Last week's five days of racing at the 2014 Quantum Key West regatta was the third appearance for the HPR class at this annual event, and the ninth to offer trophies in HPR scoring since the rule was first introduced two years ago. But of all of these previous regattas this was the most competitive in terms of producing extremely close racing among the contenders, and the margins of victory in corrected time were the tightest seen yet.
Except for three races in the ten-race series where there were significant windshifts and other factors that skewed the results, in the remaining seven races the average margin of victory was only 17 seconds in corrected time - or less than 0.5% in an hour of racing. The average margin between 2nd and 3rd place was more - 41 seconds - but this too was only 1.1% in an hour of racing.
Race conditions over the week varied widely from light air on the first day of racing to a blustery 20-25 knots on the last day, yet the corrected time margins remained close regardless of wind speed. And there was no strong design bias in the results, since all boats in the class - Bernie Girod's Farr 400 ROCK & ROLL, Marc Ewing's MC 38 RIOT, Stephen Murray's Carkeek 40 DECISION, and the class winner, Steve & Heidi Benjamin's Carkeek 40 SPOOKIE - had won at least one race in the series.
All boats but RIOT had undergone modifications in recent months: SPOOKIE had a new keel fitted last June, but has already raced in several regattas since this installation; ROCK & ROLL added internal ballast to enhance her upwind performance last month; and DECISION just a week prior to racing had a new heavier keel fitted and interior modifications to reduce weight.
"These small margins are the closest yet seen in HPR competition," says Bill Lee, author of the HPR rule and Chairman of the Offshore Big Boat Management Committee at US Sailing. "We have been working hard on refining the ratings and the measurement methods, and still have some way to go, but these results are a great validation for our process. When top teams sail well against each other in a variety of conditions, it really puts a rating rule to the test, and so these close results from Key West last week are encouraging to us."
"It was a very tough week of racing," said Steve Benjamin, so-owner helmsman of SPOOKIE. "I think our team did well simply because we had raced together for many months now and had more time in the boat than anyone else, so we just made fewer mistakes. On nearly every race anyone could win, so we were all pushed hard."
For images of HPR boats in action in Key West, visit the photo galleries of:
- Marco Oquendo: www.imagesbymarco.com/p142979700
- Sharon Green: http://ultimatesailing.photoshelter.com/gallery/2014-Key-West-Race-Week/G0000sRBVUZrmss0/
For interviews and videos:
- Bill Wagner, Premier Racing Media, interview with Steve Benjamin and Stephen Murray: http://www.premiere-racing.com/wagner2014.html
- Meredith Powlison, Sailing World, interview blog: www.sailingworld.com/racing/hangin-with-hpr
and video: www.sailingworld.com/videos/video-channel/on-board-spookie-0