts and Jacopo Carrain & Enrico Fonda’s CARPE DIEM in fifth with 17 pts.

It was close racing for the fleet, with five separate winners for five races!  What was clear from the results over the weekend was that a good start, better set or takedown, one more good surf into the gate made an enormous difference in the overall results!  The next event promises to be even closer as this fleet will be sailing the famous YC Monaco Primo Cup- Credit Suisse in two weeks.   For more YC Monaco J/70 Winter Series sailing information.

J/70 sailing Sydney Harbour, AustraliaSydney-Based J/70s Sail ASBA Nationals
(Sydney, Australia)- Six local J/70s came together for the first time to make the largest one-design fleet in the Australian Sports Boats Association (ASBA) National Championships Regatta!! That is remarkable!! Who knew the American sportsboat phenomenon would enjoy so many happy new owners Down Under!

Held on the stunning Sydney Harbour and hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club Australia (CYCA), famous for their Rolex Sydney-Hobart race (hosted just 12 days before), the ASBA Nationals consisted of a four day, ten-race event with near-perfect weather conditions. The J/70 crews elected to sail to strict J/70 class rules.

The first day was a series of 3x W/L courses with the wind starting at 12 kts and increasing to 20 kts for the last race.  JEDI reveled in the windier conditions to bring home three bullets with Ray and Jill Carless sailing JUNIOR coming a close 2nd. Steve and Sue Brady, one of the newer entrants to the J/70 fleet, slotting in a well-earned 3rd.

J/70 sailing Sydney Harbour, Australia sport boat regattaThe following day was the passage race taking the fleet on a course from Darling Point upwind to North Harbour near Manly, with runs back to Rose Bay around Shark Island. Sydney really turned on the weather again with more sunshine and over 20 kts of wind for the start, then building throughout the race. The fleet beat up the western shore taking advantage of the tide and a little relief from the chop.

The breeze was really solid on the beat all the way across the Heads, where the Harbour meets the Pacific Ocean, up to Manly for the final run home to Shark Island. Top speeds and wipeouts prevailed with the start boat reporting a few Vipers down and other boats with broken rigs and rudders and broken spirits and egos— not the case with the J/70 sailors!!

The next race was shortened, as the breeze was still building at over 25 kts, gusting 31 kts with the J/70s recording over 16 kts for a great ride planing down the harbour and no breakages. JEDI once again proving her experience onboard in the heavy winds, scoring a 1st in the J/70s class and 4th overall with a consistent JUNIOR gaining.

Friday, race 5 and lighter winds, JUNIOR was hot on the heels of JEDI and pipping Tim Ryan’s JAMES and Steve & Sue Brady in YKNOT. In race 6, Tim Ryan’s aptly named boat JAMES, carrying sail number 007 and a license to thrill, put the pressure on, pushing JEDI all the way only 18 seconds behind, with GRASSHOPPER UNIT hitting the podium in 3rd place, JUNIOR and YKNOT only 3 seconds behind for a nail-biting finish- all J/70s finishing very closely.

Race 7, YKNOT on pace again and JUNIOR 3rd, the boat-handling of all the J/70s crews improving with every start, tack and gybe.

Saturday and the final 3x W/L races, lighter winds again and plenty of sunshine for race 8.  JUNIOR strikes back, winning the race and takes JEDI to 2nd place with GRASSHOPPER UNIT storming into 3rd place, all the J/70s finish within 45 seconds of each other as the racing intensifies.  Race 9, “the force” returns to JEDI but she is pushed to the limit by JAMES, who is only 16 seconds behind.  GRASSHOPPER UNIT and JUNIOR tie for third just 3 seconds behind JAMES with all the J/70s finishing yet again within 47 seconds of each other. Final race 10 and JAMES once again challenges JEDI, only 3 seconds behind followed by YKNOT, GRASSHOPPER UNIT, and JUNIOR who got caught the wrong side of a ferry on the final run!  Bummer, eh?!

For the series, JEDI headed the J/70s, followed by JUNIOR and YKNOT. JEDI also scored a 3rd overall in Division 2 against the other sportboats.

Sandra Entwistle sailing on JEDI was also awarded the inaugural “Fastest Female” trophy for the quickest overall boat in the whole series to have a female crew on board.

However, the biggest win of this regatta was the fact the J/70s enjoyed close class racing. The crews all commenting how the boats were so closely matched, the camaraderie on and off the water, the common sense class rules, the fact most of the J/70s were crewed by family members, and every J/70 had one or more female crew on board!

Come and join the J/70 class as it expands in Australia; with 2 more boats on the way for the Sydney area and the beginnings of fleets in Perth and Melbourne.  It’s easy to see why the J/70 class is growing “Down Under.”

J/24s sailing off BarbadosCream Rising In Barbados- J/24s Jamin Bro!
(Bridgetown, Barbados) – After two days of racing in the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race Coastal Series, leading contenders for the overall honours are beginning to emerge.  Racing for most classes began with a circuit of Carlisle Bay before heading on an eight-mile leg up the west coast and then out south. Although the wind was lighter, it was shifty, which meant the emphasis was on good tactics and impeccable team work.

The J/24 fleet always produces surprises and this year was no exception. TEAM SHAKIN with Peter Armstrong at the helm had a repeat performance of yesterday’s first race when they led off the start. Today however, they sailed consistently well in the first race with a good start and first beat, and led the race from the top mark to the finish.

Chatting about the team’s performance, Armstrong said: “We learnt a lesson from yesterday so today we covered the fleet and finished with a comfortable lead. This is all good for us because we are usually at the other end of the fleet. Our secret weapon is our new tactician – Kwame Hinds – who is also our coach. We also have new North sails, so we have everything going for us. We are really pleased with our performance because we have seen a massive improvement.”

Raphael Grisoni and his BUNGA BUNGA team won the second race of the day, while the young team on COLLEGE FUNDS won the third. With three seconds from today to add to yesterday’s three firsts, however, Robert Povey and team on HAKWEYE remain at the top of the rankings with just two races remaining.

Back on shore, the Bajan party scene is bigger than ever with crews heading to the stylish Drift Ocean Terrace Lounge at Holetown tonight for live music, and then back to Barbados Yacht Club on Monday night for more fine local hospitality.

Then, the teams were sent on to the 79th Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race.  Despite generally light airs with winds reaching no more that 15kts, three teams have won their skipper’s weight in rum for breaking records in the 79th Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race.

Team College Funds skippered by Laser sailor Jason Tindale were noted for their impressive performance. They managed to break through to the lead the fleet at North Point by sailing closer to the shore, and finished third over the line. They also broke the J/24 record with a time of 9hrs, 06mins, 38secs.

Tindale commenting on the team’s performance said: “We had a fantastic day and are delighted to have done so well. It didn’t look good at the start in just 4kts of breeze. It took an hour to sail two-and-a-half nautical miles. Thankfully the breeze filled up to 14kts and the crew worked well to get everything together.

“A good tactical maneuver at North Point by sailing further inshore gave us an advantage over a couple of boats who sailed out further. It is always a bit rough the Point and today was no exception. It was lumpy and very uncomfortable in the J/24 but we made it. We had a bit of tough time steering down the top part of the east coast with the kite up for four hours but once we were round East Point the situation improved and it was a fun ride home.”

Although the lack of record-breaking opportunities on the in 60-nautical mile Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados course proved disappointing for many in the 35-strong fleet, the race was a huge success, with most competitors regarding it as one of the best to date.

Peter Lewis on his J/105 WHISTLER, who won the 35ft and Under and the CSA divisions, said he couldn’t have asked for a better day. “It was an excellent race and despite the generally light airs it was a beautiful day for sailing and one of the best on record. We were a bit concerned the big boats would swamp us towards the end, but thankfully we were far enough ahead.”   For more Mt Gay Rum Round Barbados Regatta information

J's sailing to Key WestJ’s Reaching to Key West
(Ft Lauderdale, FL)- This year’s 40th annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race, hosted by the S.O.R.C., provided most of the fleet with light northeasterlies on the Wednesday afternoon start that soon changed to northwesterlies for the rest of the race after a frontal passage on Thursday night.

The race continues to serve as a really fun “feeder race” Key West Race Week and, later, for those who plan to sail the Pineapple Cup- the classic 800nm race from Lauderdale down around the Bahamas, past Cuba, to Montego Bay, Jamaica. For some of those boats, this circuit of events leads them to the RORC Caribbean 600 Race and the balance of the winter sailing season in the Caribbean.

J/125 sailing off FloridaSailing in PHRF A Chris Saxton’s J/145 VORTICES from Plymouth, MI in the Great Lakes made the most of the sailing conditions to grab third overall.

In perhaps the toughest fleet of the race, five J/Teams were racing in PHRF B. Top J was Frank Kern’s CARINTHIA with 3rd overall.  Next was Gary Weisberg’s J/111 HEAT WAVE in 5th, followed by Marcus Cholerton-Brown’s J/120 SUNSET CHILD in 6th, Bill Terry’s J/120 TAMPA GIRL in 8th and Kristen Berry’s J/120 EUROTRASH GIRL in 10th.   For social media Facebook Key West Race sailing info.   Sailing photo credits- Sharon Green/ Ultimate Sailing.  For more Ft Lauderdale to Key West sailing information

J/88 sailing Key WestJ/Teams Love Key West!
(Key West, FL)- Remarkably, the Chamber of Commerce conditions that are promised each year for Quantum Key West Race Week always seem get fulfilled, much to the delight of the 72 J/Teams sailing in the event (nearly 60% of the entire fleet!).

Perhaps the biggest news of the regatta was the fact the Italian CALVI NETWORK team won the enormous, very competitive J/70 class; skipper Carlo Alberini was 2014 European and Italian Champion and can now add the crown of not only J/70 Midwinter Champion, but also the Quantum Key West Race Week Overall Boat of the Week honors!  They were followed by the Mexican team of FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO skippered by Julian Fernandez Neckelmann from Valle de Bravo in Mexico City, with Team HELLY HANSEN (Tim Healy) losing out a certain regatta victory with an OCS in the last race (one in which they won).  And, the next most notable, if not heart-warming, story was the father-son combination sailing the J/70 PIED PIPER, with Dad crewing (Dan Troutman) and 12 year old son Gannon steering the entire regatta and taking 5th overall!

The J/111s also had some spirited, close racing with George Gamble’s MY SHARONA from Pensacola, Florida taking the win over a fast-closing SPACEMAN SPIFF, last year’s Key West J/111 PHRF winner, skippered by Rob Ruhlman.  Third was Brad Farber’s very well-sailed UTAH.

The J/88s saw a tactical duel take place all week between Rob & Sandy Butler’s TOUCH2PLAY RACING and Iris Vogel’s DEVIATION.  All week, the DEVIATION gang led the regatta until they faltered on the heavy air trio of races Friday.  The Butler crew from Canada sailed lights out the last day with three bullets in a row to win on a tie-breaker!  Third was David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA.

J/122 sailing Key West- Team work!In PHRF A Time-on-Time division, the J/122s managed to close out the regatta with a flourish, taking 2nd and 3rd in division with Robin Team’s TEAMWORK again garnering top J/Team honors followed by Rick Wesslund’s EL OCASO- the one with the spectacular neon blue, NASCAR-like graphics.

Similarly in PHRF 2 Class, Jon Weglarz’s J/105 THE ASYLUM from Chicago, IL and Henry DeGroot’s WIRED from New Bedford YC finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Finally, Greg Slyngstad’s J/125 HAMACHI from Seattle, Washington sailed a come-from-behind series to snag 5th overall in a very tough IRC fleet (most boats being about 15+ years younger and fully optimized to IRC).  Tactician Jonathan McKee, the American Olympic Medalist, had some interesting commentary that was featured in Sailing World (see excerpts below).

J/122 sailing Key West- El Ocaso!Monday
The week got off to a strong start with the principal race officers on all three divisions able to complete two good races in 8-14 knot northeasterly winds.

For the huge J/70 class, the goal going into the first day was to avoid that deep finish that could prove costly. “You can’t win the regatta on Monday, but you sure can lose it,” HEARTBREAKER skipper Robert Hughes said. “You don’t want to sail your drop race on the first day.”

After finishing 11th in Race 1, San Diego skipper Bennett Greenwald on PERSEVERANCE got the gun in Race 2 and was the early leader while also earning City of Key West Boat of the Day honors. Hughes, who trailed Greenwald by three points and led Carlo Alberini’s CALVI NETWORK by one, had a similar day with results of 13th and second. In fact, the top five boats on Monday all had one result of fifth or better and another result of 11th or higher!  A first for any major J/70 regatta, that showed the depth of talent and parity in the fleet.

“We almost had a great day,” said Hughes, who lost seven places on the final leg of Race 1. “I’m pleased with our speed. We have new sails and have made some changes to the rig setup. This is the best this boat has ever gone.”

Leading the Corinthians was Jim Cunningham on LIFTED followed by Heather Gregg on MUSE and Brian Elliott on B-SQUARED.

J111 powering upwind off Key WestIn the J/88 class, Iris Vogel started the week off strongly, posting two bullets to lead the fleet.  In second was Rob & Sandy Butler on TOUCH2PLAY RACING with a 3-2 and in third was David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA with a 2-3.

The J/111s also had very close racing.  Commented Bob Hesse on LAKE EFFECT, “at the leeward gate in the second race all seven boats rounded with 15 seconds of each other!  It’s really fun, close racing.”  Hesse’s crew was leading the class by one point with a 4-1.  In second was George Gamble’s MY SHARONA from Pensacola, Florida with a 2-4 and tied on points was Brad Faber’s UTAH from Chicago, Illinois with a 3-3.

In PHRF 2, Jon Weglarz’s J/105 THE ASYLUM is in second with a 2-2 and Henry DeGroot’s J/80 WIRED in third with a 3-3.  The J/122s were having a rough go of it in PHRF 1 with the extreme range of ratings and performance within the fleet.

The second day brought dicey conditions that forced principal race officers to make numerous tough decisions. There were some delays, a few false starts and even one abandonment, but by the time the day was over all three divisions had completed two races in shifty winds that ranged from 5 to 7 knots.

J/111 Wicked 2.0 sailing Key WestThe J/70s were sailing on the Division 2 course that was managed by Dave Brennan. A veteran principal race officer and Key West stalwart, Brennan was forced to delay several times in order to start races in stable winds.  “The breeze was very dodgy and moving through at least 50 degrees so the trick was picking the right radial to kick the race off,” Brennan said. “We want the sailors to have a reasonably square line. Prior to Race 4, we had to postpone three times to reset the line.  We made the racing as good as we could. Actually, we were very fortunate that it was quite good,” Brennan said.

Veteran sailmaker Jud Smith was the daily winner in J/70 class, sailing AFRICA to second in Race 3 then getting the gun in Race 4. That moved the Marblehead (Mass.) resident to the top of the standings with a low score of 30 points, just one ahead of the Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE.

“We got out to the course early and had a nice tune-up session with another boat, which allowed us to get accustomed to the conditions,” Smith said. “I would have been happy with two Top 10 finishes on a day like this so I’m ecstatic to get a first and a second. We were fortunate to be in the right spots and I thought the team did a good job of changing gears.”  Smith, who is head of Doyle One-Design, has his daughter Lindsay on the boat along with Marc Gauthier and Will Felder. The former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year says the entire crew participates in tactics and strategy.

Behind them in third was Trey Sheehan’s HOOLIGAN: FLAT STANLEY RACING, they were second overall for the day with a 3-6 score.  Rounding out the top five in this hotly contested group was Doug McLean’s LATIS RACING in fourth with 37 pts and Bob Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER with 42 pts.

In the Corinthians Division, Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED continued to lead the fleet followed by Heather Gregg’s MUSE in second and Brian Elliott’s B-SQUARED in third.

After winning both races on Tuesday, New York skipper Iris Vogel added a pair of seconds on Tuesday to remain atop the standings in J/88 class with just 6 pts.  Only one point back was Rob and Sandy Butler’s TOUCH2PLAY RACING, vaulting up the standings after posting a pair of bullets.  Hanging onto third place is David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA with 12 pts.

There was a new leader in the J/111 class after Florida skipper George Gamble (Pensacola) posted a pair of bullets on Tuesday sailing MY SHARONA.  Quantum Sail Design Group pro Scott Nixon was calling tactics for Gamble on MY SHARONA, which holds a four-point lead over SPACEMAN SPIFF.  “We got great starts and did not miss a wind shift all day,” Gamble said. “The racing is amazingly tight. We won today’s second race by about a boat length.”

J/111 slicing upwind off Key WestAlso making a big move up the standings was last year’s J/111 PHRF A winner, Rob & Ryan Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF from Cleveland, Ohio.  After posting a 2-3 in the difficult conditions, they now have 12 pts over four races, just 4 pts from the lead.  After starting out strong on the first day, Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT from Youngstown, New York added a 6-2 to their scoreline, dropping to third in the standings with 13 pts, only 5 pts back from the top.  The racing in the J/111 class continues to be tight, with speed and tactics often getting eclipsed by better execution in the corners.

Based off early morning forecasts, it appeared a lay day might be in the cards for competitors. Some sailors might have already been making plays to play tennis or go fishing during an hour-long dockside delay.  Others were even contemplating how to take a day off in Havana, Cuba chartering planes (only 90nm direct)!

However, organizers with Premiere Racing saw a small pocket of sailable conditions and sent the fleet out to the three race courses. Division 1 completed two races while Divisions 2 and 3 both got in one to keep the regatta moving along.

J/70s sailing off start at Key WestDave Brennan, principal race officer on Division 2, said the decision to send the boats out on the water came after organizers received live on- water reports from boats that had been sent out to determine exactly what conditions were.  “We were cautious because the forecast was not very promising,” said Brennan. “We had boats out on the water and were watching the progress very carefully. We felt there was a good chance the breeze would stick and that we could give the sailors a race.”  Brennan said conditions on his course, which includes the J/70 class, were perfectly fine for Race 5. However, the breeze steadily died and dipped below five knots, which is the threshold Brennan believes is necessary to start a race.  “We got in one good race on a day we didn’t think we would have any so that’s a plus,” he said. “This regatta has always been about quality over quantity and we didn’t think a second race today would be very good so we decided not to get greedy.”

Jud Smith remained the leader in J/70 class for the second straight day, sailing AFRICA to sixth on Wednesday and adding two points to his advantage over Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE. Trey Sheehan steered HOOLIGAN to third on Wednesday and is now tied with PERSEVERANCE on points.

“Everybody is working together very nicely and the boat is moving real well,” said Michael Sheehan, who is crewing for his brother- Trey. “We were saying on the way back into the dock that we are not going to change anything. We are just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”  Brad Boston is tactician on HOOLIGAN, which has a home port of Put-In-Bay, Ohio and a team comprised of close friends who grew up together in the greater Cleveland area. HOOLIGAN is part of the Flat Stanley Racing program.  “We’ve been able to get off the line clean and we haven’t taken any flyers,” Michael Sheehan said. “Brad is really sharp about looking up the course and seeing what we’ve got coming.”

Skipper Iris Vogel and her team on DEVIATION along with skipper George Gamble and his crew aboard MY SHARONA have been leaders of the J/88 and J/111 one-design classes, respectively, at the end of each day’s racing.

J/70s surfing off Key WestVeteran Quantum pro Kerry Klingler is calling tactics for Vogel, who has finished first in three races and second in the two others. This is the first one-design regatta for any of the J/88s competing here in Key West and Vogel said she’s somewhat surprised to be the pace-setter.  “We’ve only being doing PHRF racing so we really don’t know how we good we were,” Vogel said. “It’s exciting to be here competing against other J/88s and finally finding out if we’re fast or slow.”

Nixon, an Annapolis-based Quantum professional, said the MY SHARONA team put in a lot of time practicing prior to the regatta and that effort is paying off. “We’ve been pretty fast in all conditions,” he said. “We actually had pretty good pressure coming off the northerly beach,” said Nixon. “It was about seven to eight knots from the northwest and we had a decent race.”

Rob Ruhlman, skipper of second place SPACEMAN SPIFF, has been impressed with MY SHARONA’s ability to accelerate off the start line. “MY SHARONA is killing it off the line. Today they got out there with clean air and just launched on the whole fleet. We have to do a better job of starting if we want to have any chance of beating them,” Ruhlman said.

It was a “classic” Key West day Thursday.  After doing three races in strong winds on Thursday, there are no doubt a lot of sore muscles, aching bones and tired bodies for the sailors on Course 2 (J/70s) and Course 3 (J/88s, J/111s, J122s). Not that anyone was complaining. Light winds on Wednesday led to just one race on Division 2 and 3, and organizers with Premiere Racing were keen to make up for that on Thursday. So, the six classes competing on those two courses were sent out an hour early for a 10:30am start so the race committee could take advantage of east-southeasterly winds that held steady between 10 and 15 knots.

"The wind was absolutely gorgeous, and also quite stable. We never moved a mark during a race all day," said Wayne Bretsch, principal race officer for Division 3. "It was just a beautiful day for sailboat racing. The only way I would have enjoyed myself more was if I was racing!”

J/111 UTAH sailing off Key WestBradley Faber, skipper of the J/111 UTAH, said it was a long day on the water and the crew aboard his boat enjoyed every minute of it.  "It was an exceptional day out there. Classic Key West conditions," Faber said. "We came here to go racing so the more, the better."

UTAH got the gun in two of three races on Thursday, finishing third in the other only because of a blown out spinnaker. That strong performance earned UTAH the Industry Partner Boat of the Day award and also enabled the Michigan entry to put pressure on MY SHARONA, which has led the J/111 class at the end of each day's racing.

"We had a really great day. The boat and the crew both performed very well," Faber said.  "We still believe we can win this thing. We're ready to do battle with MY SHARONA and see what happens."  Faber said Quantum Sails pro Wally Cross made a big impact on his program. "We have a pro onboard who has really helped us a lot on how to sail the 111. Wally is doing a great job of teaching us the dynamics of the boat," Faber said.

Light winds that had predominated during the regatta were frustrating for TEAMWORK, the J/122 that has struggled to save its time on the smaller, lighter Farr 280s in PHRF 1. Skipper Robin Team was thrilled to see the breeze pipe up to double digits then went out on the water and took full advantage of it. North Sails pro Jonathan Bartlett was calling tactics on TEAMWORK, which won all three races on Thursday.

"Heavy air resuscitated us! The conditions we saw today were a definite advantage to the J/122," Team said. "It feels extraordinarily good to have a day like this."  TEAMWORK jumped from fourth to second in the overall standings thanks to the three bullets.  "It's mathematically possible for us to win, but we would need a lot of help from the other boats in the class," said Team, who won PHRF 1 in 2013 and finished second in 2014.

J/70s sailing at finish off Key WestIt was surprising to see reigning J/70 World and North American champion Tim Healy sitting in 15th place two days into the regatta.  Many predicted that Healy would battle back to be there in the end and they were spot on.  Healy and his crew aboard HELLY HANSEN had steadily climbed into second place in the 54-boat fleet, making a major move on Thursday thanks to a tremendous score line of 2-2-1. Tactician Geoff Becker, trimmer John Mollicone and bowman Gordon Borges comprise the crew aboard HELLY HANSEN, which trailed class leader CALVI NETWORK (Carlo Alberini) by three points.  "Our starts weren't great and some things didn't go our way," Healy said when asked about the slow start. "We've dug our way back by doing a little better job of playing the shifts and passing boats."  Healy, president of North Sails One-Design, captured the J/70 class win at Quantum Key West in 2013 and 2014. The veteran professional said the fact he had to fight back into contention is further evidence the fleet is getting deeper and stronger. "People are learning the boats while the crews are getting better with more experience," he said.

Finally, in PHRF 2 class, the J/105 THE ASYLUM sailed by John Weglarz from Chicago, Illinois also reveled in the windier conditions, posting three 2nds to solidify their grip on second place.  Lying third was Henry DeGroot’s J/80 WIRED.

Friday Finale
The Winners for most of the marquee classes came down to the wire on the last day of the regatta.  With epic, “fresh to frightening” conditions, the 15-25 kt winds and enormous choppy seas challenged the competitors on Friday; forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory.  Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing. All J/Teams sailed a total of three races in the demanding sailing conditions and many said the best “leg” of the regatta was the 2-3 mile broad reach back to the harbor under spinnaker- with many boats reporting fantastic 12-15 kt planing conditions in the spectacular aquamarine waters!

J/70 Calvi Network- winnersJ/70 Class
The J/70s had a week-long dog fight that saw constant changes at the top end of the standings. Skipper Carlo Alberini and his Italian team on CALVI NETWORK emerged as overall winner thanks to single-digit finishes in nine of 11 races. Branko Brcin served as tactician while Sergio Blosi and Karlo Hmeljak handled the trimming aboard CALVI NETWORK, which closed the regatta with a second after posting a steady string of fourths and fifths. That remarkable consistency in such a competitive class earned CALVI NETWORK the ultimate prize at Quantum Key West Race Week - Boat of the Week.

"The talent level in this class is very high. We came to Key West because we are very excited about the J/70 fleet and want to race against the best boats," said Alberini, who won the J/70 European and J/70 Italian Championship last year. "To win here is the best feeling. This might be the most important win of my career because we beat the world champion on the water!”

J/70 Gannon's at Key WestCALVI NETWORK totaled 49 points, eight better than the Mexican entry FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO that is skippered by Julian Fernandez Neckelmann. Italian pro Vasco Vascotto called tactics on FLOJITO, which closed the regatta strong with a first and second on Friday. Tim Healy, the reigning J/70 World Champion and two-time winner in Key West, finished third on HELLY HANSEN after pushing the line and being ruled on-course side (OCS) in the last race.  The balance of the top five included Jud Smith’s AFRICA in 4th place (an early regatta leader) and Dan & Gannon Troutman’s PIED PIPER in fifth.

Gannon Troutman, the 12-year-old skipper of PIED PIPER (seen above right), was the talk of the regatta after finishing fifth in the talent-laden J/70 class- winning a race while also posting a second and third (see the interview/ article below).

J/70 Corinthians winner- LIFTED- Jim CunninghamSan Francisco skipper Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED captured the Corinthian Division of J/70 class, which had 20 boats; he also finished 7th overall.  Behind him it was a tough battle for the 2nd and 3rd.  Going into the last set of three races, Brian Elliot’s B-SQUARED held a 3 point lead over Heather Gregg’s MUSE.  However, in the epic, windy final day it seemed Heather got her groove on and beat them in every race.  Tied on points, Heather’s MUSE team took 2nd over Brian’s B-SQUARED.  Rounding out the top five were Geoff Pierini’s SURGE in fourth and Craig Tallman’s JAYA from Santa Barbara, California in fifth.

J/88 Touch2Play crew- Key West winnersJ/88 Class
The J/88 class was decided on Friday with Rob & Sandy Butler sailing TOUCH2PLAY RACING to victory in both races. That clutch performance gave the Canadian entry the same amount of points as DEVIATION, skippered by Iris Vogel of New Rochelle, New York.  TOUCH2PLAY won the tiebreaker by virtue of more first place finishes.

"We put the pressure on (Deviation) by winning the last race on Thursday. We still trailed by two points so we knew we had to come out and win both races today," Rob Butler said. "Our crew was really dialed in and we had very good boat speed. I'm proud of the team for doing what we had to do in order to win the regatta."

Behind these two, it was David Betts’ INSTANT KARMA that took third, narrowly beating out Joe & Jeff Pawlowski’s EASY EIGHTS in fourth and Chester Kolascz’s SARALYSIA in fifth.

J/111 My Sharona- Key West winnersJ/111 Class
The J/111s saw Pensacola, Florida skipper George Gamble steer MY SHARONA to a wire-to-wire victory. Quantum pro Scott Nixon called tactics on MY SHARONA, which displayed superb boat speed in all conditions in winning five races and placing second or third in four others. After a slow start, the 2014 Key West Race Week winner, Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF, closed strongly to take second overall for the regatta.  Third was Brad Faber’s UTAH.  Early regatta leader, Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT, sailed consistently to take fourth and lying fifth was William Smith’s WOOTON.

J/122 Teamwork- Key West winnersPHRF 1 CLASS
The “tale of the tape” in the PHRF 1 class could be boiled down to wind and wave conditions.  The first half of the week it was generally light to moderate, but the last two days it was much heavier breezes with extremely steep chop.  Reveling in the last half of the races was Robin Team’s J/122 TEAMWORK- a previous regatta winner in the class.  After posting three 1sts and two 2nds in the last five races, TEAMWORK secured yet another podium finish for the regatta, winning PHRF Class Boat of the Day and also taking second overall.  Similarly, Rick Wesslund’s J/122 EL OCASO came on strong in the last half to take third overall in class.

It was clear there was a “pecking order” from the first day of the regatta.  In the end, Jon Weglarz’s J/105 THE ASYLUM from Chicago, Illinois took second place with nine 2nd places in 11 races!  Third overall was Henry DeGroot’s J/80 WIRED.

Sailing photo credits- Tim Wilkes /; Sharon Green/; Allen Clark/; Ken Stanek.   For more Quantum Key West Race Week sailing information.

J/70s sailing Australia Day in Sydney HarbourJ/70s Loving “Australia Day”
(Sydney, Australia)- On an uncharacteristic grey, rainy day with a shifty 10-15 knot SSE wind, the two brand-new McConaghy Boats built J/70’s, YKNOT and JAMES sailing in a mixed fleet, finished 1st and 3rd in Div 2 of the 179th Sydney Harbour Australia Day Regatta held on 26th January.

The regatta is proudly acclaimed as the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world, and has been conducted each year since 1837 to commemorate the anniversary of the first European settlement of Australia.

J/70s sailing Sydney Harbour, AustraliaJAMES took an early lead with the running start from Point Piper up the harbour to the Obelisk mark, followed by a two-sail reach to Lady Bay.  On the beat back to Neilsen Park, YKNOT got ahead as the two J/70’s threaded their way through the many fleets competing on the harbour.  JAMES and YKNOT traded places for the second lap of the harbour with YKNOT coming out the better at the Shark Island mark for the last time, and extending as JAMES got caught up with some larger yachts rounding the same mark.  YKNOT took the win with JAMES 3rd, split by a modified 30 footer.

Steve and Sue from YKNOT had this to say about their first regatta win in their new J/70, “It was great to get the win after some tight racing with JAMES.  We have been steadily improving since taking delivery of the McConaghy-built J/70 in October last year. Getting some time on the water and racing with other J/70s in this regatta and the recent Australian Sports Boat Association Nationals is really helping to tune the boat (and skipper and crew!).  We are enjoying sailing the J/70 and racing with a great bunch of J/70 owners who have been happy to share their knowledge and get us up to speed.”

What friends, alumni and crew of J/Boats are doing worldwide
*  The Key West Interviews- there were a number of interesting interviews as well as an excellent J/70 boat speed seminar conducted at Key West.

J/70 boatspeed- trim to winThe “J/70 Boat Speed: Tune & Trim To Win” had world-famous Ed Baird (J/24 World Champion and America’s Cup winner) as the Moderator with a star-studded panel that included Allan Terhune (J/22 World Champion), George Szabo (Star World Champion), John Mollicone (J/70 World Champion), and Jud Smith (Etchells 22 World Champion).  Here is the entire panel discussion on YouTube.

Carlo Alberini- Caliv NetworkCALVI NETWORK was the 2015 Quantum Sails Boat of the Week! Skipper Carlo Alberini talks about traveling from Italy to race his J/70 at Key West.

Robin Team- J/122 TeamworkRobin Team, skipper of the J/122 TEAMWORK, talks about the tremendous success his boat enjoyed on Thursday and coming to Key West.

Bradley Faber- J/111 UTAHBradley Faber, skipper of J/111 UTAH, talks about winning Thursday's Industry Partner Boat of the Day award, the J/111 class competition and learning from Wally Cross of the Quantum Sail Design Group.

Steph Roble- J/70 RimetteStephanie Roble is the 2014 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She was recognized for her versatility; her accomplishments as a skipper and as a crew; and her competitive successes.  She was tactician on John Brim’s J/70 RIMETTE.

Gannon Troutman- J/70 PIED PIPERGannon Troutman is the 12-year-old skipper of PIED PIPER, sailing with his father (Dan) as crew. Gannon talks about how fun it is to steer a J/70 in Key West.

Rob Butler- J/88 TOUCH2PLAYRob Butler, skipper of J/88 TOUCH2PLAY RACING, speaks about the J/88 class, the fun they’re having and the competition.

Rob Ruhlman- J/111 SPACEMAN SPIFFRob Ruhlman, skipper of J/111 SPACEMAN SPIFF, talks about J/111 One Design racing, tactics and this year's amazing competition.

Gannon Troutman- skippering J/70 PIED PIPER at Key West*  Gannon Troutman- Race Week's Youngest Skipper (ever)??  Some of the world's greatest sailors are competing in J/70 class at Quantum Key West 2015. Most of them got beaten by a 12-year-old— Gannon managed to score a 1-2-3 during the 11 race series!

Gannon has gone from racing Optimist dinghies to skippering an entry in the largest class at one of the greatest regattas in North America. And the kid is doing pretty well, steering PIED PIPER to a fifth place overall finish in the talent-laden, 54-boat class.

"I almost fell off the spectator boat!” Robin Troutman said of seeing her son's boat heading to the finish line with the lead pack. "I couldn't believe he was doing that well on the first day."

Troutman, a resident of Gloucester, Virginia, is believed to be the youngest skipper in the 28-year history of Key West Race Week. Previously, that honor belonged to Samuel "Shark" Kahn, who was 14 when he skippered a Melges 24 entry here.

Gannon's fascination with boats began with building models of all sorts of different vessels. Upon hearing about that hobby, the family dentist urged the youngster to give sailing a try. A summer sailing camp at Ware River Yacht Club got him hooked and led to full-time instruction at Fishing Bay Yacht Club.

Gannon started sailing Optis at age eight and four years later is a mid-fleet finisher at most major regattas, his mother said. More important than the results are the passion he has developed for the sport.

"The kid just loves to sail! He wants to be out on that water more than anything," Robin said.

In an effort to encourage and nurture that enthusiasm, Dan Troutman purchased a J/70 so he could sail alongside his son. Victor Diaz de Leon, who met the family while working as a junior instructor at Tred Avon Yacht Club, joined the crew for some regattas last summer and is the one that suggested competing in Key West.

So a planned family vacation to Aruba was scrapped in favor of giving Gannon an opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport. Such top-notch professionals as Tim Healy, Vasco Vascotto, Eric Doyle, Tony Rey and Dave Ullman are racing in J/70 class at Quantum Key West 2015.

"We decided to let Gannon do this because we knew it would be a lot of fun and he would get great coaching, great experience," Robin said.

Diaz de Leon is calling tactics while Tomas Dietrich, the Optimist coach at Fishing Bay Yacht Club, is trimming the headsails. After finishing a respectable 27th in Race 1, the team put it all together in taking third in Race 2 on Monday.

"It felt good to get a result like that. I hope to get up there again," Gannon said.

Gannon has raced his Optimist in big fleets, but that is quite different from negotiating a J/70 class with 54 entries. "Getting off the line is the hard part. It can be hard to find a lane," he said.

"Gannon is doing great. He is listening well and picking things up very fast," Diaz de Leon said.

Dietrich said the experience of racing for a week in a big, competitive fleet at Key West is invaluable and will benefit Gannon down the road.

"The more you sail the better you get. Gannon is seeing and learning things down here that are all new to him," Dietrich said. "There's no doubt this will build his confidence."

One of the perks of coming to Key West is that a youngster such as Gannon gets an opportunity to meet some of the big stars of the sport. Gannon was a very interested spectator at Sunday evening's Panel Discussion that was presented by title sponsor Quantum Sail Design Group and afterward got to meet such world-renowned professionals as Terry Hutchinson, Jonathan McKee and Ed Baird. Vascotto is tactician aboard the J/70 Flojito y Cooperando, which is berthed just a few slips down from Pied Piper at Conch Harbor.

"Vasco has been very nice to Gannon and has stopped by almost every morning to say hello and offer words of encouragement," Dan said.

Terry Hutchinson- sailing Bella Mente at Key WestTerry Hutchinson, Chief of Business Development for Quantum Sails, J/24 World Champion, J/70 owner in Annapolis, MD and 3x Rolex Yachtsman of the Year had this to say about Gannnon:

“One competitor stood out in my mind and in a very small way made me smile as you could see a bright future. Twelve-year-old Gannon Troutman finished fifth in the highly competitive J/70 fleet, and as Vasco Vascotto and I chatted with him and parents, swapping half truths about yelling at each for the last 20 years, we were all laughing. It was just awesome to see and it was also great to see the support that Gannon’s parents put around him to allow it to happen. Having had great parents that supported my addiction but did not push me, it was great to see as Gannon and his peers are the future of our sport.”

Dave Reed- Sailing World- Editor* Key West Musings- Dave Reed-  “How true is it that when your best day is your last day, it’s the only day you can remember. That’s how today went for us on the J/70 MUSE: With 20 knots, waves, and sunshine, all was good for three solid, but physically demanding races. The race committee did an outstanding job getting us out there early, and turning around the races quickly. The beats were short and lumpy, the runs shorter and exhilarating.

The planing return trip to the harbor . . . ahh— just an extra shot on top.

Starting had been our issue all week, and while today was a slight improvement, despite an OCS restart, we did finally get a good clean jump in the final race. A bit on starboard, a bit on port, and a whole lot of working the main we were with the top 10, and when you’re in the top, everything is a lot easier: cleaner entries into the leeward gates, less potential for chaos, and of course clear air.

There were times where we were really struggling, though, especially on port tack, more bow into the steep chop. Trying a combination of changes to the other controls, we ultimately just put the bow down more regularly and it seemed to help most of the time. There were many times where Heather and I were out of sync, and part of this I’m still learning how the boat should feel, anticipating and reacting to the puffs and waves better, and more than anything else, anticipating what she is going to do. When the bow is being thrown around up, down, left, and right, that’s not easy . . . at all!

But, we were clearly as best as we’d been all week in that final race, and the highlight of it all was the final jibe into the finish. We hadn’t had a single perfect jibe all week, and magically this one happened. The kite came across and filled, the main floated and stalled mid-way through the turn, we popped up on a 15-knot plane, with the finish straight ahead. Fifty-something boats in the rearview mirror was a perfect image to end it.

We finished 17th overall in the big fleet and second overall to Jim Cunningham in the Corinthian division. Cunningham ran away with it, but we squeaked into the silver on a tiebreaker with Brian Elliot’s B-Squared. And now speaking of silver, this thirsty sailor sure could use one of those Key West margaritas to ease the pain in my lower back.

Silver tequila, please.  No salt. I had enough of that for one day.”

Here’s another musing from Dave: “One of the best places to be at Quantum Key West Race Week isn’t on Duval Street or Mallory Square, it’s at “The Galleon,” a non-descript beige condo building with a marina on one side and a tiki bar and pool on the other. Packed into the marina are most of the sportboats, J/70s, Melges 24s, and a whole bunch of the IRC big-boats. Come 0900, the place is a bustling with pros going to work and the rest of us amateurs enjoying another holiday in the sun. When the races are done, boats get put away and the question of the day before heading over to the Tiki Bar for a mudslide is always, “How’d you do?”

Be sure to read more of SAILING WORLD Editor Dave Reed’s commentary while sailing with Heather Gregg on her J/70 MUSE.  Here’s the link:

Forrest Williams- J/111 Wicked at Key West* Wicked Good Wrap-up- Forrest Williams- “Three times in the last 14 years, I have missed sailing on Friday at Key West Race Week. Twice has been for the good reason: we had an insurmountable lead and didn’t have to sail the last race (I know this will open a can of worms about whether it’s a lame move, which disrespects your opponents, or shows them enough respect that you aren’t interfering with the battle for second).

Whatever.  That’s why restaurants have menus.

Today, on the other hand, I caught an early flight out of town to meet my family, already skiing in Vermont. I had a fairly unrealistic flight out to begin with (3 p.m.), but a meticulous plan to make it happen.

The generous lads on Spaceman Spiff had their Protector teed up to snatch me off the J/111 WICKED 2.0 as we crossed the line and run me up to the airport for a beach landing, which would have been epic (not Jerry Kirby jumping off the Newport Bridge epic, but pretty cool nonetheless). After taking a hard look at our lot on Thursday evening, and with the full knowledge that Marlow Ropes’ Paul Honess was in town and a free agent, I approached crew boss Gary LeDuc with plan B and he gave it the OK.

The team took the news as an opportunity to mix up crew roles on Friday in an attempt to change individual perspectives. Rodney Johnstone moved to mainsheet, owner Doug Curtiss took the con, Vela Sailing lead singer Rod Favela moved from Frontierland all the way back to Fantasyland to call the plays, and former Oakcliff Acorn Sarah Raigle commandeered the bow. The cockpit/pit/mast area was handled by LeDuc, Honess, fire enthusiast Tim Greves and mast man John Schnauck.

I got enough texts from the boat throughout the day to know that the musical chairs experiment wasn’t a silver bullet (I don’t think they meant it to be) but accomplished the goal of helping everyone understand what others on the boat had been dealing with on a daily basis throughout the week. One of the enjoyable challenges has been bridging the generation gap before the end of the week, and I will claim victory in that regard. Young Sarah now knows more about Briggs Cunningham than most sailors her age do, and Rod now knows what “making it rain” and “cougar” mean in early 21st century parlance…a true learning experience for all, and seeing the social references find their water level has been fun…best illustrated, perhaps, in our new-meets-old psych-up phrase - “It’s on like Pong”.

It’s been an interesting exercise downloading these thoughts each day. I hope I conveyed that this is a special regatta, a special place to sail, and you’re guaranteed to make memories outside of what the scoreline says that will last a long time. One last thing I would’ve missed if I stayed home and worked all week: when I showed up at the boat this morning, Gary was teaching Rod Favela, who speaks with a beautiful Venezuelan accent, how to “talk right”…please find something you need for your boat, call Vela Sailing to order it, and tell Rod he’s got the sale if he can say “Clahk the Aadvahk drank Cutty Sahk in the pahk with Mahkie Mahk after dahk.” You’ll be glad you did! See you next year and, if you’re towing your boat out of the Conch Republic, remembah to use yah blinkah!”

And here’s another wicked good observation from Forrest:

“Key West Race Week is the ultimate bar karate dojo and the sailors bring it Cobra Kai style all week. Bar karate, for the uninitiated, is the sport in which drunk sailors lie to each other at the post-race watering hole doing animated karate chop motions to illustrate where the boats in the story are positioned (“We were on starboard (CHOP!) and this guy comes out of nowhere on port (CHOP!) so we lee bow him (CHOP!) and send him back to the left (CHOP!) never to be seen again”). Scientists have placed the percentage of bar karate stories that begin with the phrase: “We won the start and were leading the whole fleet up the beat when…” at somewhere between 85 and 90 percent.”

To read more of Forrest William’s amusing commentary while sailing aboard the J/111 WICKED 2.0, please check out the link here:

Jonathan McKee- J/125 Hamachi at Key West* McKee’s Key West Minute- Jonathan McKee-  Not only can 2-time Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee crush on the race course, but he can also explain to the mortal majority how he does it.  Competing at Quantum Key West on HAMACHI, a J/125 owned and driven by Greg Slyngstad, Jonathan was sharing his observations with Sailing World magazine. Here are a couple of pearls of wisdom:

On Being the small boat
In our class, we are the smallest boat and generally the slowest upwind. So the start and the first beat have been a tough challenge, and I suspect there are a few readers that have encountered a similar situation in their PHRF fleet. How do you race against bigger and faster boats, especially at the beginning of the race?

One option is to take the pin (the leeward end of the starting line). If you can achieve this, you will at least have clear air for a little while, until eventually one of the bigger boats runs you over and you have to tack. Another pretty good option is to start at the boat (the weather end) and tack. Then you will have clear air on port, at least for a while. This works particularly well if the weather end is favored, or if you like the right side of the course.

In any case, we decided it was better to not get too close to the line in the final two minutes, so you can approach any situation with speed, and not have to kill speed to avoid being early, leaving you easy prey for bigger boats coming in with speed. Except in very light air, it’s better to be the hunter than the prey!

Managing the vibe
We had a close upwind crossing with a boat, where we saw them from a long way away, and they saw us. But for some reason as we got closer, the tactician on the other boat started yelling like crazy. We tacked below then, and they tacked away. Two minutes later as we were approaching the top mark, we tacked underneath them, and the same guy started yelling about tacking too close, even though it seemed like a non-issue from my perspective.

This kind of loud and aggressive behavior drives me nuts, and is something I think we should try to reduce in our sport. Any time there is yelling, whether it is between boats or among a crew, the tension level rises for everyone, and the fun factor goes down. So, please try to use a civilized voice and use only the minimum of communication needed to convey your point. Yelling “Starboard” 10 times in a loud and aggravated voice is not helping anyone enjoy their sailing. And, trying to intimidate your competitor into doing a penalty turn is no better.”

Jonathan had a number of good articles commenting on sailing, the sport, what brings success, and so forth.  Please be sure to read more of them at this link here: