So the first regatta for the new sailing team is officially over, wrapped up with the prize awards ceremony in Key West town center Friday night. We are all absolutely delighted with our 3rd place overall, which easily exceeds the top 10 goal we set coming into the event—to be honest, I was worried about our punchy goal before we arrived. (See Quantum Key West Race Week results.) We are even more delighted to have won the final race having overtaken the race leader just 200 yards from the finishing line. The perfect way to end any regatta!


With plenty of pressure, the J/70 sets off downwind during 2014 Key West Race Week. Photo: Onne van der Wal


With just half a day of practice - on a freezing January day in the Solent - and given that we were competing in a chartered boat that we only had a few hours to prepare before racing got under way, our learning curve has been pretty steep. But the crew - Dan Brown, Ruairidh Scott, Ben Field and myself - seemed to gel pretty quickly. We have known each other for many years - as competitors - but this was our first event sailing together and we all had to adjust to new roles and responsibilities on the boat. I have to say the guys were fantastic, working hard for each other and not giving me too much of a hard time!

I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel about relinquishing helming duties – this is the first time I haven't been steering my boat for about 15 years. In fact I needn't have worried. Being near the front of a super competitive fleet obviously helped, but I learnt a lot, too, as well as seeing the races unfold from a completely different perspective. Learning how to make a series of minor rig and trim adjustments and concentrating on lots of little things, as well as all sharing in the strategy for the race, was an education. Also, being able to see the bigger race picture was an experience I had forgotten in my years of driving – helmsmen rely on others to find out what is going on around them while they concentrate on boat speed. All in all I really enjoyed the role change.

Key West Race Week was as always a tremendous regatta, well organised by a professional team and in what must be one of the best sailing locations on the planet. We had all kinds of different and testing conditions culminating in a proper "foam up" roaring around in 25 knots of wind on the last day. We are already talking about coming back next year...

Ben Field, Ruairidh Scott, Dan Brown and Ian Atkins celebrate third place in the 60-boat J/70 fleet. Photo: ©2014 Ken Stanek/

For now our thoughts turn to making sure we qualify to be in the British team for the J/70 World Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, later this year. Although our confidence has received a huge boost by sailing against most of the top U.S. teams this last week, we still have to qualify as one of only five British boats that gain entry to the Worlds, and we can't take that for granted.

So back to some training on our home waters and preparing for the first UK trial in April. Our new boat arrives at the end of March, so timing will be tight. But after this epic week in Florida, I can't wait to get out there again!

Earlier posts: " Rigs Up for Key West Race Week" and "J/70 "" Humpday Report"