After two days of light-air racing, winter winds of 14 to 18 knots descended on the 261-boat fleet competing at GMC Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week, bringing the kind of classic Key West conditions that this regatta is famous for.

“It was the best day the fleet has seen down here in a few years,” said Mumm 30 skipper Nelson Stephenson, with enough wind to wind up the level of intensity as this series nears its conclusion.

Some crews who proved strong in the light winds that blew earlier this week took dives today in the heavier conditions; but two boats have sailed well enough in a wide range of conditions that they have mathematically clinched their class wins before Friday’s final race. Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling from the Isle of Man and Jeff Sampson’s Rugger both know they will be packing trophies when they depart home this weekend.

Ennio Staffini’s Farr 40 custom, Uarshek, racing in PHRF-1, was only one of many boats who revelled in today’s solid breeze. “We like to sail in the stronger breezes. The crew has a lot more fun, and the boat needs it to get rolling,” explains tactician Drew Donald. “Monday was breezy and it went well,” he continues, referring to a day that saw the team post a 2-2. “In the light stuff Tuesday and Wednesday, it wasn’t so nice and we felt lucky to escape from those days with a 3-7-5. Today, it was back in the breeze and we’re feeling pretty good going into Friday.”

Up until today, the CM 60s in IMS have been accumulating the silver, with Highland Fling taking three first-place finishes and Isam Kabbani’s Rima taking two. For Geoff Ewenson, in the afterguard of Farr 43 PAX NZL, these big boats get quickly in front and take command of the tactical situation up the first half of the opening windward leg. But today, wins in IMS were more evenly distributed. George David’s crew on Idler and Bache Renshaw’s Virago each won a race. More than class wins ride on tomorrow’s final race: the winner of the Yachting Magazine Trophy will go to the boat of the most competitive class, a determination based on a formula that factors points and time differentials for the week. The trophy will be presented Friday, at the conclusion of racing.

Today, the crew that captured Boat of the Day on Yachting Magazine Day was Robert Hughes’ Great Lakes One Design 35 Heartbreaker. This class has been in close contention all week, with six different boats winning the seven races held to date. Hughes took a 1-2 today to overturn the lead of John Wylie’s Tabasco, who now stands in second place, five points behind Hughes.

The 26 Mumm 30s are also doing a good job of mixing it up on the race course. Not one boat has been able to stay in the top 10 in every race: even class leader Jean Pierre Dick and the French crew on Ville de Saint Raphael carry a 14th in their score to lead with 32 points after seven races. Annapolis boat Turbo Duck, owned by Bodo von der Wense, added to the suspense today, falling from their class lead with finishes of 11 and 15 today.

With frequent changes among their frontrunners, the Mumm 30 point scores do not create a neat and predictable storyline as this class enters its final day of racing. But on the water today, this class’ ranks looked neat and uniform – and Division III race officer Ken Legler was there to witness a memorable sight: Mumm 30s at the start of Race 7 were a live ballet, with bows lined up in perfect succession at the gun. “It was a mental photograph I will not soon forget,” said Legler.



CLASS A – IMS (9 Boats)

1. Highland Fling (Isle of Man, England) 2-1-1-1-2-2-6 — 15

2. Rima (Newport, RI) 1-5-3-7-1-5-4 – 26

3. Scream (Annapolis, MD) 3-4-2-4-4-8-7 –32

CLASS B – PHRF 1 (10 Boats)

1. Chessie Racing (Gibson Island, MD) 4-1-1-1-1-3-3 – 14

2. Fatal Attraction (Norfolk, VA) 1-4- Highland Fling dominates the big boats; results table turned upside down in other classes