KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- Veteran sailboat racing teams from around the world are to compete in the waters off America's southernmost city Sunday through Friday, Jan. 17-22, putting on a colorful display for spectators during Quantum Key West Race Week 2016.
One of the most prestigious sailing regattas on the international calendar, the Key West event includes a diverse fleet with teams hailing from 12 nations.
After the fleet's harbor start at 10:15 am, the action is slated to begin daily at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 18-22, with 10 races scheduled during the challenge. Shoreside activities, prize presentations and evening parties round out each day's itinerary.
Race organizers say teams are drawn to Key West to enjoy January sailing in warm subtropical waters, reliable breezes and fierce competition. Competitors are to race on Atlantic Ocean courses just off Key West's shore and inside the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef.
Presented by the Storm Trysail Club, the 2016 regatta is to feature several innovations. They include a Performance Cruising division whose participants will sail one longer race per day, the return of speedy Corsair 28 trimarans and the debut use of an international rating system, ORC, in one of the handicap classes.
"Quantum Key West Race Week has long been chosen by sailing's innovators as the proving ground for new classes and technology," said regatta administrator Amy Gross-Kehoe.
The 2016 regatta will feature a large fleet of the new C&C 30s, a mid-sized one-design boat suited to offshore and inshore racing.
J/70s are to continue their strong class presence in Key West with early entrants from around the U.S. as well as Italy, Bermuda, Norway and Brazil. In the Maxi 72 class, heated competition is expected between Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and George Sakellaris’ Proteus.
The field of international racing professionals includes 2006 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and world champion sailor Jud Smith competing on the J70 Africa.
"It’s the largest international regatta in the U.S. for the non-Olympic racers, although a number of Olympic aspirants and medallists compete in Key West Race Week," said Gross-Kehoe.
The 2016 regatta's headquarters, where sailors and sailing aficionados can mingle, is to be on Caroline Street between Duval and Whitehead streets.
To view the races, fans can book seats on spectator boats ranging from excursion catamarans to historic tall ships. Prime land-based viewing spots include Key West's Atlantic-front restaurants, resorts and beaches.
Florida Keys events calendar: www.fla-keys.com/calendarofevents/
Florida Keys visitor information: www.fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS (1-800-352-5397)