Sheep Grazing for Start of Key West Race Week

Published on January 15th, 2017

Key West, FL (January 15, 2017) – The 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week begins tomorrow with a weather forecast calling for winds of 15 to 20 knots with gusts possibly as high as 25 knots (ie ‘sheep in the pasture’) and air temperatures in the mid-70s – conditions welcomed by every sailor in this idyllic setting celebrating a milestone anniversary.

“We really couldn’t ask for a better forecast to begin the week,” said regatta chairman John Fisher, a past commodore of host Storm Trysail Club. “We’re happy to welcome a very competitive fleet in this anniversary regatta. Key West has been a very welcoming host through the years and we couldn’t imagine doing this regatta anywhere else. I’d also like to extend thanks to our valued sponsors and exception team of volunteers who help make this regatta a success. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to pull this off.”

The celebratory regatta includes many sailors who’ve done a lifetime of racing in Key West. Among them are brothers Shawn and Steve Burke from Atlanta. This year they’re racing with longtime friends Andy and Melissa Fisher on the J/70 Button Fly, but they estimate they’ve done Key West Race Week no fewer than 25 times.

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Shawn and Steve Burke

“Our dad introduced us to this in 1984 when we did our first offshore race, so it’s a special place for us to come,” said Shawn Burke. “Our dad’s been coming here since early 1970s when he did the SORC.”

“We’ve raced everything from Melges 32s to 24s, Farr 36, Swan 70, RC44s, Swan 42… and recently the J/70,” added Steve Burke. “A long time ago we raced a Lindenberg 28. Key West is a great place to come. There are lots of characters and great music and the competition is absolutely awesome.”

Steve added that his memorable moment was winning the Swan 42 Class aboard the Fisher’s boat, Bandit. “It was a lot of fun, great competition and blew like crazy,” said Steve Burke. “It was good fun being with friends and sailing.”

Old acquaintances and new friendships will be joined at the 30th anniversary regatta this week as a fleet of 100 boats will be racing in nine classes on three racing circles. The fleet includes two of the past three Boat of the Week winners – Carlo Alberini’s Calvi Network of Italy (2015) and Tim Healy’s New England Ropes of Rhode Island (2014). Both boats are entrants in the J/70 Class, the largest class in the fleet with 42 boats entered.

“When we won in 2014 it was a windy regatta, exceptionally windy the last few days,” said Healy. “The key is consistency; get good starts and if you don’t get a good start kick back and work hard to get a solid finish. We’re not allowed any discards in this regatta, so a bad finish could really set you back. Our boat’s going well. We just need to execute and get good starts.”

The nine boats in the J/111 Class also stand to be very competitive. Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key of California pulled out the class win last year and also finished runner-up in the World Championship. They figure to be the class marker, but Wagner downplayed the label.

“Last year we had consistency and good boatspeed and managed to put it to work and limit mistakes that would undermine us,” said Wagner, who was a two-time All American sailor at Harvard University in the late 1980s. “The fleet has continued to raise its game and I think that some of the boats that were here last year have come back faster. Virtually anybody in the fleet could pull out a good race and several could pull out the regatta.”

Dan Cheresh of Michigan, owner of the C&C 30 One-Design Extreme2, is someone who knows the “consistency is king” adage all too well. Cheresh finished runner-up last year in the class by 2 points because he had to carry finishes of 6, 7 and 8 in his scoreline.

“One of the keys to winning is not having a bad day,” said Cheresh, who won nearly every other class regatta last year and is one to watch this year. “We had a really bad day last year. If you have a bad race you have to pull your head up and fight back one point at a time. The boats are so close that it all comes down to crew work and maneuvers. We got beat in a couple of those areas last year.”

The class with the most professional sailors, however, is the TP52, which kicks off the 2017 52 Super Series here in Key West. The fleet is led by 2016 series champion Quantum Racing, featuring owner/driver Doug DeVos on the helm. Quantum Racing was the dominant boat in the class last year, but this year figures to be much more difficult.

“This is a tough field. If you’re not aggressive and really going for it, you’re not going to have a chance to podium,” said Morgan Larson, the tactician on Russian entry Bronenosec. “I think that’s the goal for most of the teams, stay in the top three at each event and have a shot at the end. Quantum was a level above everybody last year, and I’m sure a lot of teams have worked hard to bridge that gap. They’re still strong. But I think you’re going to see some mixed results.”

All shoreside activities for this event will be held at the Waterfront Brewery in the historic Key West Bight. The daily schedule calls for up to three races per day for some classes, with the warning signal for Race 1 is scheduled for 1100 hours tomorrow Monday, Jan. 16. Evening debriefs, panel discussions and prize-giving ceremonies are also planned throughout the week.

Racing is scheduled for January 16 to 20.

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Source: Storm Trysail Club

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