Storm Trysail Club Takes Over Ownership of Key West Race Week
Quantum Sail Design Group remains onboard as title sponsor of popular regatta
LARCHMONT, NY – Quantum Key West Race Week will continue thanks to the organizational expertise of a new ownership group and the ongoing support of its title sponsor – Quantum Sail Design Group.
The Storm Trysail Club is pleased to announce that it has come to an agreement with Premiere Racing to take over ownership and management of the prestigious regatta.
The Storm Trysail Club, established in 1938, is well known for running Block Island Race Week, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer. Storm Trysail Club also organizes the Lauderdale-to-Key West Race that has long served as feeder for Key West Race Week.
“Key West Race Week is a terrific bookend to the club’s long-standing Block Island Race Week,” Storm Trysail Club commodore Lee Reichart said. “We believe we will be able to utilize our experience at Block Island to ensure that Key West remains the most prominent winter big-boat event in North America.”
Quantum Key West Race Week 2016 will be held Jan. 18-22, 2016 with many of the same elements that made the regatta so popular remaining in place. Foremost is the sponsorship of Quantum, the second-largest sail-making company in the world.
Quantum Sail Design Group came aboard as title sponsor of Key West Race Week in 2012 at a time when its future was uncertain. Quantum and its backers provided the financial support that enabled Premiere Racing to continue organizing the regatta.
“We recognize Key West Race Week is the flagship regatta in this country and has been for well over two decades,” Quantum president Ed Reynolds said. “This midwinter, big boat regatta is very important to North American and international sailboat racing.”
Reynolds says the worldwide company is happy to see the event continue with such an accomplished regatta management group. “We recognize the complexity of managing Key West Race Week. There are probably very few organizations that could do it. Storm Trysail is uniquely qualified and we’re confident and excited about the future of the event under its direction.”
Reynolds thanked Peter Craig and his team at Premiere Racing for 21 years of dedication to ensuring Key West Race Week remained a highlight of the racing calendar, both within the United States and abroad. Reynolds also acknowledged an appreciation for Premiere Racing’s commitment to ensuring a smooth transition.
“Through Peter’s leadership, Key West Race Week has become an internationally-renowned regatta. It would be a huge loss to the competitors and the industry if the regatta were to go away,” Reynolds said. “We’re pleased to continue as title sponsor and look forward to working with the Storm Trysail Club and our industry peers to build on the success of this great event.”
Yachting Magazine founded Key West Race Week in 1987 and seven years later brought Craig aboard as race chairman. At the time, it was a single division regatta with 112 boats. Craig took over as event director in the late 1990s and under his leadership Key West Race Week evolved into an iconic international keelboat event.
Craig, longtime assistant Jeanne Kleene and an army of volunteers has always worked hard to ensure that Key West Race Week is always top-notch both on and off the water. Those two principals of Premiere Racing are very happy to hand off the event to capable new stewards.
“The Storm Trysail Club is uniquely qualified to manage an event of this magnitude, given their extensive experience with Block Island Race Week, Lauderdale-to-Key West Race and the considerable number of their members who have been actively involved with Key West Race Week over the past 21 years,” Craig said.
Craig applauded Quantum Sail Design Group for staying on as title sponsor. “Quantum and its backers hold true stature in the industry. It is hardly surprising to see that they will continue to play a crucial role in the continuation of this event,” he said. “Quantum, like Storm Trysail Club, has expressed a strong belief that Key West Race Week is important to performance sailing in North America. I would expect other industry leaders to step up and play an active, contributing role as Storm Trysail takes this great regatta forward.”
Storm Trysail Club members are in the process of contacting all past sponsors and will be working to bring new partners into the mix. Jeff Johnstone has pledged the support of J/Boats, a worldwide leader in high-performance sailboats.
All sorts of J/Boats designs have competed at Key West Race Week over the years, either in one-design, PHRF or IRC classes. Johnstone challenged other industry leaders to do their part in making Key West Race Week a success.
“Key West Race Week has been a favorite for J/Boat sailors since its inception 20-plus years ago,” Johnstone said. “We’re very excited to see the Storm Trysail Club take the helm and we encourage all of our sailing industry peers to join us in supporting this great event that means so much to the sailing community. We’re looking forward to being back in sunny, breezy Key West next January.”
Storm Trysail Club announced that longtime member John Fisher will serve as event chairman for Key West Race Week. Fisher has been involved with Block Island Race Week since 1999, serving as chairman for three editions of the biennial regatta. Reichart said Fisher, a past commodore of Storm Trysail Club, was selected for the role because of his proven strength with logistics.
“Key West Race Week has long been the best winter venue the U.S. has to offer, given the consistency of conditions and obviously the incredible weather,” Fisher said. “Veteran competitors at Key West have come to expect top-notch race management and that will not change! Storm Trysail Club is a proven commodity when it comes to on-water organization.”
Dick Neville, another Storm Trysail Club veteran, has been appointed race committee chairman. Neville has been working Key West Race Week for nearly two decades as right-hand man to Division 2 principal race officer Dave Brennan. Neville is expecting to conduct starts in most of the classes that have traditionally competed at Key West.
Fisher said Nick Langone will serve as shore-side committee chairman while John Storck Jr. will oversee mobile marina logistics. The Storm Trysail Club hopes to retain the services of numerous dedicated volunteers that worked for Premiere Racing for many years.
“It is important to point out that many Storm Trysail Club race committee members have been involved with Key West Race Week over the years. So we are not novices when it comes to this particular regatta and its unique elements,” Fisher said. “Because of the accumulated knowledge available to us, I expect the transition from Premiere Racing to Storm Trysail Club to be very smooth.”
Skippers wishing to register for Quantum Key West Race Week 2016 should visit http://www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1390.
About Storm Trysail Club
Storm Trysail Club is one of the world’s most respected sailing organizations. Established in 1938, its membership includes skilled blue water and ocean racing sailors who have flown a storm trysail or severely reduced canvas during an ocean voyage. The club is headquartered in Larchmont, N.Y., and has regional stations throughout the U.S. It hosts Block Island Race Week in odd-numbered years, the annual Block Island Race, Lauderdale-to-Key West Race and the biennial Miami-to-Montego Bay Race among many other events. The Club’s affiliated 501(c)(3) organization, The Storm Trysail Foundation, holds annual junior safety-at-sea seminars and the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta for college sailors using big boats. For more information, visit www.stormtrysail.org.
About Quantum Sail Design Group
Founded in 1996, Quantum Sail Design Group has grown to become the world’s second-largest sail-making company with more than 75 sales and service outlets around the world. Quantum designs, engineers, and manufacturers racing and cruising sails for sailors who demand the highest levels of quality and performance. The company is known for its Fusion M™ membrane sails and winning one design sails in dozens of classes. Quantum’s US headquarters is located in Traverse City, Michigan with European headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.
BIG MOVES ON FINAL DAY AS 20TH EDITION OF
SPERRY CHARLESTON RACE WEEK WRAPS UP
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (April 19, 2015)—With an early start time, a moderate yet consistent breeze from the southeast, and a ripping tide pouring out of Charleston Harbor, the overall victories and podium finishes were up for grabs throughout most of the fleet at Sperry Charleston Race Week 2015. Unlike Saturday’s action, the early breeze meant three short, intense races in some classes and two in others, allowing a few teams to sew up runaway victories and a few more to make late runs to the top of the leaderboard in the quest for silver in the 20th anniversary of this event.
Charleston is immensely proud of its local collegiate sailing team, and the College of Charleston’s varsity Sailing Team Captain Chase Shaw showed why that is with his performance in the J/22 Class. Shaw and his CofC crew reveled in the fast outgoing tide on Sunday, grabbing two bullets and holding off a late charge from US Sailing President Tom Hubbell aboard his Air Force One.
Hubbell said he’d never had an easier time entering a regatta. “You call up the College, they charter the boat to you, you jump in a plane, show up on the dock, and go race one-design at Charleston Race Week. Could it be any easier?” said Hubbell, whose team finished just 3 points behind Shaw.
The J/22 Class also featured the Warrior Sailing Team, entirely crewed and helmed by wounded and disabled military veterans from around the country and managed by professional sailor Ben Poucher. “Sailing with these guys against a fully able-bodied fleet was something we’d been relishing, and watching them put everything they have into it was pretty awesome,” said Poucher. The Warriors grabbed 8th place out of 9 entries. “It was a victory in every way,” Poucher said.
Fourteen-year-old Kyle Gamble and the team on board My Sharona shocked the until-then very tight J/111 fleet with three bullets on Sunday, giving them the easy win despite a hard week. “We just sailed clean and fast and it’s great to have days like that,” said Gamble, whose father George steers their Pensacola-based boat.
The lone Mexican entry, Julian Fernandez Neckleman’s Flojito y Cooperando, earned its first Charleston Race Week win with a runaway performance in the stacked 83-boat J/70 Class. But it still wasn’t an easy day for them, despite their dominance. “With the black flag up and the current pushing us over the line, starting was nerve racking, said tactician Bill Hardesty, one of the most successful American one-design sailors of the decade. “We started in the second row a couple of times, and luckily we had the speed to work our way forward.”
Also in the J/70s, Jud and Lindsay Smith of Marblehead, Mass., sailing on Africa, stole a brilliant penultimate race win, setting up a final battle with Oslo, Norway’s Eivind Astrup and his team on Norwegian Steam. Smith found himself stuck in traffic on a crowded port-tack layline, while Astrup judged the speedy ebb current perfectly, sweeping around the final mark in first place and extending to the victory. “It all came together at the right time, and now that we know the currents, we’ll come back as locals,” joked the skipper, just before singing “Happy Birthday” in Norwegian to celebrate Race Week’s 20th.
The final race of the Melges 24 Class was a nailbiter, but in the end, perennial top helmsman and past Melges 24 Corinthian World Champion Bruce Ayres (Monsoon, Newport Beach, CA) stayed patient despite a spirited attack from College of Charleston junior Ryan Davidson steering Guy Mossman’s Battle Rhythm. Ayres and Davidson traded leads on the beat, with a luffing battle on the final run allowing Norway’s Jens Altern Wathne (Bergen, Norway) to slip to leeward and take the final race win of the week. Ayres finished less than 10 seconds behind Davidson, tying the two on points, with Monsoon winning on the tiebreak. It was Ayres’ second-straight win in the Melges 24 Class at Sperry Charleston Race Week.
Wathne’s win vaulted him into first place in the Corinthian (amateur) division, with Australian entry ACCRU losing the top spot after having just gained it. It may be decades since ACCRU skipper Kevin Nixon won his 18-foot skiff world title on Sydney Harbour, and his crew consists of his wife and three children rather than two huge watermen, but the intense Aussie says he and his family know they need to come back in 2016 to prove the Aussies can beat not only the Americans, but the Scandinavians as well. “It’s a point of pride,” he said. Both Wathne and Nixon agree that next year’s event should be a big one for the Melges 24 Class. “Charleston and the Melges 24 have a long history together, and with the 2016 Melges 24 Worlds coming back to the states for the November Miami Worlds, Charleston marks the real beginning of the workup to what should be a very big worlds,” said Wathne.
Charlestonian Jeff Irvine, headsail trimmer on Brent McKenzie’s Melges 24 Ex-Kahn, soothed his disappointment at the awards party on Sunday. McKenzie’s crew was winning the 21-boat class going into today’s action, and took a 3,2 in the first two races of the day. But then the 16-knot breezes began to falter and they watched their competition sail right around them in great pressure on the other side of a shift, landing the teamin 14th for the final race. “We still wound up in third place overall, which is fine,” said Irvine. “But what was great about this regatta is that it had all the possibility of being a downer because of weather. I woke up this morning and the forecast called for 100 percent rain and possible thunderstorms, and we didn’t see any of that. In fact we had really great racing today.”
Only one point separated the top two teams at the start of the final race in the Melges 20 National Championship fleet. Jason Michas’ team aboard Midnight Blue performed under pressure, winning the final race with blinding downwind speed. Richard Davies’ Section 16 took second spot for the second time in Charleston, with third place Tom Kassberg on Flygfisk edging out the Brazilian team aboard Portobello. That team spent much of the week in first place – until it really mattered. Both Portobello and Flygfisk found themselves in a dying breeze on the final leg, and deep in the fleet, the throwouts came into play. According to Kassberg, “We were consistent throughout the week, so it felt good to have a cushion if we needed to throw out the last race.”
In the Viper 640 fleet, Jason Carroll’s Argo didn’t need the final race for a win, but 2nd and 3rd were still undecided. Former College of Charlestron sailor Zeke Horowitz on board Jenny won his second race in a row to edge out Tumbling Dice by five points for second.
The 21-boat J/24 class also had a tight podium with local racer Scott McCormack (Mt. Pleasant, SC) and his Giggity playing the ebb perfectly today to jump ahead of favorite Tony Parker aboard Bangor Packet. Pipe Dream was only four points out of second place with a very steady score line.
Local racer Jay Cook, sailing in the Pursuit Class won in two big ways this week with his crew on board the Beneteau 423 Tohidu. This lifelong sailor and longtime supporter of Sperry Charleston Race Week, sailed with his sons Adam and Travis for the first time in more than 5 years, something Cook said ‘was one of the best surprises I’ve ever had.’ The Cooks and the longtime friends crewing with them weren’t able to repeat their 2006 class victory, finishing in 10th place, and Jay didn’t expect to spend any time on the trophy stage, making the crowd’s long and strong cheers all the more powerful when he was called up to receive the elegant wood-and-glass trophy for the Jubilee Award for Sportsmanship. Cook’s tireless volunteerism and never-ending generosity in support of the Charleston sailing community are legendary in the community; an award well deserved.
After top-secret calculations to determine the winners in the most competitive classes in the regatta, Randy Draftz announced that Robin Team and his family-crewed J/122Teamwork had won the historic and beautiful Palmetto Cup for the top PHRF performance of the regatta. It marks an incredible third overall win in Charleston, and the Teams say they would like to try to add their name to the perpetual trophy again next year.
To no one’s surprise, the Melges 20 National Championship fleet claims the trophy for the winner in the most competitive one-design fleet, with Long Island’s Jason Michas and Midnight Blue etching their names on the Charleston Race Week Cup. Michas adds it to his new title of US National Champion.
In the Pursuit Class, Charleston-based Jamie Walker and his crew on board Walker’s Swan 56 Azura were celebrating with smiles at the awards party. They didn’t see the kind of breezes this heavier boat really requires, but nonetheless finished well enough to secure third overall. “Despite the lighter winds, this event is always fun and it’s really spectacular. Fun is one of our principal goals. For us, it’s safety No. 1, fun No. 2, and then results No. 3. But I’m really fortunate to have a crew that comes from Charleston, England, Germany and Boston. We’re pretty multicultural actually.” Walker said he loves and hates the Pursuit Class. “It’s so frustrating to sit there and watch all those other boats start ahead of us, but once you’re racing, it’s an absolute blast.”
Hank Stewart, the PRO on the most populous racing circle – the 83-boat J/70 course – was relieved and pleased at the end of the day. “I’ve never worked with the fleet split system that we used here (to orchestrate the large number of boats in this class), but it worked really well. I think the tight competition proves it works,” he said. Stuart says his volunteers and fellow race officers provided terrific support, but emphasized that he gives a lot of credit to the competitors. “I think across all the classes at the event, the sailors were very gracious, particularly in showing such patience on Saturday when we had that lengthy postponement. And, at least on our course, it was worth the wait because we had two of the best contests of the event that day.”
According to Ed Kriese of OceanRacing.com, an event sponsor, this is a great event for brand awareness. “For me, it’s a rifle shot at my target market. And, on a personal level, I get to race all day and then hit the shower and start selling and talking to sailors. It’s perfect, and I’m definitely coming back next year.”
David Weber, sales manager for Coral Reef Sailing Apparel – a big event sponsor for the past several years – was thrilled about the event. “We do this at about 150 events a year, and this regatta is truly the pinnacle. It’s how all regattas should be done.”
Sperry Charleston Race Week returns next year, April 14-17.
SKIES FINALLY CLEAR AND WINDS MATERIALIZE
ON DAY 2 FOR SPERRY CHARLESTON RACE WEEK COMPETITORS
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, April 18, 2015—Sailors at Sperry Charleston Race Week 2015 were treated to a surprise respite this morning, with dead-calm conditions giving the 2,500 sailors at the premier regatta a chance to sleep in and catch up with old friends as the clouds slowly burned off. Around midday, bright sun and a beautiful, 8-knot sea breeze developed as the land heated, and both the inshore and offshore fleets were treated to a great, late-afternoon of racing in two contests across all fleets.
While the racers competed, one unfortunate incident that took place on Friday kept the jury busy on shore. It also brought into focus the challenges that Sperry Charleston Race Week organizers face when bringing nearly 300 racing boats onto a busy commercial and recreational harbor. On their way back to the marina that day, Kris Kalinski and his crew on board Kalinski’s Melges 24 Zoo crossed the bow of an incoming container ship in the shipping channel, forcing emergency action and a five-blast collision warning from the ship’s horn – twice. Race officials filed a protest against Zoo as necessitated by the rules, and the jury disqualified the team from all racing.
After two rehearings on Saturday, Event Director Randy Draftz said the jury’s hands were tied, and with good reason. “We can all sympathize with Kris and his crew of course, but the race committee really has no alternative in this situation,” said Draftz. “Safety is always paramount to us, especially in a commercial harbor with swift currents and massive ships constantly on the move, and if we don’t take pretty drastic measures in this situation, we’re not being responsible.”
Everything is light for day 1 in Charleston, light wind, light rain. Still enough to complete 4 races on inshore circles 1 & 2, 3 races on circle 3, 3 races on Offshore circle 4 and 2 races on circle 5.
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Friday 17, 2015)—CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Friday 17, 2015)— The scene on the waters off Charleston today couldn’t have been more different from that day in April 1996 when it all began. Only 29 competitors – all of them local – graced the scratch sheet 20 years ago. Friday morning, on the first day of racing for Sperry Charleston Race Week 2015, nearly 300 boats from 11 nations and 20 states set off from Patriot’s Point to claim their place in the event’s history.
While the action and competition was indeed hot, the weather wasn’t – it unseasonably light and chilly conditions with occasional drizzle evened the playing field between the newbies and the old Charleston salts, helping some of the event’s international competitors score big.
Foreign skippers have the top two spots in by far the largest class in the regatta, the 83-boat J/70 Class. Despite never having even seen Charleston Harbor, Oslo, Norway’s Norwegian Steam sailed a strong 1,6,5 day to own second place in the ultra-competitive class racing on Charleston Harbor. Despite the swift, complex currents flowing through that course, crew Thomas Nilsson said the wind strength was far more important. “We spent a bit of time in the morning figuring out the current, but for us, it was far more important to end up on the side with more wind pressure and try to get off the line well,” said Nilsson. “It’s definitely a unique place to sail, and a very fun place to be!”
Ahead of Norwegian Steam lies Mexico City’s Flojito Y Cooperando, with Charleston newcomer Julian Fernandes Neckelmann at the helm. Don’t let Neckelmann’s boat name (loosely translated as ‘laid back’) fool you – this Mexican racer has serious driving skills, and his crew includes Bill Hardesty and Willem “Creature” Van Waay – who collectively own about 10 world championship titles. Interestingly, the Norwegians picked up the Mexican’s first-place flag at the awards ceremony on Friday evening and then presented it to them in the hotel lobby the following morning. Now that’s international sportsmanship.
Other international entrants shone equally brightly on Friday’s inshore courses as well. Brazilian native and Miami resident Cesar Neto Gomez’s Portobello showed major speed in the tough Audi Melges 20 Class, which is contesting its national championship here. Neto Gomez leads by 3 points over longtime Etchells standout Bruce Golison, while Canada’s Paul Currie leads the non-professional subclass. In the Melges 24 Corinthian class, Norway’s Jens Wathne (Party Girl) sits just behind amateur leader Dan McGraw (Blue Steel).
Offshore the story is similar, with international competitors showing plenty of prowess. Torquay, England’s Joe Woods took two bullets to lead Charleston’s first-ever Farr 280 one-design class with his crew aboard Red, while Canada’s Rob Butler and his electric pink Touch2Play team lead the J/88 Class on a tiebreak. And Bermuda’s John Streicker and his crew aboard his NY40 Defiant have the final podium spot for the moment in Pursuit-Spinnaker class.
But an American is providing the best story of the regatta so far. Twelve-year-old Gannon Troutman helmed Pied Piper on Friday to an astonishing 4th place in a J/70 fleet, which is loaded with some of America’s best sailors. It was no fluke, either – despite sailing for just four years, the pint-sized phenom scored a top-ten finish at Key West Race Week back in January. Calm, cool, and collected, Gannon seems to take the pressure in stride despite the tough conditions. “The current is ripping, the harbor is tricky, but I go out there, try to stay focused, and just do my thing,” he said. “I think more kids my age should be driving boats like this. It’s the best experience anyone can have.”
Racing will continue this morning (Saturday, April 18) after a two-hour postponement as a stalled frontal system lingering over the Southeast region has meant uncharacteristic weather conditions.