Four of the regular Fastwave Crew competed in Key West Race
Week 2003, with some success. A Beneteau 33.7 (Safari) was located
in Miami by Steffi Schiffer, and duly chartered for the regatta.
We sailed in a class of 9 PHRF boats, ranging between 33 and 40 feet, and racing on the American time-on-distance formula.
Our crew consisted of Chris Brown (skipper/helm), Neil Morton (main/sheet), Christos Pashias (headsail and guy trim), Mark Heuchan (tactics and tailing), Steffi Schiffer (co-skipper/pit), Bill Perrin, the owner of Santana (mast and trim), Mary Lochner (sewer) and Nathan (bow).
Mary and Nathan were both Americans who joined our team for the week.
The regatta was superbly run with about 300 boats racing over 4 circles, all sailing windward-leewards. Particularly in the one design classes the event was stacked with America's cup talent with names such as Paul Cayard, Ken Reed, Adrian Stead all present. The standard was high in all the classes - with boats having travelled from all over the USA and around 20 other countries. Although we were on arguably the least sexy of the 4 racetracks, the standard of courses, and sailing was of the highest order - clearly competitors were not going to the hassle of moving their boats thousands of miles without being serious about the competition.
Chris oversaw a boat preparation day on the Saturday, including moving the mast, adjusting the rigging and removal of everything superfluous from the toilet brush to the bathing ladder. Despite removing the autohelm to reduce drag the steering remained very sluggish, although the thing we most missed about Fastwave was halyard organisers with the kite often having to be flown without a winch while outhaul and jib halyards were being tightened.
Sunday was our practise day and a 20 knot breeze enabled numerous gybes and tacks to be accomplished, and a few incorrectly inserted battens to be lost (that's why we practise!).
The first day saw quite light winds and we sailed so/so (well actually pretty poorly) to get a 3rd and a 5th. In similar conditions on the second day we sailed much better to get the same results. However, on this occasion the results were sufficient for a 3rd ovcrall for the day, and a sense that we were getting the hang of things. By now we could at least identify the better boats in our class and equally importantly the other classes, and had stated to get a handle on the weather trends, helped in no small part by the daily weather briefing. What was remarkable about this was that a near-perfect summary of the days' wind trends was being provided by a meteorologist who was on a telephone call from Auckland, explaining the weather in Key West to us who were there.
On Wednesday, slightly lighter airs called for a one-race day and after a nice demonstration of getting down the ladder quickly, we were able to get a narrow win.
Throughout the event our starting had been top-notch, and on Thursday morning we nailed the committee boat end and flipped onto starboard heading we thought for a certain win. However, contrary to our expectations the wind did not veer right but actually backed left and we had to settle for a 5th, although a 2nd in the afternoon race restored our spirits. A cold front was predicted for the afternoon and the race committee very smartly fitted in two sixty minute races with the result that the 30 knot front arrived just after racing finished. However, being the Royal Ocean Racing Club we elected to sail home under storm jib and mainsail.
By now the scratch boat in the class (a Farr 37 named Hot-Ticket) had the event pretty much wrapped up, and she demonstrated her superior handicap by winning the breezy final race without flying a spinnaker. We took another 2nd to finish 3rd in the event, just behind E-ticket, a well sailed Lighthouse Point, FL boat with a rock-star tactician named Peter Grimm.
Overall a very enjoyable experience, but the fact that we had a 1 and two 2s in the last four races shows the benefit of practise and familiarity with crew and equipment. Had we had the same scores in the first four races, we would have been challenging for the class title instead of the runner up spot.
It goes without saying that due to the seriousness of the event the crew stayed well away from lap-dancers and other pleasures of the flesh, were far too sensible to get dehydrated drinking rum in the jaccuzzi, and were tucked up alone in bed early each evening. Any rumours to the contrary are inadmissible without photographic evidence.