|KEY WEST, FL. USA-(16-1-2006) Day 1 of Acura Key West 2006 served up an international smorgasbord within the grand prix classes. A Norwegian entry is atop the Farr 40 standings while a Swiss boat took the lead in Melges 24. A pair of American skippers sit in first in the Transpac 52 and Swan 45 classes.
Swan 45 is contesting its inaugural world championship and Goombay Smash, owned by William Douglass of Newport, R.I., is the early frontrunner.
“We’re happy about the day, obviously. The team’s fitting in really well together and we didn’t want to push too hard on the first day,` Douglass said. “The weather was good, and that shift we’d been hoping for appeared about halfway through the second race.”
British match racing veteran Chris Law is calling tactics aboard Goombay Smash, which posted a fourth and a third Monday and leads DSK-Comifin (Danilo Salsi, Italy) by two points.
“We went out saying we would like to get two top five finishes,” Law said. “We got off the line in decent shape and stayed out of the corners. We wanted to play it conservative.”
There will be no throwouts in the series, scheduled for nine races. Law said several boats were forced to perform penalty turns and absorbed high scores as a result.
“The boats that beat us today banged the corners. We're not willing to do that because you can't take risks in a no-throwout series,” Law said. “We just played the middle and focused on boat speed. We were real fast downwind. We gained a couple boats on those legs.”
Norwegian Steam, owned by Eivind Astrup, is the pacesetter in Farr 40 class after Day 1. Morten Henriksen is calling tactics for Astrup, who notched a second and fourth and is one point ahead of the Italian entry Calvi-Gameon (Carlo Alberini). They also took home the Nautica Boat of the Day honor. Astrup, an Oslo native who was cross country skiing in Norway prior to coming to warm and sunny Florida, was thrilled to get off to a fast start.
“I think the setup of our boat is good and we had good lanes in both starts,” Astrup said. “We were not covered by other boats and that allowed us to focus on speed.”
Astrup is being cautious because he was leading the Farr 40 Worlds in San Francisco after Day 1 then plummeted. “We are not even thinking about winning. We are focusing on sailing fast,” he said.
Racing on Division 1, which includes the Swan 45s and Farr 40s, was delayed about two hours to allow the breeze to build. At around noon, the wind filled from the southeast at 11-12 knots and enabled organizers with Premiere Racing to get off two good races.
“The race committee did an awesome job of dealing with the conditions. Everyone knew the forecast and the wind filled in nicely,” said Scott Nixon, tactician aboard Ramrod, the top United States boat. `We wound up getting a steady breeze and had good racing today.”
Ramrod is owned by Rod Jabin of Annapolis, Md., a relative newcomer to the class. He posted a 7-5 line for the day and stands in fourth overall after losing a tiebreaker to Mascalzone Latino (Vincenzo Onorato, Italy). Three-time America's Cup champion Russell Coutts is calling tactics for Onorato, who steered Mascalzone Latino to a fourth and an eighth.
“In this class, every boat is good and can win a race,` Jabin said. `We just wanted to start safe and clean and avoid the big mistakes.”
Blu Moon, owned by Franco Rossini and steered by Chris Rast, had a strong afternoon with a fifth and a second and was in the lead by virtue of tiebreaker over Excellent (John Pollard, United Kingdom).
Rast, who has represented Switzerland in the Olympics, just joined Rossini's team as helmsman and acquitted himself well.
“This was the first day of racing for our team so we're still trying to find the right way to work with each other. We also have new sails and new equipment so we're still sorting out all the questions,” Rast said. `In view of that, we're very happy with today's results. My contract has been extended one more day.”
Rast said Blu Moon had tremendous upwind speed and gave credit to tactician Tiziano Nava and trimmer Andy Estcourt.
“I listen to a lot of what the trimmer tells me and just point the boat in the right direction,` said Rast, who comes from the 49er class.
Rush, owned by Thomas Stark of Newport, R.I., sits atop the leader board in professional-laden Transpac 52 class. America's Cup veteran Ed Baird is calling tactics for Rush, which won Race 2 and placed second in Race 1.
“Whenever you've got Ed Baird by your side you're usually going to be in the right spot,` Stark said. “We got two great starts and the crew did a nice job with all the maneuvers.”