Quantum Key West Race Week 2016: Not Grandma's Florida

If you decided that this was the year you were going to skip dragging the boat down Highway 1 to Mile 0, we have bad news for you: Quantum Key West Race Week (KWRW) is better than ever.

At print time, 140 boats are signed up for a week of vacation racing, with more than 10 percent coming from the Chesapeake Bay.

But the Bay isn’t just about racing Key West. Chesapeake sailors also act as the organizers, support staff, and volunteers, helping to put on one of the country’s most coveted sailing events. Roughly 15-20 percent of the Race Committee and shoreside support during KWRW is made up of Chesapeake Bay PROs.

The 2016 edition of KWRW brings a number of new bells and whistles to the overall regatta. For one, Storm Trysail Club (STC) has taken over organizational responsibilities from Premiere Racing. The folks at STC are not newbies when it comes to race management: Block Island Race Week, one of their longest-running events, celebrated its 50th anniversary over the summer. Quantum Sails is back as the title sponsor and official sailmaker of the event.

When STC announced they’d be taking over management of the regatta, several changes were announced. For one, Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) classes will be offered for entries with a valid ORC certificate. Back in October, ORC was used in the Annapolis Fall Regatta to great result.

The High Performance and IRC classes are back as well, but this year a Performance Cruising Class will be offered in ORC Club for those boats interested in racing only one distance race each day. A harbor course area is new this year for smaller boats, and classes now have the option of racing a three-day regatta format for those classes who wish to do so. “One of the things we’ve heard repeatedly involves the expense of the regatta,” says John Fisher, regatta chairman. “Key West is a very popular tourist destination, and therefore the cost of meals and lodging can be considerable.”

The three-day racing format is set to get boats down to Key West who don’t run professional programs, while the Performance Cruiser class was created to get non-sport and one-design boats down to Key West to race. Dick Neville, race committee chairman, noted that of the 42 boats that entered the 2015 Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race, only four entered Key West Race week the following week. To get younger racers involved in KWRW, Sailing World Magazine will be sponsoring a trophy recognizing the regatta’s youngest team with the best performance.

To be considered, your crew must have an average age of less than 30. We thought for sure that 13-year old J/70 skipper Gannon Troutman would be a shoo-in for this, but the average age of his boat is set right at 30. Troutman and his Pied Piper crew are headed all over the J/70 circuit in 2016, and we’re sure they’ll pick up plenty of other trophies.

Storm Trysail Club also announced the creation of a new app available for KWRW, whether you’re on the water racing or simply trying to follow along. The mobile application will provide users with the most up-to-date news as well as results, race reports, feature stories, and the ever-popular Wags Walks the Docks video interviews by Bay sailor and reporter extraordinaire Bill Wagner.

Also on the scene will be CNN Mainsail, the popular cable television sailing program. To provide you with the most up-to-date coverage, SpinSheet will be posting regularly at spinsheet.com/keywest. We’ll have videos, results, pictures, and more, straight from the race course.

Even if you are kicking yourself for not being a part of the action this year, there’s no excuse to miss a single minute.