Quantum Key West Race Week 2017 Preview

At the time of writing, the temperature in Annapolis is a teeth-chattering 23 degrees with wind chill bringing that down to a whopping 15. And while the allure of frostbiting is oh so great (see page 52), you can’t blame so many of us for packing the boat up and heading to Mile 0 for the 30th annual Quantum Key West Race Week.

Over the last 30 years, plenty of things have changed at the annual regatta. In 2015 it was announced that Storm Trysail Club would be taking race management over from Premiere Racing. ORC was introduced, as well as a Performance Cruising Class who took on only one distance race each day. And despite some nasty weather throughout the week, the regatta went off without a hitch.

“Our competitors were extremely happy with how we managed the regatta this past January,” says John Fisher, the event chairman from STC. “We had many challenges, such as the very windy weather for a few days. But all our feedback has been positive.”

Fisher and crew did such a great job that they’ve brought in brand new sponsors for the event, such as Gill North America and Waterfront Brewery, who will be hosting all the shoreside activities, such as nightly awards parties and morning weather briefings.

If you’re a racer, Quantum Key West Race Week is one of the best ways to kickstart your sailing season, that’s for sure. And we aren’t just talking about the logistics of hauling your boat 1200 miles south. We’re talking about some of the tightest competition in the country’s most active sailing fleets. Each year we look to see what new boats are getting classes at Key West, because that will turn the tide for sailing around the country.

This year, the Flying Tigers have their own class, with 10 charter boats registered. Jahn Tihansky, director of the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team at the U.S. Naval Academy and until recently the owner of J/World Annapolis, will be racing with mates Nigel Brownett (Australia), Andrew Kerr (Seattle, WA), and Paul Molenda (Chicago) in one of them.

“Three of us have sailed Key West six or seven times now,” Tihansky says. “We’ve done them in J/80s and recently in J/70s (18th place out of 54 in 2016). “Ed Kownacki is a great helmsman, so I was happy to be crew. But that was really hard, having to hit the gym and get in shape to race that boat. Now, in the Flying Tiger, I get to be the lazy-ass helmsman again.”

Despite his extensive career on sailboats, the Flying Tiger is a new toy. “I think we’re all chomping at the bit to get a chance to sail the boat,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll have last year’s breeze!”

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s plenty of big boat action headed to town, as well. The TP52s will all be docked at Truman Annex, kicking off the 2017 TP52 Super Series (Annapolitan Greg Gendell will be on the bow of Doug DeVos’s Quantum Racing). And while they’re the biggest by LOA class at the event, the biggest class by registration is yet again the J/70 class. Bay skippers Jenn Wulff (Joint Custody), Henry Filter (Wild Child), Kristen Robinson (Zombie), and Gannon Troutman (Pied Piper) are all representing. In 2016, Filter finished in the top 10. We’d love to see a few more names on that list in 2017.

Gary Panariello sails with Jeff Jordan out of J/World and had a banner year in 2016 competing in the J/80 class, where he raced Courageous to first place at Charleston Race Week and third place in the J/80 Worlds in Ontario. In QKWRW 2016, Panariello raced a J/88 instead, and had some difficulty, landing in eight place out of as many boats. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t up for a challenge: “We are taking another swing in Key West with the J/88, with a San Fransisco crew plus Alex Berg and myself,” says Jeff Jordan. We’re happy to hear that.

Courageous the J/80 will be back in action for the Annapolis NOOD.

We’re covering the event online at spinsheet.com/key-west-race-week with as-it-happens updates, videos, results, pictures, and more, straight from the race course. Even if you’re kicking yourself for sticking around up north instead of heading down to warmer climes for the season, there’s no reason to miss a single minute of this action.