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Fantastic Finish At Key West Race Week
Photo by Ingrid Abery, Click on image for photo gallery.

Key West Florida Keys, Key West: Most of the marquee classes at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 came down to the last day of the regatta, which delivered the toughest conditions of the week. Howling winds and rough seas challenging the competitors on Friday, forcing the top contenders to raise their game in order to claim overall victory.

That was certainly the case aboard Bella Mente, the mini maxi skippered by Hap Fauth of Minneapolis. Fauth steered the Judel-Vrolijk 72-footer to first place in both races on Friday to hold off a stiff challenge from skipper Gunther Buerman and his team on Numbers.

Bella Mente wound up winning six of 10 races in posting a low score of 19 points, two better than Numbers, which had four-time America's Cup winner Brad Butterworth aboard as tactician. Fauth captured his fourth victory in Key West despite a grounding incident on Wednesday that caused the team to absorb seven points in two races. Bella Mente was unable to finish Race 5 then limped to third in Race 6 due to a damaged keel bulb.

Race committee personnel reported wind gusts of nearly 30 knots during the second race on Friday and that made for some spectacular racing. Sailors aboard the GC32 catamarans were hanging on for dear life all day as the high-tech speedsters were bouncing off waves and coming completely out of the water. Ken Legler, principal race officer on Division 1, said the foiling catamarans completed a downwind leg in just six minutes.

Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 was the first regatta for Tonnerre 4 under the ownership of Peter Vroon of The Netherlands. It didn't take the crew very long to figure out how to make the Ker 51 go fast as the Dutch entry led IRC 1 class for the final four days.

J/70 was the largest class of the regatta with 54 boats and featured a slew of top professionals. It was a week-long dog fight that saw constant changes at the top end of the standings. Skipper Carlo Alberini and his Italian team on Calvi Network emerged as overall winner thanks to single-digit finishes in nine of 11 races.

Class / subclass winners:

Maxi 72 (IRC 1) Bella Mente, USA, Hap Fauth
IRC 2 - Tonnerre 4, NED, Peter Vroon
Melges 32 - Hedgehog, BER, Alec Cutler
GC 32 - ARMIN STROM Sailing Team, SUI, Flavio Marazzi
HPR - Tonnerre 4, NED, Peter Vroon
Swan 42 - Impetuous, USA, Paul Zabetakis
Melges 24 -Embarr, IRL, Conor Clarke
J 70 - Calvi Network, ITA, Carlo Alberini
J 70 - Corinthian - Lifted, USA, Jim Cunningham
J 88 - Touch2Play Racing, CAN, Rob & Sandy Butler
J 111- My Sharona, USA, George Gamble
PHRF 1 - Red, GBR, Joe Woods
PHRF 2 - Tangent, USA, Gerry Taylor
Farr 280 - Red, GBR007 (S), Joe Woods

Full results:

Cape Heroes
Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam passed 20°E around 400 miles south of Cape Agulhas - the southernmost tip of Africa - at 0935am (UTC) today and have begun the Indian Ocean leg of their race around Antarctica.

Second-placed Neutrogena initially looked set to follow just four or five hours behind, but lighter westerlies have hindered their exit from the Atlantic. Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz, who opted for a much more southerly approach to the Cape, now look set to make the crossing at 1900-2000hrs this evening and are around 160 miles behind, almost directly west of the lead boat.

GAES Centros Auditivos and Renault Captur have meanwhile been gaining on the front pair, shaving 20 miles off their advantage over the course of the day as they clock up 17-18 knot speeds.

The leaders entering the Indian Ocean will initially see a confused sea state following a period of changeable winds to the east of South Africa.

Race organisers have announced a minor change to the An tarctic Exclusion Zone in order to protect the boats at the rear of the fleet. In Amendment 2 of Appendix 7 five points have been moved north 1°-2°.

Race Director Jacques Caraes explained the decision, announced yesterday: "With our partner CLS and meteorologist Marcel Van Triest we decided to move some points slightly further north after detecting floating ice just north of the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands, and we must ensure the safety of the whole fleet." As per the pre-race agreement, the teams have been notified before any boat reaches the longitude of 30°E.

Provisional rankings at 1400hrs UTC Sunday 25th January 2015

1. Cheminees Poujoulat (B. Stamm - J. Le Cam) 17579.2 miles to the finish
2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill - J. Munoz) + 167.0 miles to leader
3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella - G. Marín) + 563.0
4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers - S. Audigane) + 1096.6
5. We Are Water (B. Garcia - W. Garcia) + 1582.1
6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert - D. Costa) + 2048.7
7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa - C. Colman) + 2563.7
ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson - P. Ribes)

Dubarry Ultima - Quality Always Lasts
Dubarry Ultima It's amazing to think how sailing has changed since Dubarry started making boots in 1937. The first marina arrived in the 1930s but there were no plastic boats to park in it before the 1940s. There was no yacht radar before the 1950s, nor marine diesel engines before the 1960s, also when polyester sailcloth ousted linen and cotton. The 1970s brought instrumentation and the 1980s saw Decca come and go as GPS stole the show. Oiled canvas gave way to PVC, which yielded to GORE-TEX®. Much indeed has changed, yet one thing has stayed the same: nothing signifies a confident, experienced, discerning yachtie like a pair of Dubarry boots.

Developed as a more luxurious, classical and traditional interpretation of the legendary Shamrock, on which the company's reputation was built, the Ultima is Dubarry's flagship boot. Its sole delivers award-winning, sure-footed grip. Its GORE-TEX® liner is waterproof and breathable to keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Its Dry-Fast-Dry-Soft water-resistant leather weathers with grace and distinction, recording every nautical mile of your experience in the gentle, tanned folds of its sumptuous hide. It's clearer than ever that, though times may change, quality always lasts.

Dubarry Ultima - Where will you go in yours?

Team Vestas Wind To Change Navigator
Team Vestas Wind today announced that navigator Wouter Verbraak is no longer a member of the crew for the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Dutchman was on board when the team was run aground on November 29 during Leg 2 on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean, causing major damage.

In the same announcement, Team Vestas Wind also stated that the remaining members of the crew would continue helping the team with the boat repair process at Persico's boatyard in Italy before their planned return to the race in June for the final two legs from Lisbon under skipper Chris Nicholson.

A statement issued early on Friday said: "Chris Nicholson has completed his review, together with the lead sponsor Vestas and sub-sponsor Powerhouse, and the decision has been made that Wouter Verbraak will no longer continue as navigator of the Vestas Wind.

"Team Vestas Wind will be joined by a new navigator in time for the Lisbon stopover and Leg 8 start in June. Team Vestas Wind would like to thank Wouter for his service and wish him well in the future."

Verbraak, in a statement, added: "I am very sad to announce that I have been notified that I will not continue with Team Vestas Wind.

"I respect Chris Nicholson's decision and wish the team the very, very best of luck with the hard work ahead of them in the Volvo Ocean Race. I would have wanted to help the team getting back in the race again and contribute to their success in the last parts of the race.

"On a personal note I am looking forward to the new sailing challenges that are coming up for me in the months ahead and want to keep sharing the passion that I have for this great sport with you all.

Approaching Sanya
Sanya, China: A thrilling finish looks to be in store for Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race after the chasing pack made big inroads into Dongfeng Race Team's once huge lead early on Sunday with just over 24 hours to sail to the finish in Sanya.

Charles Caudrelier's (FRA) crew led by more than 106 nautical miles (nm) approaching the Malacca Strait but gradually their advantage has been clawed back with under 350nm left of this stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya on the southernmost tip of China.

Understandably, the French skipper and his team have been feeling the pressure as the chasing pack led by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) threatened their hopes of becoming the first Chinese-backed team to win a leg.

Victory in the 4,670nm stage, which started on January 3 in Abu Dhabi, would also put Dongfeng Race Team top of the overall standings on five points ahead of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel who won Legs 1 and 2 respectively.

At 1240 UTC on Sunday, they had a lead of 34nm over Leg 1 winners Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with Team Alvimedica (Charles Enright/USA), MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) hot on their heels too within 50nm of the Dongfeng boat. Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) have been making good gains too, lying 69.2nm behind the leaders.

All the fleet had been slaloming back and forth with gybe after gybe to avoid the numerous obstacles, including a series of near misses with fishing vessels and their nets just off the Vietnamese coast.

122-Year-Old Yacht To Contest 179th Australia Day Regatta
Photo of Kelpie by John Jeremy. Click on image to enlarge.

Australia Day One of Australia's oldest racing yachts, the gaff cutter Kelpie, built 122 years ago, will contest the world's oldest continuously conducted regatta, the 179th Australia Day Regatta, January 26th, on Sydney Harbour.

Kelpie is among almost 150 sailing craft, ranging from historical replicas and current state-of-the-art versions of Sydney's spectacular 18-foot skiffs to famous ocean racing yachts, including two past line honours winners of the famous Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, that have been entered for the historic regatta races on the harbour and offshore.

Nearly 90 keelboats, including Sydney Hobart Race line honours winners Fidelis (1966) and Brindabella (1997) entered for the traditional regatta on Sydney Harbour, together with about 20 skiffs, old and new.

A fleet of more than 30 yachts will contest the short ocean race from Sydney to Botany Bay and return, headed by Patrice, winner of the IRC Division 1 of last month's 70th Sydney Hobart.

Under the auspices of the 179th Australia Day Regatta Committee, local Australia Day regattas for keelboats and off-the-beach classes will also be held on other parts of Sydney Harbour, on Botany Bay, Pittwater, Lake Macquarie and Brisbane Waters as well as on several inland waterways.

The 179th Australia Day Regatta, first held in 1837, commemorates the first European settlement in the colony of New South Wales and the founding of modern Australia. -- Peter Campbell

America's Cup Sailor Seeks Investigation Of Ex-Teammate
New Zealander Matt Mitchell has asked sailing's governing body to investigate former Oracle Team USA teammate Simeon Tienpont for gross misconduct, the latest fallout from one of the biggest scandals in America's Cup history.

Mitchell's complaint with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) alleges that Tienpont broke a racing rule and lied during a hearing prior to the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.

Although Tienpont admitted altering a catamaran used in warmup regattas, he was allowed to sail in the America's Cup match against Emirates Team New Zealand.

Mitchell, who was implicated by Tienpont during a hearing before an international jury, was suspended for the first four races. Another teammate, Dirk de Ridder, was banned from the regatta and Oracle was docked two points in the harshest penalties assessed in the cup's 164-year history.

"It's really just to get some justice out of the whole thing. The guy who actually did it, nothing happened to him," Mitchell told The Associated Press on Friday. "Simeon lied during the hearing and that's the only thing that implicated me and caused problems for me. I never should have had an issue. I didn't do it. The only thing the jury had on me was Simeon's lie."

Mitchell said it's up to ISAF to decide if there will be a hearing.

"This will put them in a difficult spot. They want the music to stop. They won't be keen to do anything. That's why we made the issue public. It's a little more difficult to sweep under the carpet." -- Bernie Wilson

Woody Clean Sweeps Historical 18s Australian Championship
Photo by Christophe Favreau, Click on image for photo gallery.

Historical Skiffs John 'Woody' Winning sailed Aberdare to a win today, clean sweeping the three-race Historical 18s Australian Championship he won last year.

With his two main rivals Yendys (Harold Cudmore) and Australia IV (Terry McDell) retiring from yesterday's race, it paved the way for Winning, who grew up on the Harbour he knows like the back of his hand.

However, Yendys looked to be the one controlling the race today. After a general recall, Irish yachtsman Harold Cudmore made a quick getaway off the start near Clark Island in a lovely north easterly, leading Aberdare and Scot (James Watt).

Up the work, Yendys led Aberdare a merry dance, the two leaving the rest to fight it out, although The Mistake, skippered by Jeremy Sharp was a clear third and never seriously challenged. It gave Sharp a series second overall after starting the day on equal points with Ian Smith's Britannia which finished the series third on equal points with Yendys.

As the top three cleared out on the downwind leg to Clark Island, Top Weight, under spinnaker, came a cropper near Nielsen Park. Her eight-man crew battled the boat for control, but over she went and they found themselves swimming.

On the run home, Winning overtook Cudmore and that was the end of what had been a solid lead for the Irishman.

No matter the conditions, Winning, who will again contest the modern 18s J.J. Giltinan Championship in February, was the benchmark. His name and that of Aberdare will be carved for a second time on the Galloping Ghost trophy, coincidentally donated in 2002 by Robert Hart, brother of Fred Hart who owned the original Aberdare.

The entire fleet of 11 took part in the Sydney Flying Squadron hosted three-race Historical 18s Australian Championship. -- Di Pearson

ISAF Announces Gazprom as an Official Partner
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) is pleased to announce that it has signed a Partnership Agreement with the global energy company Gazprom EP International B.V.

In a five year deal, Gazprom becomes an ISAF Official Partner with worldwide exclusivity in the energy sector.

Gazprom is a long term supporter of sailing, sponsoring the Gazprom Swan 60 class, supporting youth projects in Russia, and this development with ISAF represents a new chapter for Gazprom's support of sailing.

Gazprom International's Managing Director Valery Gulev underlined that Russia sees a noticeable growth of interest in sailing. "We hope this agreement will allow athletes to better fulfil their potential on a competitive international level", commented Valery Gulev.

The ceremony of signing the partnership agreement took place at the ISAF headquarters in Southampton, Great Britain.

Branson To Back Ainslie?
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is considering backing Sir Ben Ainslie's America's Cup bid, in a move that would propel the fortunes of the Olympic gold medallist yet further.

It is understood that Virgin is contemplating providing financial support to Ben Ainslie Racing, the venture set up to win the sailing cup for Britain for the first time since losing the original race in 1851.

The Telegraph understands that a final decision to back the America's Cup bid has yet to be taken by Virgin Group. Were the decision to be made however, Sir Richard would join Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone and a string of other business luminaries backing the venture.

Other well-known names to have offered support or sit on the board of Ben Ainslie Racing include Sir Keith Mills, the former deputy chairman of the organising committee of the 2012 Olympic Games, technology entrepreneur Peter Dubens and former BBC chairman Lord Grade. -- James Quinn

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