Before my life was consumed by bicycles, it was consumed with salt water, sails and regatta crew parties. Every year at this time my mind wanders to far off tropical places, namely, Key West, Florida. In 1999, just as I was beginning my dream of sail boat racing full time, I had the awesome chance to race a J/80 named French Kiss in Key West Race Week. I actually just found out that the boat owner who took me there, Bruce French, passed away 6 years ago. His and his wife's generosity that week made me feel like a rockstar. I'm bummed we lost contact over the years. We traveled around the Southwest winning some silverware with that boat and had a blast. That's a photo of our spinnaker on the right.
At the time, KWRW was the pinnacle of regattas, attracting over 300 boats from around the world. Race categories were full of hot rod Melges 24 one-designs on up to the big money grand prix 50 and 60 footers. For, me it was a lesson in large fleet racing and opened my eyes to what potential I had as a sailor. It was the first big regatta experience I could put on my sailing resume and I still have vivid memories of that fun filled week.
I don't think we did very well in our division, but we showed some promise. Mid week saw some big winds and major wipeouts and our learning curve was steep but I was surrounded by pro and ameture sailors alike who were there to race hard and party hard. It is Key West after all!
This year's event is happening right now and you can check out all the action here: http://www.premiere-racing.com/. The photo galleries are awesome and the pictures tend to be what you'll see in most sailing calendars for 2013. While entries for the event have shrunk over the past few years, the quality of racing has continued to produce great on the water drama. Maybe one of these days I'll make it back to the event and re-live some of those early sailing career moments and the great times that the late Bruce French gave me the opportunity to enjoy.