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Rob Weiland


Applause


Another week in a paradise that only lived up to its reputation for half the time; most boats did not venture out on half of the practice days and two race days at Key West 2016 because of strong winds and heavy rain squalls. Still, the ‘never say die’ Storm Trysail race committee fitted in nine races in three days (some classes managed 10 by going out early on the final day). The large Storm Trysail team, now in charge of the event since the handover by Premiere Racing, were certainly thrown in at the deep end as the weather conditions during the regatta build-up were predominantly Dutch. I think I can say that. They pulled it off with great camaraderie but there was visible wear and tear on some of the faces. Next time will be easier.


Considering recent history the 2016 event was well attended, I counted 129 boats actually racing. The handicap starts make up a small part of this. The four Maxi 72s that came to Key West put on a great show. Bella Mente, Caol Ila, Jethou and Proteus are amazingly well-prepared boats and very close in performance. Just 18 months ago the Maxi 72 owners decided to set up the Maxi 72 Class to have more control over how and where they race, and already in 2016 we are seeing better competition than for quite some time. For Hap Fauth and Bella Mente the Race Week Trophy was certainly no pushover, up to race 5 it was actually Alex Shaerer and his Caol Ila team at the top of the scoreboard. Three IRC starts with 13 boats (39-72ft) and two ORC starts with 16 boats (26-33ft… except for the two 40ft J/122s that cleaned up… to no one’s great surprise).


In general, in the 10kt+ breezes and bumpy conditions the largest boats in each start won, except in ORC2 where a J/80 rating much lower (GPH 670.5) than its rivals (GPH 580-670) cleaned up over a fleet of predominantly sportsboats. Another lesson learnt. HPR has quietly slid off the stage with the departure of 2016


22 SEAHORSE


US Yachtsman of the Year Steve Benjamin (congratulations, Steve) as tireless front soldier for that effort. This is a pity, as it could have become the platform for the boats we classify as sportsboats or just fast boats, so true racing boats, not cruiser-racers or racer- cruisers (depending who you ask).


Sportsboats really have nowhere to go other than pray their design is so popular that class starts become an option, or cling on to initiatives like the Fast 40+ and Fast30. Looking at what is being built and sold in the smaller sizes the principle of ‘fast is fun’ remains rock-solid. Who likes to build or buy a slow racing boat in 2016? No matter what the rating rules dictate. ORCi does not cater for the fast minority – just take a peek at the entry list for the 2016 ORC worlds in Copenhagen. With a handful of exceptions one sees a long line of production cruiser-racers. A lot of them, for sure, and it is good to see that cruiser-racers have found a solid home, but I guess also the fast boat community would like a decent roof over its head. That will never be in the same house, keep dreaming, but surely they could be good neighbours? IRC is suffering from ORCi success in catering for the smaller production cruiser-racers, traditionally an IRC constituency. Meanwhile, slowly shifting towards an improved balance for the modern, faster boats at the smaller sizes has cost IRC some sympathy. For an owner it is cheaper to shift to ORCi than to speed up! But also one must compliment ORCi for having worked hard to get their house in order, where after long success IRC could perhaps now do with the odd paint job.


But in my honest opinion most of this is about marketing, positioning between the racer and cruiser-racer fleets and cosmetics. There is no clear advantage for one or the other rule when it comes to rating boat performance, it just depends which religion you are brought up with or where you feel most at home. Encouraging is that I hear noises that ‘the Caribbean’ is questioning the value and efficiency of clinging on to their own CSA


MAX RANCHI


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