Icebergs or sunshine?

Most voyagers look to the around-the-world racers as the ultimate sailors. These hardy souls spend much of their respective races blasting through the cold, daunting world of the Southern Ocean, with its sharp-prowed icebergs and hissing, monster waves.

And then there are the guys who brave the warm seas, playful sunshine and civilized winds of events like the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race. We certainly applaud the Southern Ocean racers, but sometimes you have to think sailing in the Lauderdale to Key West Race would be way more enjoyable.

From the press release: Jim Kilroy’s Samba Pa Ti (pictured) grabbed an IRC trifecta in the 33rd annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race: first to finish, first in IRC class A and first for IRC overall on corrected time.  Forty three of the forty nine entered boats started shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 16, and Kilroy charged in before midnight after the 160-mile reach. Organized by SORC Management, which includes members of the Storm Trysail Club and Lauderdale Yacht Club, the race stretched from Port Everglades to Key West Harbor. Along the way, navigators had to “connect-the-dots“ to keep the fleet between all major Florida Keys markers and the Gulf Stream. Entrants, in two classes for IRC, four for PHRF and two for Multihull, ranged in size from a 76′ catamaran to two 21′ mini Transats, but it was Kilroy’s 52-foot TP52 that stole the show.

 “It starts with a good boat,” said Kilroy about Samba Pa Ti’s success, noting that he modified the boat — adding a bow sprit, changing the bulb and extending the deck ” for leverage on reaching legs” – after winning the US-IRC East Coast Championship last year.  “These are very fast boats (two other TP52s took second and third in IRC A)…at the start, we had to hang high and let everyone underneath us go, so everyone in the class got a better start, but within five minutes we were launched.  The consistency we have in crew is also key….there have been some changes, but 85% of them were with me last season.”

Many in Samba Pa Ti’s crew were grand-prix racing notables such as New Zealand’s Nick White (navigator), Florida’s Tom Lihan and Maryland’s Terry Hutchinson (tactician), who, according to Kilroy, said he had more fun on this race than on any other he has done.  ”It’s because it was a good breeze,” said Kilroy. “And everyone was hiking out and the driving was intense… and it’s nice when you’re getting wet that you’re getting splashed with warm water.”

At the start, Race Chairman Joel Bowie reported “sporty conditions,” which started with four- to six-foot seas and an 18-knot reaching Easterly, favorable for breaking the current monohull race record of 10 hours 24 minutes and 2 seconds posted by Joe Dockery’s Reichel/Pugh 81 Carrera in 2005.  Samba Pa Ti fell just short of that record by seven minutes, 23 seconds, posting an elapsed time of 0:10:32:25.

 “That’s pretty amazing for a 52-foot boat,” said Kilroy. “We had 15-20 miles where we were hard on the nose, so if we’d had a staysail up the whole time we’d have done even better.”

This was Kilroy’s first time to enter the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and he did so to support IRC in the U.S. “while they are expanding and promoting it.” The event was the 2008 kick-off for the annual US-IRC Gulf Stream Series. Winning IRC B was Stuart Hebb (Coral Gables, Fla.) on the Aerodyne 38 Thin Ice.

Multihulls – Flight Simulator

While Kilroy and Hebb were sailing smoothly along to victory, others weren’t so lucky.  For the multihulls, especially, it was a gear buster.  Patriot, a 76-foot catamaran owned by Mike Rush (Fort Lauderdale) and the early favorite for line honors retired shortly after the start with mainsail problems.  Matador, a Corsair F31 owned by Rick Tobin (Miami, Fla.), lost its mast just off Marathon; and the 42-foot Shuttleworth catamaran The Beast, owned by Rubio Julian (Westin, Fla.), reported a “broken cross beam.”  Sarah, owned by Gregory Manning (Warwick, R.I.) in IRC B, had a steering failure just outside the Key West sea buoy.

It was Flight Simulator, a Corsair 28R, owned by Tom Reese (Youngstown, N.Y.), that prevailed to take Multihull A and overall multihull honors with an elapsed time of 0:12:39:49. (In 2007, Steve and Scott Liebel’s Custom 60 Stars and Stripes turned in the multihull record of 8 hours 31 minutes and 4 seconds.)

 “We couldn’t have asked for better conditions,” said Reese of the weather. “We had strong winds. It was a tight reach at first, then a beam reach, finally a broad reach and the wind was steady all thorough the race.”

Although Flight Simulator was among the last of the fleet to start the race, Reese said the boat averaged 16-17 knot speeds and along the way passed almost every competing boat, even the monohulls. “While it was still daylight, we could see all the boats behind us. We almost caught the TP52 (Samba Pa Ti). It was a lot of fun.” He credited his three crew – Richard Stevens (navigator), Miroslav Kaffka from Ullman Sails (Sarasota) and Phil Styne (NY) – for the boat’s success.

Snagging victory in class B was Anhinga, a Corsair F27 owned by Robert Libbey (Fort Myers, Fla.).

PHRF – Munequita

Munequita,  a 60′ Cherubini schooner (with a 44-foot waterline) owned by Charles Evans and sailing out of the St. Pete Yacht Club (St. Petersburg, Fla.), won PHRF Class D and overall PHRF honors,  posting an elapsed time of 19:32:22.  Gwailhir, the Open 40 owned by Stuart Williams (Newport, R.I.) took PHRF A, while securing PHRF B victory was the Du Four 44 Second Wind, owned by Ray Sullivan (Key Biscayne, Fla.).  And finally, winning PHRF Class C was Bandana, an Oyster 48 owned by Dave Wallace (Fort Lauderdale).

According to Munequita’s Captain Mike Lawrence, “As the course went west, the wind went south, so we were always on a beam to a close reach.  We had 22-knots true wind at times and never much below 18 knots — we correct out well in that weather!”

This year’s fleet included 28 boats from Florida, as well as boats from Ohio, California, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Kentucky, plus Russia and Great Britain.

Race management was particularly pleased with the mix of competitors from near and far, professional and amateur.  “In addition to the professionals, we were happy to see a number of local South Florida teams taking home trophies,” said Race Chair Joel Bowie. “Five of eight class winners were locals.”

By Ocean Navigator