Best Around the Buoys Blog at KWRW 2011

Inaugural Best Around the Buoys Team WINS PHRF 1 at Key West Race Week! Congratulations to the Best Around the Buoys crew aboard the J/111 Kontiki V, overall winners of PHRF 1 at Key West 2011!

Best Around the Buoys Team WINS PHRF 1 at Key West Race Week!

Congratulations to the Best Around the Buoys crew aboard the J/111 Kontiki V, the overall winners of PHRF 1 at Key West 2011!

Consistency throughout a challenging week of light-air racing did the trick—conditions were the same the final day as they’d been throughout with winds just 6-10 knots—as the crew posted a record of 2, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 5, 3, 2, for a total of 22 points.

Second overall was Bill Sweetser’s J/109 RUSH from Annapolis, Maryland, with 25 points. Kontiki V and RUSH battled all week, but RUSH finished fifth in the final and deciding race of the regatta.

Kontiki V won the series in dramatic fashion, tangling a fishing buoy midway up the first beat, but still coming back to beat RUSH for the overall win in the final race. According to Kontiki V skipper Jim Sminchak, the incident, which occurred shortly after what had been a good start, actually came as a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the BAB crew to separate from RUSH, something that would have been difficult otherwise in given RUSH’s excellent boat speed in light air.

Specifically, by slowing Kontiki V down, the fishing buoy caused Kontiki V and RUSH to exchange a flurry of tacks at the windward mark. RUSH had trouble accelerating out of the last one, which allowed Kontiki V to get away. After that it was a matter of smart, fast sailing and extending their lead over RUSH over the rest of the course.

“It was a very demanding last race,” Sminchak said afterward. “Going into the final race, we knew it was going to be tough. RUSH is very fast in those kinds of conditions.”

Third place went to the Canadian Beneteau First 44.7 Galilee, owned by Jean-Pierre Turgeon. The big sloop showed tremendous speed throughout the series, posting a number of firsts, but inconsistency, with a couple of back-of-the fleet finishes and a DSQ, kept the boat from winning overall with a score of 30.5 points. Fourth place went to the J/124 Wicked, with 32 points.

Meanwhile, over in the first circle aboard Oracle Racing, SAIL correspondent and RC44 owner-driver for the week Chris Museler posted a third and a second on the final day of racing to finish third overall with 23 points, just one point shy of first. Mascalzone Latino and Team Aqua both finished with 22 points, but Mascalzone Latino won the final race of the series to take the series win. For complete Key West 2011 results, click here.

SAIL VIDEO: Best Around the Buoys Skipper Jim Sminchak sums up his experience in Key West 2011 aboard Kontiki V

SAIL VIDEO: Team Best Around the Buoys on KWRW

KWRW Day 4: A Challenging Day

A tough day out on the water for the Kontiki V: the morning started foggy, prompting a one-hour delay in the harbor start, which was originally scheduled for 0900. The sun eventually broke through the clouds and it quickly became a clear blue Key West morning onshore as the fleet made its way out to the three racing areas south of the island. But the fog lingered offshore, where it was thick enough that the PHRF 1 start didn’t get off until shortly after noon. At one point it was so thick a couple of Melges 24s got lost and ended up in the wrong racing area, where some good Samaritans in the fleet shouted out the bearing they needed to motor to re-join their flock.

One again, conditions were light, but seas were the calmest they’ve been all week. The Kontiki V made the best of what pressure there was to take a second in the first race. Once again, the key was boat speed and playing the slight shifts across the race course.

After being disqualified the day before, Canadian Jean Pierre Turgeon’s Beneteau First 44.7 Galilee came roaring back to take first, using its tall rig to full advantage in the light conditions.

The second race was a tough one for the team from the North Coast. First, Kontiki V had trouble at that start. After that, the boat got on the wrong side of a shift on the first beat. All week long, racing has been tight in this division, leaving little room for error. At the finish line, it was Kontiki V in fifth place.

“It was a tough day,” said skipper Jim Sminchak. “We got pushed off to the right side and then a 10- to 15-degree shift went the wrong way for us. The good news is we’re still in the same spot in the standings where we started the day.”

Over on the RC44 course, SAIL’s owner-driver for the week, took first for the second time in a row in the first race of the day, and was leading in the second race, when the light, fluky air took its toll and Oracle Racing sailed into a hole. The result? Fourth place.

Today the forecast is for a steadily building breeze topping out at the mid-teens. Not a gale, but it will be a welcome change for a Key West fleet that has been working hard for every foot all week. Good luck Kontiki V and Oracle Racing. Finish strong!

SAIL VIDEO: Thanks to New York videographer and sailor Doug Moy for his video contributions to this blog page. He's good company on a press boat and a great filmaker. Check out his interview of Key West Race Week official photographer Tim Wilkes.

KWRW Day 4: Fog and a Word of Thanks

Dawn today brought a thick fog, which took a while to burn off, so the race committee delayed things by an hour. By 1000, though, the sun was shining, bringing with it another glorious Key West morning—with some wind to boot. The hope is that they will be able to get off two good races.

While the fleet is still out on the water, a quick shout out to the owner of Kontiki V, Cesar Rojas, who has so generously donated his boat to be used for SAIL’s Best Around the Buoys contest. Originally from Columbia, Cesar also has a house in Coral Gables, Florida, and is now on his fifth J/Boat—his other J/Boats have included a J/120 and a J/32—thus the V tacked on to the end of this latest Kontiki.

Cesar says he’s having a great time sailing with the BAB crew, and he has every reason to be proud of how the boat is doing at Key West 2011, but that doesn’t make his generosity any less extraordinary. So, thanks, Cesar, for taking a bunch of Clevelanders out sailing!

January 19: A Bullet for Kontiki V

More light air today in Key West, with the race committee getting off just one race. But that worked out fine for the crew of Kontiki V who scored their first bullet of the regatta, after the Beneteau First 44.7 Galilee (first across the finish line) was disqualified after fouling the 1D35 Revolution shortly after the start.

Revolution finished third and Douglas Curtiss’ J/124 Wicked took second.

Over on the first-division circle, the mini-maxis, IRC boats and RC44 class had a bit more pressure, with winds close to 10 knots throughout the morning. But things were progressively lighter to the east. Things were a bit hazy as well, although there was less weed out on the water than there has been all week.

Though light, winds were fairly steady out of the southwest, so that the key was boat speed through the still somewhat lumpy seas. “It was light and hot,” skipper Jim Sminchak said afterward. “We’re just trying to battle it out on the water and keep the boat moving.”

Sminchak said it’s been a bit tough at times sweltering in such low-wind conditions, but still a nice break from the weather in the Upper Midwest. Going into Thursday, the fleet has completed five races. Kontiki V’s record is now 2, 2, 3, 2, 1 for 10 points, putting the boat in first place overall.

In second place, with 12 points, is Bill Sweetser’s J/109 RUSH.

Meanwhile, over in the RC44 class, SAIL correspondent Chris Museler also scored his first bullet of the regatta. Once again the key was boat speed and boat handling with fairly steady breezes across the entire course, and no dramatic shifts to tip the balance one way or the other.

The Best Around the Buoys crew Soldiers On

Day 2 at Key West Race Week started in conditions identical to those of Day 1, and ended nearly—but not quite—as well for the Best Around the Buoys crew on the J/111 Kontiki V. The team was buzzing after ending the first day at the top of the PHRF rankings, and had high expectations of a repeat performance in the shifting breeze and weed-strewn conditions off Key West.

The first race was tough tactically, all about hunting for the best breeze. The BAB crew are one-design sailors first and foremost, and not having identical boats to pace yourself against makes for challenging sailing in such conditions. Losing time against the leader by getting into a boat-to-boat duel provided a valuable lesson, and a third place finish was respectable enough.

In race two, the crew applied the first-race lesson by forcing their main competition, the J/109 RUSH, out to the slow side of the course, and then sailed hard to make time on two faster boats ahead of them. A hard-fought second place was richly earned, and they ended the day just one point adrift of RUSH, with three days of racing still to go.

Skipper Jim Sminchak and crew are still smiling each time they arrive at the dock, with nothing but good things to say about their ride. Sminchak said he was surprised at how close the racing has been, and that while he and the rest of the crew continue to work their way up the learning curve with a new boat, the rest of the fleet continues to pick up its game as well.

“It’s been good,” he said. “The racing is a lot tighter than I think we expected.”

The Oracle Racing RC44, helmed by SAIL writer Chris Museler, who is standing in for Larry Ellison in the RC44 owner-driver class, finished strongly yesterday with a third and a second. Russell Coutts is calling tactics for Chris, and the team’s scoreboard of 2, 3, 3, 2, has it in third place, just 2 points behind the leader, Mascalzone Latino.

For more great Key West action, including appearances by SAIL publisher Josh Adams and the Best Around the Buoys team, check out the videos posted by New York sailor and videographer Doug Moy here.

January 18: Footage of Kontiki V on the water. Video footage from Doug Moy

January 17: Day 1 at Key West

Despite plenty of severe weather bouncing around the area, with tornado warnings throughout South Florida, organizers got off two races for the first day of Key West 2011. In the first race, SAIL’s BAB crew aboard the J/111 Kontiki V took second, behind Bill Sweetser’s J/109 RUSH. In the second race, Kontiki V got the bullet, with, RUSH right behind. By the end of the day, it was Kontiki V in first place in PHRF 1.

“We had a good race,” skipper Jim Sminchak said of their first start. “Ended up just ahead of the J/109 at the finish. We caught some weeds somewhere after the second leg and had a hard time keeping up our speed”

“Overall good day on the water - hot and sunny,” Sminchak said at the end of racing.

Winds were light throughout the day, but it could have been a lot worse. A couple of hours after the end of racing a squall line blasted through, with strong winds and rain that drenched the area for hours afterward.

The forecast for Tuesday is for light winds, overcast and a slight chance of rain, but none of the fireworks of yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, over in the RC44 division, SAIL correspondent Chris Museler and the Oracle Racing team took a second and third to secure third in the six-boat division. For more KWRW action, click here.

January 17: Let the Racing Begin!

Sunday was another perfect day in Key West with plenty of wind, and the fleet was out in force preparing for the beginning of racing today—including SAIL’s Best Around the Buoys team on the J/111 Kontiki V.

“We went out to another great weather day, sunny and 10-15 knots of breeze,” skipper Jim Sminchak report after the crew’s second practice in two days. “Practiced going up and downwind, mixing it up with various boats out practicing as well, awesome views with most boats out practicing. Everything went well and we are raring to get started.”

Also getting ready for the regatta yesterday was SAIL correspondent Chris Museler. He is covering the regatta from the enviable position of the helm of the RC44 Oracle Racing, with none other than America’s Cup legend Russell Coutts at his side calling tactics. Click here for Chris’ first installment on what it’s like being and RC44 “owner-driver” for a week.

The forecast today is for winds out of the south up to 20 knots, with a chance of thunderstorms, which could make for an interesting day out on the water. The goal is to get in 10 races over the course of the four-day regatta.

January 16: BAB Crew Takes Out Kontiki V

SAIL magazine’s Cleveland-based Best Around the Buoys (BAB) crew is now down in Key West and working up the J/111 Kontiki V for the week ahead. It was vintage Key West conditions on Saturday—temps in the 70s, wind 12-15 knots—as the BAB team began working up the boat (hull #11) for the week ahead.

Skipper Jim Sminchak, who sails a J/105 back in Cleveland, said Kontiki V has been performing well and that the waters off Key West are filled with other boats working out the kinds.

“It was a beautiful day. You couldn’t ask for better weather,” Sminchak said, adding that it was 20 degrees and overcast when he left Cleveland.

According to Sminchak, he and the crew put in about three hours out on the water, figuring out sail settings, and working on tacks and jibes. At one point they came across a J/109 (Bill Sweetser’s RUSH, out of Annapolis?) and the two boats sailed in company for a while to gauge boat speed.

“It’s definitely a different boat from a J/105,” Sminchak said of the new boat. “A lot more tender, it accelerates much faster.”

Saturday night, there was a mixer where the boat is being kept at Galleon Marine Docks to introduce the brand-new J/111 to the sailors gathered in Key West, and then Sunday it’s back on the water for some more training—poor souls!

January 13: Follow Team Best Around the Buoys at Key West Race Week

As we battle our way through snow and frigid temperatures up north, it’s hard to believe Key West 2011 is only a few days away—and that it’s almost time to go sailing!

In Cleveland, SAIL magazine’s Best Around the Buoys winner Jim Sminchak said he and his crew are “completely excited about leaving town and getting out of the cold,” (I feel the same ways about getting the heck out of Boston for a few days!)

Joining Sminchak will be Tod Sackett trimming main, Nick Turney trimming headsails, Doug Moose in the pit, Jeff Haase on bow, and Mindy Sminchak and Harriot Uhlir trading off in the middle position.

The team begins sailing on Saturday and will have two days to work up the brand-new J/111 Kontiki V and its new suit of North Sails in anticipation of the first day of racing on Monday. Kontiki V is sporting a brand new bottom from Pettit, and the crew is being outfitted with sailing gear from Harken, a set of racing rules and other publications from US Sailing, and, of course, a SAIL hat and hangover kit!

There will be 136 boats toeing the line when racing begins January 17, with teams from 15 countries and 24 different states, One-design classes at this year’s regatta include the Melges 32, Melges 24, Farr 30, and J/105 and J/80 classes.

Russell Coutts will be taking a break from his America’s Cup duties to compete in the red-hot RC 44 class, while the “big boat class” will feature four mini maxis including Titan, chartered by former America's Cup skipper Bill Koch.

Sminchak will be competing in PHRF 1 against the Beneteau First 44.7 Galilee, the Grand Soleil 37 Kalevala II, the ID35 Revolution, the J/109 RUSH and the J/124 Wicked.

Regarding his chances, Sminchak said he is cautiously optimistic. “Being such a new boat and all, it will take some time to figure it out,” he said. “We want to do well, but first and foremost we want to have fun.”

This past fall, Sminchak’s crew, which races the J/105 it out of Cleveland’s Lakeside Yacht Club, beat out 70 other teams from around the country to win SAIL’s inaugural Best Around the Buoys contest, entitling them to a fully paid bid to race one of the hottest new production boats around at Key West 2011.

Sminchak and crew earned the right to represent America’s North Coast thanks to their outstanding performance this past summer in a number of PHRF events on Lake Erie, including the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club Regatta, the Lakeside Yacht Club Regatta, the 73rd Annual Falcon Cup and Edgewater Yacht Club’s Cleveland Race Week. How they will do in Key West, however, remains to be seen.

Senior Editor Adam Cort reports live from Boston, where a recent blizzard dumped two feet of snow in parts of the state. In fact, earlier this week, there was snow falling in every state in the nation...except Florida. It's no wonder that Cort and the Best Around the Buoys Team (who hail from chilly Cleveland) are anxious to get down to Key West and start racing.



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