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Posts Tagged ‘key west’

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New England graphic designer, illustrator and leather artist Bryn Bachman is one of the most in-demand non-pro sailor chicks anywhere, and she’s proved herself countless times in the Melges, Etchells, and now C&C 30 fleets.  Brynn’s dexterity on a big air tack in Key West earlier in the month got superstar video producer (and C&C 30 crew) Petey Crawford’s creative juices flowing with this video, and her Extreme 2 team’s continued dominance in the Class convinced us to name her our Sailor Chick of the Week!  Learn more about Bryn here.

 

January 30th, 2017 by admin

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Yacht racing meets The Benny Hill Show, with thanks to some creative editing from Keith Brash/Quantum Sails TV.

January 29th, 2016 by admin

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Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.32.08 AMBill Canfield and a group of Storm Trysail volunteers stepped up last summer for the long, tough slog to try to rescue West Race Week from certain death, and with 119 boats on the line, the event scored its first increase in overall fleet size in 12 years.  With the event finished, we grabbed Bill to see what he thought of the event and where its future lies, for another SA “Innerview”.

SA: First off, who was behind this big effort?  Of course there are volunteers and clubs and classes that help, but a success like this requires guys and gals who are unstoppable forces.  Who gets the credit?

BC: The credit needs to be spread around for sure. In the case of Quantum Key West Race Week, it was a strong group of past Commodores from The Storm Trysail Club who worked tirelessly for over 6 months in all aspects of the event. We needed an early commitment from all our industry sponsors but that began happening when we received word that Quantum Sails was willing to come back as our title sponsor. The next big stumbling block was winning over the town of Key West and gaining their support physically and financially. While they had a strong relationship with the previous organizer, we were just another out-of-town yacht club to the city fathers. The US Navy-controlled Truman Annex was essential to run our mobile marina and we had to convince them we were both credible and responsible partners as few events have access to this property. The businesses and home owners on Caroline St. allowed us to set up regatta headquarters at a great inconvenience to their day to day operations. To say the logistics of this regatta were difficult would be a major understatement. The partnerships have now been reformed and our future in KW is far more certain than when we started operating in Key West.

SA: When exactly did you know you’d be taking over the event?

BC: We got the go ahead in late May but as a new Trysail member I did realize that Block Island came first.  Not only was it Block Island’s 50th anniversary but Block is the STC’s signature event, so we really didn’t hit the ground running until late July. At that point we were 90 days behind schedule but there was no panic. The Club has long been good at event management and the confidence to succeed was there but the road was not always clear and often complicated.

SA: That’s an amazingly short amount of time, especially for something as big as Key West.   What about next year?

BC: Next year we go full bore from March 1 on.

SA: How did you decide what to prioritize – in other words, what did your plan look like for 2016, and what does it look like for the next 5 years?

BC: Wow, wish I knew! Seriously year one we were committed to doing everything as efficiently as we could, which meant continuing to do a lot of basic things the way they’d been previously done, but with a touch of Storm Trysail mixed in. I believe we accomplished that! I have lots of ideas where I would take the event in upcoming years but our first priority will be a debrief with three components to study and breakdown.

First we look at every expense line on the P&L and decide how to do it better, but with an eye on dollars spent. Which services should remain in house and what should be farmed out to other professionals? Next we look at the overall team of volunteers and discuss where we were weak and what any new volunteers would be expected to accomplish with an emphasis on local involvement. Finally, what do the entered racing teams want out of KWRW? We have already gotten a lot, but always want more input from competitors and sponsors, and we’ll continue to seek it out. We need the next 60 days to answer this question sensibly.

SA: Another year, another handicap rule.  What is ORCi, how does it compare to IRC, and what is the future in windward/leeward handicap racing?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.33.46 AMBC: I’m unfortunately not a technical person and don’t understand handicapping rules as well as others. I do know this, most of my sailing and event management had been spent using the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Rule. It’s 50 years old, it’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s tweaked each year to stay current, when other rules are compared with our results most boats and classes are highly satisfied. To me this is what makes a handicap rule good for the average sailor. We will not go to CSA for their rule but strangely enough, Caribbean events continue to grow in numbers especially with boats from Europe, and that is not generally the case in the US. My point is for classes that were not one-design, we introduced ORC club as an alternative to the always-unpopular PHRF. We are hoping to draw families and club sailors back to Key West. Early days, but I believe we are on the right track with this addition.

SA: Is there anything else you can take from the Caribbean regattas?  They certainly seem more diverse in format than most of the big US regattas.

BC: One direction the Caribbean events are going is a day or two of racing around rocks and islands. This is also very popular and I again point out our numbers are up or at the very worst stable. We plan on listening to the sailors at Key West to create more interest for the non-pro driven boats.

SA: Many ‘racy’ regattas have added cruising classes with varying degrees of success, though your first shot at it seems to have missed.  Is there a future in it?

BC: I go back to the last answer and say yes. We did not market our cruising class well and time was short this year. Can we get boats to do feeder races from east and west coast of Florida? Why not – it’s the perfect time for South Florida racing.  Once those feeders get to Key West for an event that’s been tweaked to attract them, we believe those boats will enter race week. This will remain a Grand Prix type of event most certainly, but can we draw a few dozen boats to a cruising type race, yes!

SA: Series are all the rage, and there’s been noise for years about ‘rekindling SORC’.  Is there a place for KWRW in that kind of concept?

BC: Many of The Storm Trysail Club’s current members gained their entry to blue water racing from the SORC so there is a strong connection to that series. The quick answer is yes, but not yet! With my Caribbean experience I hope to be a bridge and work closely with the southern events that run from February through April. Our goals include the organizing of transport from Florida to St. Thomas or Antigua to catch the Caribbean 600, St. Thomas International and Les Voiles to name a few. We will also build back up our race to Jamaica which is a fantastic race. No series yet but many possibilities exist for this in the near future.

SA: Two small races to Cuba have already happened, and the third starts in just days, with the big Miami-Havana race in just weeks.  How does the opening of Cuba impact racing in South Florida and the Caribbean?  As a Caribbean guy, what potential does Cuba open up for winter racing?

BC: Having lived in Key West for the 5 months Cuba has been opened to Americans,  I’m a bit skeptical about their preparedness to host events. Its my belief these regattas are really pushing the envelope in a negative way unless they remain small. Exciting, “bucket list” for sure,but not yet for us. it will eventually happen. Southern Florida boats will flock to Cuba but let Cuba get a bit more structure in place first.

I don’t see much interest from Caribbean events in Cuba as it really is another competitor for the same entries with little ability to work together at this point due to time, distance and lack of local structure. A regatta in the Caribbean can offer a much better product than Cuba if curiosity is not considered. As we say in St. Thomas “soon come” but not quite yet for us.    Virgin Gorda with 1000 residents is far better equipped to handle a major event then is Cuba at this point in time.

SA: KWRW has become fairly non-diverse.  By that, I mean that just two one-design classes make up the majority of the regatta, with a smattering of other boats.  Is this what we can expect from future KWRW fleets. What fleets do you think can be persuaded to come sailing in KW?

BC: That’s an open ended question but the answers are plentiful. Let me turn it around and ask what large one-design fleet would not like to sail in KW? The regatta has ended up where it is for many reasons but as these reasons and problems are dissected and solved the future is open to all classes and types of boats in these waters. Just on the surface the water portion of the event is already fabulous with great conditions and talented, creative and forward thinking race committees. That is an excellent place to start and few venues can equal these facts.

SA: A quick look at the media output at KWRW shows very little difference from the past few years – in other words, a largely amateur effort with weak exposure.  Is there some way to bring KWRW into the modern age of the internet?

BC: Finally the zinger question I’ve been expecting. Hey, we came a long way this year without much “big pimping” from some groups. If you really and fairly look at where we are, I believe we have arrived in the modern age of Internet and social media. We had event apps at both Block and KW. Our bloggers and face book teams screamed out the news and pictures each day. Was it perfect? Of course not, but it was humming on 4 or 5 cylinders in a positive fashion. Our membership is not young but we are smart enough to know the future of all regattas is social marketing and the Internet. We spent 10 times our initial budget on solving these problems and a really close look at our accomplishments by SA I believe would change your opinion.

SA: KWRW had big one-design multihull fleets more than a decade ago, long before they became ‘acceptable’.  With the exception of the GC32s (who said they’d never come back) and a couple of cruising cats this year, multis are still a no-show.  Is KW the right place for things like Corsairs and Farriers and M32s and the like?  If so, do you plan on trying to bring them into the fold?

BC: I’m a big fan of multihull fleets and was extremely disappointed things did not break our way this year. I’m not sure our conditions lend themselves to the GC 32’s. Last year they were breaking down and the need for a crane launch did not favor that group with KW conditions and inter structure.  I worked long and hard with the M32’s this year which are non foiling and beach launched but for now stationing in Bermuda made more sense in the short term. It was also a year that a group of Gun Boats went south to St. Thomas event but both groups are expected next year along with other multihull fleets.

SA: Our research indicated a number of reasons KWRW nearly died, but by far the biggest reasons were (1) Owners and crews of smaller boats felt like second-class citizens, and (2) both regatta management and Key West rentals and marine businesses inflated their prices to unsupportable levels.  Have these trends been reversed?  How have you addressed them?

SA: I’m not sure either reason is totally valid as stated but… In older days point 1 was the case but is no longer true. The J70 class has found a home here and I don’t believe they are slighted or feel slighted in any way. KW is an expensive destination. In many ways it makes Newport appear inexpensive.

The town and its marinas are simply full to over flowing for six months of the year. There is no price gouging here but simply high demand. The key to attaining event financial success down here is an early commitment 6 months out. You simply cannot wait till the end as prices will rise as the island begins to fill up. They will be higher 3 months out than 6. My advise to all is commit early and save money.

SA: What big announcements do you have for 2017?

BC: Tough question considering we have not had a meeting nor time to debrief the entire race week. Let me personalize this a bit and put an individual’s ideas out there. Bill Canfield will be pushing the J 70, C&C 30, J88 and J 111 class to use KW to hold a championship like Nationals, NA’s or Midwinters at our event. I will be going after Gunboat owners and the M 32 cats to be present at KW. It’s my goal to have an afternoon exhibition in Truman Annex for teams to do some match racing for fun with the town of Key West invited to watch. The M32’s would be perfect for this spectator friendly exhibition after racing doing the day.

I’m hoping to introduce a Yacht Club Challenge next year where a fleet of brand-new Far East 24’s would be available at a low charter fee to yacht clubs. This would open Key West Race Week to a whole new generation of young sailors. Hopefully our biggest announcement will being named as host to one of two TP 52 Super Series events most likely coming to Florida next winter. Lots of things in the process pipeline. Stay tuned.

Hey, do I get to pose a question to SA?

Will we get support from Sailing Anarchy to help promote the event in the future?  It seemed you were strangely passive this year which is unusual for your web site. Are you convinced QKWRW is on its way back?

SA: Well, not usually, but for this once.  We appreciated your reaching out to us early in the process but we were quite skeptical that STYC could bring it back from the brink with so many years of mismanagement.  Rather than harp on why we weren’t optimistic, we chose to stay quiet and stay neutral, even going so far as to turn down your advertising dollars to ensure we could report on your progress without internal conflict.  Remember, Bill, the last guy literally hated us so much that he pretended we didn’t exist, long after we were indisputably the country’s most popular sailing site.  Historically, we didn’t have much faith, so we adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

To your second question, my answer is unequivocal: Yes, and if you continue to do what you say you are doing – especially listening to your competitors, sponsors, and advisers, there is no question that the event will grow.  It is an incredible place to race at a perfect time of the year, and no competitors have popped up to steal the show.  There is one caveat, though: If you spend too much time focusing on the TP52, M32, Grand Prix part of the show, the numbers will start to fall again.  The engine that runs Key West Race Week has always been the Average Joe looking to escape the Northern winter while having fun on a race course.  The last guy forgot that, and Joe now saves his money for Charleston Race Week.

 

January 25th, 2016 by admin

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Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 11.15.04 AM2-time Melges 32 World Champ Jason Carroll doesn’t do things by halves, and he poured a small fortune in upgrades into the well-worn Gunboat 62 Elvis over the winter in preparation for an active 2016.  Ryan Breymaier took the Navigator’s award last week guiding the big cat from Lauderdale to Key West.  Here’s RMB’s first (of many) high-speed reports from 2016:

The forecast was for northerly 15 knots at the start and easterly at the finish, which would have meant short-gybing all the way from Lauderdale in order to avoid the worst of the Gulf Stream current; not the forecast we were looking for, considering that Elvis has been modified with 4 meters more rig, a longer boom and a longer bowsprit in order to power the boat up and fix persistent lee helm.

The end result of the mods is that the boat has 50% more mainsail and 55% more downwind sail, with a roller-furled, tight-luff gennaker replacing a spinnaker in a sock. We were afraid that we would not have quite enough power in the VMG conditions with a tight-luff sail and would have bad gybing angles resulting in about a thousand gybes down the course.

The boat also has bigger winches to deal with the sailplan, a real traveller and hydraulic mainsheet (instead of a bridle mainsheet to the transom corners), and the secret weapon; tillers which allow steering from outside instead of the wheel inside just aft of the mast – which is ideal for communications and comfort, but not at all for feel.

Start day dawned exactly as predicted with a nice northerly. We happily got our favored pin end and headed offshore on port with the big A3 pulling nicely.  We even lifted a hull as we crossed the line! Regardless of the adverse stream, there was more wind offshore and we wanted to avoid the wind shadow that is often found near the Miami skyline.  This was an immediate split from our main competition, the newly launched Arethusa, 60 feet of Nigel Irens-designed Gunboat. They outweigh Elvis by around 8000 pounds, but have a big mast and the soft luffed full-size kite which we feared would be our undoing.

As Arethusa (and most of the fleet) headed inshore, we made a couple of short gybes and stayed in the pressure offshore, especially in light of the approaching transition zone which we could see in the cloudline ahead.  Sure enough, we ran into the clouds and were rewarded with an earlier than expected easterly shift and pressure.  We started to soak, but not too much in order to keep the speed advantage given by luffing slightly with our tight luffed sail.  Elvis loves this; we were sailing between 2 and 5 knots faster than the breeze at 130 TWA.

After a little while the northerly tried to reassert itself so we went back inshore to consolidate and cemented about a 4 mile lead.

We had been watching the radar further down the course, where there was plenty of squall and rain activity.  This is classic KW race behavior, with the northerly on the north side of the keys fighting against the easterly breeze offshore.  As the squall line  showed itself to be just South of the lower keys, tactician Anthony Kotoun and I agreed to gybe back inshore in order to get into it as late as possible.

We were rewarded with a huge northerly shift as we got to the beach with the TWD going from 75 to 350 in the space of about 5 minutes.  We were on starboard so we just bore away and found ourselves headed SW in the perfect direction down the rhumb line, but directly into the squalls.

As we came into the first rain the breeze came up quickly and we eased sheets to stay on course and peeled to our Screecher/FRO, and one of those spectacular runs you hope for came together; 30 knots of boatspeed at the peak, with about an hour around 25.  Awesome crew work from the Elvis crew through 3 headsail changes and reef in and out allowed us to stay at full speed, putting a further 8 miles on our competition.  That’s when we decided to do some monohull hunting, looking for Wizard and Spookie, who had started half an hour ahead of us.

As we finished the last 25 miles of the race we realized that Wizard had the VMG edge on us (to be expected as they are 70 feet or so and very well-sailed) and that we were just slightly faster than Spookie who we passed in the channel heading up to Key Weird.

Unfortunately for the more awake amongst the crew, we arrived a couple hours after last call and so had to content ourselves with a big lunch and even bigger evening the next day.

I am definitely looking forward to getting to the Heineken regatta where there promises to be a big Gunboat fleet to line up against, as well as the awesome dock parties which I am confident we can also win, especially given all the training the boat’s built-in rum pump has given us all!  The Elvis team are a great crew; sailing regularly with the same core team shows in the quality of teamwork on the water. It’s also been a lot of fun for me to reunite with some guys I haven’t sailed with since college 13 years ago – a great way to start the 2016 racing year.

Ryan out.

January 18th, 2016 by admin

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marina-hemingway-cubaWith the sort-of opening of Cuba to US travel, not one but two different race organizers have planned regattas to the island that time forgot.  We don’t know much about the Conch Republic Cup other than that it’s from Key West to Cuba; frankly when we got to the silly entry fees of $1000 plus $200 per each crew member for a 90-mile race, we quit reading.

Meanwhile, there’s a comparatively low-cost option ($500 entry fee) run by folks with a real track record, and we fully expect this one to attract well over 100 boats in its inaugural outing, and it’s a more attractive course to boot; here’s some info on the Miami-Havana Race from our friends over at SORC.  Organizers are answering questions in the threads here and here.

For the better part of several decades, the phrase “Miami to Havana” usually involved delivery of a less-than-congenial message or thought.  The sailors who compete in the Inaugural Miami to Havana Race  on February 10, 2016, will bring along the spirit of competition and friendship, seeking to re-establish ties that once allowed Cuban sailors to compete alongside Americans in the area’s great ocean racing events on boats like Criollo, winner of the 1957 Southern Ocean Racing Conference.

The Coral Reef Yacht Club will host the pre-race festivities on February 9, with a Skipper’s Meeting and Pre-race Party scheduled for that evening at the club.  The race will start the next day, just off of the Miami harbor entrance, proceeding to Marina Hemingway, leaving all marks of the Florida Keys to starboard, and providing a true navigator’s challenge, to decide when to cross the Gulfstream. If you have ever raced across the Stream, you know that this will result in a healthy mix of “heroes and zeros”, as boats pick whether to cross early or late, instead of playing follow-the-leader in a straight line drag race.  The “right” time to cross will never be in the same place twice.

The Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba will manage the finish and post-race festivities in Cuba, as well as a coastal race to Morro Castle and back, along Havana’s famed Malecón, with members of a new generation of Cuban sailors assigned to each participating boat, on February 14.  An awards party will follow, that evening.  Race committee is provided by SORC Race Management, who is counting the race as the final score in its four-race Islands in the Stream Series.  Come south and enjoy the warm water and the warm welcome, along with the quality offshore racing you have come to expect from SORC.

September 28th, 2015 by admin

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bajaThose forward-thinkers looking at Cuba to help drive the rebirth of the SORC can take a deep sigh of relief today after the US government granted licenses to four Florida-Havana ferry operators including Baja Ferries, with one operator said to be beginning their cross-straits service “in weeks”.

It’s a big sign of change that may light the fires under those pushing races to Cuba; already, one oddball couple is promoting a Hobie 16 race to Havana next week. While that one looks more like a PR stunt and a money hunt rather than a race, several groups have been making noise about a huge yacht race to Havana this winter, with whispers percolating about ‘over 400 expressions of interest already’ from boat owners throughout the Southeast.

One problem remains: Congress still hasn’t lifted the travel ban, meaning that American visitors to Cuba are still restricted to 12 categories of person as provided for by law.  Fortunately, there are several avenues left open to a clever organizer, and in our view, organizing a real regatta in Havana itself under Cuba Sailing’s Governing Body’s auspices is both necessary and desirable – if, indeed, Cuba has such a group.

The desire is there, the regulatory framework is there, and the money is there; the only thing that separates tens of thousands of US-based racers and cruisers from something they’ve never seen before is a little bit of competent leadership and organization.  Here’s hoping.

 

May 6th, 2015 by admin

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It’s not much of a secret any more, but we might as well let you in on the news that Key West Race Week will be back on the schedule for 2016, thanks to a group of Storm Trysail Club vets and run by St. Thomas YC’s Bill Canfield.

Add this news to the various efforts sprouting throughout Florida to race to Cuba and/or rekindle the SORC, and we come to one conclusion: South Florida’s big boat racing scene might well be on the road to the kind of recovery that one-designs have already seen in Miami, Pensacola, and Davis Island.

We’re quite sure Key West is capable of being re-ignited, and we know Bill is smart enough to make it happen.  We also know the STC runs a damned good regatta up in Block Island. That said, this ain’t an easy one; it’s going to take an awful lot of hard work to bring life and credibility back to a regatta that spent the last decade throwing it all away.

Canfield runs one of the most respected regattas in the Caribbean, though he hasn’t been immune from the down numbers and sponsor flight seen throughout the caribbean over the past few years.  The STC continues to flirt with success, but many of their southern efforts have fallen flat.

There are two things Canfield and his crew have going for them. The first is the astonishing pent-up demand of sailors looking to go to Cuba, and the end of KW Race Week is the perfect excuse to race to Havana.  If the STC can lock up a Cuba Race (there are now three different groups exploring such a race in 2015/16), it will be a huge boon to Key West racing.  The second tool they have to grow the event is the fact that several high-profile classes really want to race it – classes like the TP52, GC32, and similar – though we think this doesn’t really help a more general regatta at all, and could in fact hurt it.

We expect an announcement from the new organizers soon, and the way they do it will give us all a clue on whether it will succeed.  Is it the same old crap, from the same old players? Or is it something new from a group that understands the world we live in today?

We sure do hope it is the latter.  America needs a great January regatta, and there aren’t that many places as good as Key West.

 

April 22nd, 2015 by admin

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