The 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week ended just the way it started, with nuking breeze, driving rain and lightning all around. Stronger than forecast southerly breeze opposed the south-flowing ebb in Key West to create muscular wind-on-wave conditions that caused much anxiety for competitors and race organizers alike. "To race or not to race," that was the question on Friday, the final day. With one race to go for most divisions and two for the J/70s, Melges 24s and C&C 30s, Key West Race Week was primed to go down to the wire in several of the hotly-contested handicap and one-design divisions. On the race course, the wet and puffy breeze topped out at more than 30 knots, creating challenging conditions as small weather cells continued to move over the tropical venue.
One division that would not come down to the wire was the J/111 fleet. Atherton, California’s Peter Wagner and his Skeleton Key crew were absolutely killing it in their Key West debut, excelling in the windy conditions to claim seven bullets and a pair of seconds to dominate the nine-boat one-design division and claim the honors by a wide margin. "I really enjoyed my first Key West. We had great conditions and it was a really well-run event," said an elated Wagner. "The race committee did a fantastic job. We’re just really fortunate that we managed to sail consistently, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We got off the line well and Seadon Wijsen did a great job of managing things tactically on the course. We had really solid boat speed throughout." Tactician Wijsen added, "Everything just worked out really well. It was a lot of fun." The experience and the confidence that the Skeleton Key crew has gained should be priceless and only serve to further fuel the fire that already burns in San Francisco’s ultra-competitive J/111 Fleet 5.
Other Bay Area programs had their work cut out for them. Peter Krueger’s exceptionally well-sailed J/125 Double Trouble slipped to third place in IRC 2 after two consecutive fifth-place finishes allowed John Cooper’s custom Mills 43 to claim the second step on the podium, while Andrew and Linda Weiss’ Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon topped the five-boat fleet.
Julian Mann’s San Francisco-based C&C 30 Andiamo was never a factor and finished near the back of the fleet in a hyper-competitive 11-boat division. A bit higher in the rankings was Peter Cunningham’s Cayman Islands-based C&C 30 Powerplay, which included Bay Area-born and -bred America’s Cup and Olympic veteran Hartwell Jordan and the reigning S.F. Etchells champ, Blaine Pedlow. Powerplay finished seventh, while Edwin Feo’s Long Beach-based Loco managed to climb the rankings steadily and round out the podium in third place behind Dan Cheresh’s second-place Extreme 2 and Walt Thirion’s division-winning Themis.
Santa Cruz’s Morgan Larson called tactics on Doug Devos’ TP52 Quantum Racing, which claimed IRC 1 honors by just half a point over Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s TP52 Spookie, helmed by 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of Year Steve Benjamin.
Key West Race Week may be in the books, but the Conch Republic Cup is just getting started. Stay tuned to ‘Lectronic Latitude for more updates as a large portion of the KWRW fleet races to Havana, Cuba, later this week. Double Trouble and Loco are among the entries.