Rollicking winds wrap up the Key West Race Week, with the Manx yacht Hi Fling, owned by Irvine Laidlaw, winning the overall Yachting Magazine Trophy

Irvine Laidlaw’s (Isle of Man, England) new Hi Fling won the Yachting Magazine Trophy as the overall Boat of the Week at the GMC Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week ’99 that concluded today.

Laidlaw, who also won IMS 1 and IMS overall honors, previously won the Yachting Magazine Trophy in 1993 aboard his old Swan 53 Highland Fling.

“This boat is fantastic,” said Laidlaw of his new Hi Fling, a CM 60 designed by Farr & Associates. “It’s a lot of fun to sail.”

“Irvine did a great job all week,” said tactician Eddie Warden Owen. “This class was extremely competitive, it was stacked with quality sailors. He’s a good sailor and he’s picking up the subtleties that go along with being an experienced helmsman.”

Strong, 20-plus-knot winds from the southeast and 4-foot seas helped wrap up the 12th anniversary international keelboat regatta held on the Straits of Florida off Key West. Many competitors ranked it as a fiercely competitive regatta, one that featured lead changes throughout the week.

“The fleet was extremely deep,” said Young America skipper Ed Baird, who guided Jay Ecklund’s Starlight to an 11-point victory in PHRF 1. “The caliber of sailors was very high. It was great having the wind come on at the end rather than the beginning because it gave every crew a chance to get settled into a groove.”

Race Week has always been competitive, but never as tight as this year. Some highlights: * A tiebreaker determined the Viper 830 Class champion. * One point separated the top three in IMS 2 and PHRF 6. * Three points separated the top two in the Farr 40 Class. * Four points separated the top two in the J/105 Class. * Five points separated the top three in IMS 1, and a tiebreaker determined third and fourth.

“We hit the wind cycle about right,” said Event Director Peter Craig. “We had light to moderate in the beginning and heavy at the end. You had to have a great all-around boat and crew to perform in the varied conditions. I’m still amazed at the closeness of the racing.”

Laidlaw won Race Week’s biggest prize, but he wasn’t the only winner. Race Week crowned 18 class champions this evening, many of them decided today.

Andrzei Rojek and Waldek Zaleski’s WOW won the Key West Trophy, presented by event organizer Premiere Racing to the PHRF Boat of the Week, and Team Italy won the Yukon Cup, presented by title sponsor GMC Yukon to the international three-boat team champion.

Today’s winners also included Sal Giordano’s Heatwave, which won the final Boat of the Day award in fine style. Heatwave topped IMS 2 today, considered the most competitive class based on its 2-minute, 26-second time difference between first and fifth. Heatwave won the trophy in the final 250 yards of the race.

Closing on the finish line, Tom Neill’s Nitemare approached Heatwave on starboard tack and tried a slam-dunk tack. But Heatwave helsman Ken Read got the boat’s bow poked out to leeward and then fake tacked Nitemare, with Peter Isler and Gary Jobson in the afterguard. Nitemare’s crash tack was compounded when it couldn’t quickly trim the jib. That gave Read the starboard tack advantage, and when they approached again he hunted down Isler before slam dunking.

Read forced Isler out to the starboard layline before tacking for the line and crossing 12 seconds ahead. After finishing Read shook his fist rejoicing and you could almost hear him thinking, “I can’t believe they fell for the fake tack.”

Other tight class battles decided today included the Farr 40, which saw John Thomson’s (Port Washington, N.Y.) Solution win for the second consecutive year, the Mumm 30, where Carla Silva’s (Portofino, Italy) Sector triumphed by 5 points, and the Melges 24 Midwinter Championship, which saw Brian Porter’s (Lake Geneva, Ill.) Full Throttle come from behind and defeat Scott Elliott’s (Charlotte, N.C.) White Loaf.