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By Phil Porte

Upper Keys Sailing Club, Key Largo, Florida

February 17th through 22nd,2020

The event kicked off Tuesday, February 22nd with the customary Nest Key Race and Rum Rendezvous. Breeze was up for the day, blowing in the high teens out of a southeasterly direction.  This provided an exhilarating downwind run out to Nest Key. 

While the ride out was certainly exciting, there were a fair number of splashdowns within the group. I am sure this made several re-think their decision to make the run for the rum. But then again, maybe not.  There, after all, was the rum punch at the halfway point of the race and the prized bottle to be had by the eventual winner.  After the customary refreshments at the halfway point, the racers turned their attention to the long and challenging upwind slugfest back to the club which was surely to favor one of the big boys of the group. As might be expected, Jason Breeden (Bloomington Yacht Club, IN) was the man of the day cementing first place and the bottle of rum, followed by Doug Kinzer (Bloomington Yacht Club, IN) in second place and Pat Passafiume (Louisville Sailing Club, KY) rounding out the podium in third.

Day two was the Double Handed Challenge.  Conditions we perfect with sunny skies and 8 to 12 knots of wind out of the southeast. The father/daughter team of Frank and Erica Lyons (Ford Yacht Club, MI) ruled the day with the top finish score. They were followed closely behind by the husband wife team of Tom/Pat Welsh (Thames Yacht Club, CT) in second and the team of Dennis Handel/Chantelle Martin (Lasalle Mariners Club, ON) finishing third.  The race committee also managed to run several practice races for those other competitors who made the long trip wanting to just get on the water and shake some rust off from the winter layover.

Race day 1 was again another perfect backdrop for a sailing day with sunny skies and winds of 8 to 12 knots out of the southeast.  There were the two customary racing divisions consisting of the Standard Rig and Short Rig.  With the 3-day forecast expected to become increasingly more challenging, several competitors elected to race in the Short Rig Division. The class was fairly evenly split with 19 competitors in the Standard Rig and 14 competitors in the Short Rig Divisions.  Three races were run on the day. The racing was very tight in both divisions. Mark Allen (Pontiac Yacht Club, MI) lead the day in the Standard Rig Division with 5 points, followed closely by Dan Synowiec (North Cape Yacht Club, MI) with 7 points and Jason Breeden in third with 9 points. In the Short Rig Division, winner of the day was Rich Bauman (Hunterdon Sailing Club, NJ) with 5 points followed by Rob Howard-Flanders (Upper Keys Sailing Club, FL) with 7 points and Pat Passafiume with 8 points.

The conditions gradually cranked up throughout day 2.  Skies were again sunny with nice moderate southern Florida temperatures. Winds shifted around to the northerly direction and started out in the 12 to 15 knot range.  This was to be short lived as he winds built into the high teens and low 20 knots range shortly after the lunch break.  Race 1 was perfect.  Race 2 was more challenging but, remained manageable. However, by the time of the start of Race 3, things were getting dicey.  Racers were able to hold the boats down headed upwind by pinching to depower.  The reaching legs provided for some spectacular planning and boat speeds rarely achieved (lots of fun).  The downwind legs were a little unruly.  Staying ahead of the curve with your steering and conservative sail trim was paramount to success.  With roughly half the fleet upside-down at some point during the race, the safety boats were very busy and did an outstanding job preventing any real bad stuff from happening. While there were probably some bruised egos, fortunately no one was injured, and boat damage was minor overall.  In the Standard Rig Division, Mark Allen held onto his position in first place with 7 points on the day.  Jason Breeden moved into an overall second-place tie with Dan Synowiec by recording 6 and 8 points on the day respectfully. In the Short Rig Division, the standings got shaken up a bit. Rich Bauman continued in first place with 7 points on the day, Bruce McCord (Upper keys Sailing Club, FL) moved into the second position with a spectacular performance by recording three consecutive bullets.  Tom Trump jumped into third place by a single point with a very solid 9-point day.

Day 3 started out where Day 2 left off with winds out of the north in the 18 to 22 knot range.  The race committee did their best to try to talk the fleet into staying ashore but, 7 competitors in the Standard Rig Division and 3 in the Short Rig Division were not to be detoured.  Two races were completed, and the weather claimed a few boats that were unable or unwilling to mange the conditions and one due to equipment failure. Mark Allen and Dan Synowiec tied for the day with 3 points each in the Standard Rig Division with Brian Williams (Pontiac Yacht Club, MI) making a big jump up the standings by recording a 7-point day. Bruce McCord continued his dominance in the Short Rig Division with two more bullets, followed by Trump and Rob Howard-Flanders sharing the second position with 5 points each.

After the scores were totaled and a throw out race factored into the equation, Mark Allen retained his title as Midwinter Champion in the Standard Rig Division with a total of 12 points, followed right on the heels by Dan Synowiec in second place with 13 points and Jason Breeden in third with 18 points. Phil Porte (Port Huron Yacht Club, MI) and Doug Kinzer rounded out the 4th and 5th positions with 52 and 54 points respectfully.  The Short Rig Division Champion was Bruch McCord with an impressive total of 14 points, followed by Tom Trump in second with 22 points, Rob Howard-Flanders in third with 23 points, Rich Bauman in fourth with 27 points and Shelby Hatcher (Atlanta Yacht Club, GA) in fifth with 55 points.  The Challenger Division Champion was awarded to newcomer Brian Williams. Congratulations to all the podium finishers. Well done.

It was another terrific event run by the most gracious of host, Upper Keys Sailing Club.  A special thank you goes out to Tom Trump – Race Chairman, Yolanda Trump – Queen of Culinary Arts, Mike Catalano – PRO/Class Entertainer and his Race Committee, the safety boat team, and of course the flag officers, board of directors and staff at the UKSC for their willingness and hard work putting on the event.  We appreciate all your efforts and look forward to the return trip next year.  It is always a treat to get together for this event, renew friendships, establish new friendships, enjoy the libations and atmosphere that only the Keys can provide. Next year’s event will be held Monday, February 15th through Saturday, February 20th, 2021.  Hope to see everyone.