Burgee Travels to Keywest

     We started our winter program in Ft Lauderdale, first weekend in December. The Melges 32 tune up regatta had 12 boats, 3 days, 9 races, coaches, chase boats and an outstanding dinner at the club every night. If you have ever listened to Buddy Melges talk, he is not only a wealth of knowledge but kept the crowd entertained with stories and jokes all night. We had a steep learning curve in the tight one design class. Coming in to this class from the Farr 40 was a big step to more dingy like racing. Conditions  were outstanding with 15-20 knots and 4-6ft seas every day. Tom Neill (owner of the Nitemare) hasn't  steered with a tiller for a long time but after finishing 4th for the series, we should have lost the wheel and added a tiller on the 40 years ago. The top 3 place boats were all National and North American Champions from the J80 & J105, Mumm 30 and Melges 24 & Melges 32 classes. We picked up a ton of tuning and crew tips from the weekend and the crew headed home and the boat south.

     Key West Race Week is one of the largest keelboat regattas in the country, 260 boats from 45 states and 20 countries converge on the small key for a week of racing.
This is the 20th anniversary of the regatta and my 14th. The trip started a little slow as Jeanne' and I were bumped from our flight in Atlanta, change flights to Miami and drove to Key West with an other boats crew. We tried sleeping in but one of our crew and his wife had their room burglarized, so after the cops and KW CSI were finished it was time to go sailing.

     Two days of practice in 15-18 knots was just perfect except for the 80 degrees and sun all day long. One of the fun thing we did was pass our old Farr 40 competitors downwind with the 32. The 40s have just change from a fractional kite to masthead, but Nitemare weighting in at only 3900lbs, we could plane quicker and pass though their lee easily downwind. Our races for the week were south of Key West about 10 miles, 20 Melges 32s shared the course with 17 Farr 40s and 10 Mumm 30s.

     For the week of racing the wind dropped to 8-10 and never really picked up from there. The racing was tight and boats had to watch the bow sprits at the mark roundings.   Nitemare had some moments of speed but never finished better than 5.  As most dinghy racers know, tuning for the light air is the most difficult, and we haven't race the 32 in under 10 knots yet.  For the week, we ended up 10th, dead center in our section.

     A large part of the Nitemare crew had come down to watch and fill in as required on the boat. We had a 25 ft hard bottom the extra crew would take out everyday. Tom is on chemo for lung cancer and couldn't make every race day on the 32, but he sure enjoyed being out on the water watching from the tender. The after race activities were a little more quiet, with about 20 crew/spouses spending more time at the house with Tom rather than on Duvall St bar hopping. The house was busy all week with old crew and competitors stopping by to visit. Wednesday night we had Gary Jobson over for dinner and he shared his day of filming the fleet from a helicopter for ESPN. Gary is a cancer survivor and shared a lot of info with Tom. Thursday we hosted our friends from Flash Gordon for our annual poolside barbecue, this seem to work as Flash has been getting better every year and this year taking 2nd for the week in the Farr 40 class.

     I wish we could all have the positive attitude as Tom is showing, he plans to do as much racing as possible, no slowing down. Miami SORC is next for the 32 and reservations for Key West '08 have been made.

     Congratulations to Scott Murin and the team on Flash Gordon for their outstanding job in Key West. The only boat to beat them was Alinghi, the current America's Cup holder.

John Stanley