By Bill Wagner
This is an abnormal year for the J/80 class, typically one of the largest in Key West. Due to the vagaries of the class schedule and some competition from the new J/70, there are only four J/80 one-designs competing at Quantum Key West 2013.
Event chairman Peter Craig sees that as an anomaly and has already spoken to key figures in the J/80 class about getting back to a double digit fleet next year.
“The J/80 has been a mainstay class in Key West for well over a decade. For the last five years, we’ve had 16 to 18 boats. For a variety of reasons, the class wasn’t able to realize its normal fleet size this year, but by all reports the J/80 will regain its traditional numbers next year in Key West,” Craig said.
Wayne Bretsch, principal race officer on Division 3, said the J/80 racing has been good with four boats making the starts relatively routine. Bretsch noted early in the week that the J/80s are so quick they sometimes catch up with the slower boats in PHRF so he added a few more minutes between starts to correct that issue.
The four J/80 teams competing at Quantum Key West 2013 are having a good time and enjoying the racing. All four boats are berthed at Stock Island and the crews get together each evening for happy hour and a debriefing session.
“The racing has been good and our daily debriefing with all the boats has been very instructional for everyone,” Vayu 2 skipper Ron Buzil said. “We talk about what happened out on the course that day and ways we can all improve.”
Vayu 2 has been going well all week, winning seven of eight races. However, tactician Andrew Herr, who has competed in every Key West race week since its inception in 1988, said Participant III has pushed Vayu 2. Skipper John Krediet and crew won Race 4 and have placed second in five other starts.
“We have new sails and have been able to point a little higher than the other boats,” said Herr, who works with North U out of Washington state. “We love sailing here in Key West. It’s a fantastic venue and always provides great racing.”
J/80 had 18 boats at Quantum Key West 2012 so this year’s sudden drop off was unexpected. The class world championship is being held in Annapolis in 2014 and it is likely many owners will come to Key West beforehand to get good preparation.
“I’m very confident the J/80 class will be back in force next year in Key West,” Herr said. There is no question the overnight growth of the new J/70 class has impacted its older cousin. Several top J/80 skippers such as Brian Keane, Kerry Klingler and Bruno Pasquinelli have switched to the J/70 this year.
“There is a bit of a J/70 love affair going on, but the J/80 remains a great boat and will definitely survive and thrive,” Herr said.