A Winter Without Key West Race Week

A Winter Without Key West Race Week: Breaking news: it’s cold.

Okay, so that’s not really news, but even the oldest, most grizzled “it was colder in my day” codger would agree that this recent cold snap has been tough. Chances are good that your local harbor/marina is currently better suited to hosting the Ice Capades than marine traffic and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is stationing an icebreaker, the 72’ John C. Widener, in Annapolis to deal with the build-up of frozen water.

[Quick aside: we love that the crew of the Widener has put a picnic table and a couple of comfy looking adirondak chairs up the second level of the ship. They clearly do tough, important work on board, so we don't fault them the comforts -- in truth, we're a little disappointed that they don't have a grill and a tiki bar too!]

And while a cold start to the year is nothing new, the lack of a January escape to Key West for local racers is. The Storm Trysail Club pulled the plug on the 2018 edition of Key West Race Week last May, citing declining participation and cost, leaving a 70+ degree hole in the racing calendar of the nine classes that competed in the 2017 edition of the regatta.

The bad news is that no one event stepped up to pull everyone together again, but the good news is that most of the classes found a way to escape south again this winter anyways.

The largest class at Key West over the past few years has been the J/70’s, and they are once again doing a Winter Series at the Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa, FL.  53 boats turned up for the first of three editions in December with five Chesapeake Bay boats on the score sheet. Tea Dance Snake owned by Todd Jenner of the Baltimore City Yacht Association and Annapolis Yacht Club topped the list of locals with a strong sixth place finish.  The second edition of the series is January 6th-7th with the finale in February.  You can usually catch highlights on the Facebook page of Quantum Sails, the event’s sponsor.

J/70's would normally be blasting downwind in Key West in January -- by Shannon Hibberd

Not to be outdone, the C&C 30’s have organized a four race series and they’ve opted to go further south to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. You won’t be able to throw a mitten without hitting a Chesapeake sailor at these events -- half of the six-boat fleet calls Annapolis home and local sailors will be pulling string on at least four of the boats during the event. We’re guessing that there will be a lot of carpooling to BWI before the second leg of the series on January 12th-14th.

The J/111’s had nine boats in Key West last year and are trying to get the band back together at two southern events -- the Mid-January J/Fest 2018 in St. Petersburg, FL and the St. Pete NOOD’s a few weeks later. A storyline to watch will be Jim Connelly’s Annapolis-based Slush Fund, who finished second at the World’s last year, getting a rematch with the team that pipped them in the last race of the World’s, Skeleton Key from San Francisco.  The J/88 class is also aiming for starts at both of these events to keep the momentum going after getting seven boats on the line in Key West last year.

The TP 52 Super Series used Key West to kick off their season last year and was the first of two US events for the boats in 2017. There’s no such swing through the states this year though, as the series will be resuming in May with stops in Croatia, Portugal, and Spain.  Their recap of racing last year at KWRW will have to serve as a nice distraction from the cold for now.

And if you’re not about to join the fun at any of these events, here’s a few to follow from the warmth of your home or look forward to:
- the Volvo Ocean Race is currently heading towards Hong Kong and there will be a couple of run-ins with the Doldrums this leg. We’re a little surprised that the teams weren’t recruiting Screwpile veterans to help them through!
- the m32 is a carbon fibre performance catamaran that has a four race series in Miami this winter. The boats are fast and fun with a class that has historically been good about some fun footage to watch on their Facebook page.
- we hope everyone will get a chance to head south for Charleston Race Week, April 12th-15th. The racing on the inner circle is always tight and the views from the water of downtown, the Battery, Fort Sumter, and the Ravenel Bridge never disappoint. The party is nothing to sneeze at either! There’s already 95 entries and the number is sure to grow for the kickoff to the spring sailing season on the East Coast.

Stay warm!!!