A quiet start to Quantum Key West but plenty of close racing

A forecast for 6-8 knots doesn’t normally suggest that you’ll step ashore tired with aching arms and a collection of rainbow coloured bruises. A fleet size of five boats wouldn’t normally suggest close racing and frantic action either. Yet on the opening day of Quantum Key West we had both in the Farr 400 fleet.
Competing as a class, but also racing within the High Performance Rule handicap fleet spiced up the action with the result that both races were exciting and hard work, in spite of the light conditions.
Racing aboard Hannes Waimer’s Team Premier and having sailed with Chessie Racing on one of the two practice days (which were also light), what stands out for me is how these boats perform in the quiet conditions. Matching boast speed to the wind speed downwind in up to 10 knots of breeze is both impressive and commonplace. In fact, you’re off the pace if you aren’t, which makes identifying target speeds pretty simple even without the laminated crib sheets in the cockpit.
Sure we haven’t had any breezier conditions yet, making it impossible to gauge what kind of boat the Farr 400 really is, but my initial impressions are good. The cockpit is spacious, well laid out and easy to work. The spinnaker hoist and drop system, which has taken several key ideas and details from the America’s Cup monohulls, makes raising and lowering the masthead gennakers as simple as hoisting a dinghy kite from a chute. On the one hand this makes life simpler for the 8 strong crew, but it also spices things up at the leeward mark roundings with later calls and some big manoeuvres.
Elsewhere in the Quantum Key West fleet the most talked about class is that of the J70 that has exploded onto the scene with 39 boats for its first regatta showing. This is the biggest class at Key West and while there are some traditionalists that are scratching their heads and wondering why a small, simple sports boat has attracted so much attention in such a short time, the explosion onto the scene says much for the health of the sport at grass roots level.
While the professional circuit is struggling to make ends meet, yacht racing for everyone else seems to be in very good health.
So from a quiet start to the week, Tuesday sees the weather conditions changing gear as the breeze is forecast to build to the mid teens. Wednesday sees a further build in conditions.
Expect plenty of tall stories and stacks of great pictures.