Why Quantum Key West might hold the key for 40ft grand prix racing

If it floated and was attached to the sea bed you could pretty much guarantee that within a few minutes a group of boats would round it. From bear away hoists to gybe sets, float drops and one-and-in leeward approaches, everyone was looking for a race mark substitute to brush off the winter’s cobwebs and smarten up the crew work.
With 7-9 knots of breeze and a billiard table flat sea, conditions were also perfect for checking speeds against targets and generally getting into the groove.
Sunday was practice day at Quantum Key West with five days of racing kicking off on Monday.
For the first half of the week I’ll be reporting from the pleasantly rounded gunwales of Hannes Waimer’s Farr 400 Team Premier which, as it turns out, will provide a perfect vantage point to observe one of two particularly interesting classes. The new J70 sportsboats have arrived like a swarm with 39 boats for their first class showing in Key West, more on that later in the week.
The other class of particular note is that of the grand prix 40 footers in Division 1, Class C, racing under the New High performance Rule (HPR). Here, five Farr 400s will be squaring up against each other while also going head to head with a couple of Carkeek 40s, a modified GP42 and a Ker 40.
While this may only make a class of nine boats, there are plenty that will be following the action closely to see whether there is a future for handicap racing grand prix boats of this size.
Talk to anyone in this fleet and within minutes the conversation leads to the problems that they face racing under IRC where it is believed that light race boats are treated unduly harshly under the popular global rule.
The HPR recognised this as a problem and has tried to address it by looking at the types of racing boats that its developers believe racing people want to sail and create a type forming style rule to accommodate them.
While it’s easy to understand the motivation behind such a move, the reality is that until now there has been little racing of this style to prove the point. Quantum Key West may help to make the case, we shall see.
In the meantime all eyes are focussed on a forecast for a mixed bag of conditions, precisely what the test of a new rule needs.