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The Champions of Acura Key West 2008, January 21-25 By Rebecca Burg Cover photo: Groovederci, winner of the Mumm 30 class. Photo by Tim Wilkes www.timwilkescom


stormy sea recovery, wild weather swings, thrilling competition and a chivalrous racer who stops to conduct a rescue— and still wins. These are just some highlights of one of the most momentous winter regattas in North America. Well-reputed across the globe, Acura Key West 2008 drew entries from 18 different nations. Club racers, amateur teams, America’s Cup stars, Olympians and a crown prince all shared the same battlefield. Sixteen classes of one-design and PHRF boats raced for the silFarr 40s fight it out in close action in the high winds of Key West Race Week. Photo by Bill Robinson. ver in a number of championships, from midwinters to gate a moment ahead. Leading the day is Tom Reese’s Flight internationals. As usual, these warriors were divided into Simulator, from New York, just one point over Peter four separate arenas spread across Key West’s offshore Katcha’s Florida-based Relentless. Cliff Farrah’s team on waters. ESPN crews and a ’copter cam followed the exciteStrategery 3, out of Destin FL, prefers heavy air. Tough playment with Gary Jobson producing and narrating the coverers, Strategery 3’s trimmer wears a helmet whenever the age. Celebrity-seeking paparazzi flocked around the waterwinds pipe up. By week’s end, Flight Simulator became the front, catching famous faces in the regatta scene. Corsair 28R champion by a half point above Relentless. Monday rode in on the back of a roaring cold front. A Swan 45 from the UK, Mikhail Mouratov’s Murka 2, That morning, race officials recorded waves of 6 to 8 feet won first overall in the IRC-2 class. Robin Team’s Teamwork, and gusty 25- to 30-knot winds. These tall numbers exceeda J/122 from Beaufort, NC, posted a first in race four and an ed the intended competitive parameters and class rules of overall finish in IRC-2’s fourth slot. Returning to the Melges numerous entrants. All classes but the Corsair trimarans 32 class is a Fort Lauderdale FL, entry, Jeff Ecklund’s Star ventured out to their respective racing areas, standing by and Carroll and Kullman’s New Wave, from Clearwater, FL. while race officials measured and re-measured, hoping Harry Melges called tactics on Star. On Tuesday, RED set the things would stabilize. The weather didn’t. The survivalpace in this hyper speed, 27-boat fleet with two bullets and like conditions were too severe for safe and fair racing. took first place with New Wave in third and Star in fourth. Monday was cancelled. With steadier easterly winds On Thursday, Star shattered the status quo and took the between 17 to 20 knots on Tuesday, three races were comlead. Overall, Star remained in first and landed the Melges pleted by all classes. The rapid-fire action kept the race com32 Midwinter Championship. New Wave closed the score mittee busy. In division four, a flurry of 15 boats rushed over gap, capturing second overall, a mere two points under. the finish line in a one-minute span. “Whoever said sailboat In the PHRF-4 class, Tom Sutton’s J/35, Leading Edge, racing is not exciting has not been in this one,” said John luffed to a halt after race one’s dramatic start. A jib sheet had Novak on his Corsair 28R, Overdo, from Texas. This onelet go, so Leading Edge smartly tacked, hoping to use the design trimaran class had a wild, close-call day. At the finremaining sheet and keep moving. This sheet let go as well. ish of race two, Richard Bokkerink’s Condor (Netherlands), Adding insult to injury, two winches broke. The Houstonskidded in front of Overdo at the last second. At race three’s based team worked overtime to recover the lost seconds, end, Overdo gave Condor the slip and blazed through the 58 March 2008