Photo: Jen Edney /

Big wind finale at Quantum Key West Race Week

Bella Mente and ARMIN STROM Sailing Team top the charts

Friday January 23rd 2015, Author: Bill Wagner / James Boyd, Location: United States

Quantum Key West Race Week saved the best for last with winds approaching 20 knots and rough seas that challenged competitors and forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory.

That was certainly the case aboard Bella Mente, Hap Fauth's Mini Maxi. Fauth steered the Judel-Vrolijk 72 to first place in both races to hold off a stiff challenge from skipper Gunther Buerman and his team on Numbers.

"Our plan was to be in position to win going into the last day and that is what happened," Fauth said. "The wind Gods cooperated today and gave us great racing. We rose to the occasion and were able to win both races. I thought the whole crew did an impeccable job. We sailed hard in both races."

Bella Mente wound up winning six of 10 races in posting a low score of 19 points, two better than Numbers, which had four-time America's Cup winner Brad Butterworth aboard as tactician. Fauth captured his fourth victory in Key West despite a grounding incident on Wednesday that caused the team to absorb seven points in two races. Bella Mente was unable to finish Race 5 then limped to third in Race 6 due to a damaged keel bulb.

"We basically tanked two races and that was very hard to overcome, especially against this caliber of competition," Fauth continued. "Numbers is very quick and very well sailed. Gunther, Brad and their guys did a terrific job and really pushed us the whole way."

Terry Hutchinson, tactician on board Bella Mente added: "Hap has a lot of experience racing this boat and does an outstanding job on the helm. The one constant we had all week was superb starting and tremendous boat-handling. Every member of the crew really did a great job."

Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing for the GC32s, their crew hanging on for dear life all day as the high-tech foiling catamarans bounced off waves occasionally coming completely out of the water. Ken Legler, PRO on Division 1, said they completed a downwind leg in just six minutes.

With the boats were sailing under small jibs and one reef, Friday started with three GC32 teams tied on points, all jockeying for the lead. In the conditions it was a day when time in the boat seemed likely to pay and it came as little surprise when Flavio Marazzi’s experienced ARMIN STROM Sailing Team secured the first race with Jason Carroll’s ARGO second and the French team on Erik Maris’ ZouLou third.

Sadly during the first race one of the fittings holding the transom-hung rudder in place on board ARGO failed. As her two time Melges 32 World Champion skipper Carroll explained: “We thought about whether or not we could repair it or lash it in place, but given how rough it was out there we thought that was just a recipe for further damage if we continued to race. At the end of the first race we were one point off first, so we were very tempted to try and race but we didn’t want to put anyone in danger.”

This left the fight for first between ARMIN STROM Sailing Team and ZouLou. In this Erik Maris’ team was fastest out of the blocks and took the bullet.

“It is a really good conditions, really perfect racing,” said ZouLou’s tactician and main sheet trimmer Gurvan Bontemps. “On the second race, we made a good start - our speed downwind was really good and for Flavio it was really good upwind. Just after the start, Zoulou was foiling upwind. It was fantastic…” Bontemps, runner-up at last year’s F18 World Championship, added that in the waves they hadn’t been able to push to the max, but had still managed 22-25 knots of boat speed.

However Marazzi’s second place in race two was enough for him to secure his Swiss team GC32 honours at Quantum Key West Race Week.

"The last two days were really fun," commented Marazzi. "These are very cool boats and they were absolutely flying. Today was a bit tricky because of the swell. It's hard to find the fine line between pushing and backing off. It is very exciting."

Cameron Appleton, tactician on Alex Jackson’s Leenabarca this week summed up the feeling among the crews: “All in all it was a great week. I’ve never come last in a regatta before and had so much fun. Alex walked away with a huge smile on his face and he really liked what he saw, the fact that these boats are accessible to the less experienced multihull foiling guys. It shows you can get into them and steer them well and then it is about refining your skills from there. The learning curve is huge, but it is not on a level you can never achieve.”

The GC32s now move on to Europe with the first event of the GC32 Racing Tour, the GC32 Austria Cup, to be held on Lake Traunsee, Austria over 27th-31st June. The participation of more teams will be announced over the next few weeks.

Alec Cutler and his crew on Hedgehog carried a three-point lead into the final day and decided to cover the second place boat in Race 9. Cutler finished fourth, but forced Dalton DeVos and the Delta team to absorb a fifth. That gave Hedgehog the breathing room it needed and Cutler repeated as class champ by a two-point margin over Argo, skippered College Sailor of the Year Graham Lundy of Yale.

"All five boats were very good so the competition was real tough," Cutler said. "Every boat won a race and we were the only boat that didn't finish last. It was real close racing and you could lose two or three boats in a hurry with the slightest mistake."

Richard Clarke, who has represented Canada in the Olympics several times, called tactics for Cutler. Adrian Stead, a veteran professional from Great Britain, was aboard as strategist.

Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 was the first regatta for Tonnerre 4 under the ownership of Piet Vroon. It didn't take the crew very long to figure out how to make the Ker 51 go fast as the Dutch entry led IRC 1 class for the final four days.

"We are very pleased to win such a strong class. I have an excellent bunch of sailors on the boat and they do all the work. My contributions are ballast and writing the checks," Vroon joked. "Obviously, the bigger breeze of the last two days was good for our boat."

Kevin George served as tactician for the 84-year-old Vroon, who won Key West for the second time. "It was just a case of putting the building blocks together and gaining momentum. We focused on getting good starts and just tried to sail a clean regatta," George said.

Tonnere also won the High Performance Rule sub-class, which consisted of five of the IRC 1 entries. Tonnerre edged out William Coates' Ker 43 Otra Vez in IRC 1 and Steve and Heidi Benjamin's Carkeek 40 Spookie in HPR. Impetuous, skippered by Paul Zabetakis topped the Swan 42 sub-class.

J/70 was the largest class of the regatta with 54 boats and featured a slew of top professionals. It was 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," said Alberini, who won the European Championship last year. " We came to Key West because we are very excited about the J/70 fleet and want to race against the best boats. 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."

Calvi Network totalled 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 here in Key West, finished third after pushing the line and being ruled OCS in the last race.

Gannon Troutman, the 12-year-old skipper of Pied Piper, 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. San Francisco skipper Jim Cunningham captured the Corinthian Division of J/70 class, which had 20 boats.

Irish skipper Conor Clarke competed in Key West for the first time and came away with an impressive victory in Melges 24 class, winning eight of 11 races and beating the second place boat by 23 points. Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes, who are mounting a 470 Olympic campaign together, were helmsman and tactician aboard Embarr.

"It's a fantastic feeling to win in Key West," said Clarke, a Dublin resident who's had the regatta on his bucket list. "Today's sailing was just amazing. We had perfect conditions... just what the brochure said it would be like."

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. Touch2Play won the tiebreaker by virtue of more first place finishes.

"We kind of 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."

J/111 also had a one-design class and Florida skipper George Gamble steered 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.

British skipper Joe Woods and his crew on Red set the pace in PHRF 1 from the outset and led at the end of each day's racing. Dave Lenz served as tactician aboard the Farr 280, which won five races and placed second or third in four others.

"Joe has sailed a Melges 24 and a Melges 32 so he's used to being on sport boats," Lenz said. "This entire crew has sailed with Joe on the 32 and that familiarity seemed to give us a slight edge from day one. We just had a little extra click of speed than everybody else."

Red closed the regatta with a pair of bullets and received the Quantum Sail Boat of the Day award. Woods was also the runaway winner of the Farr 280 sub-class, which had four boats.

Gerry Taylor secured his third class victory in Key West, steering Tangent to a wire-to-wire victory in PHRF 2. Veteran sailmaker Chuck O'Malley called tactics while headsail trimmer Jay Corcoran anchored a strong crew aboard the Cape Fear 38, which won every race but one.

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