Mother Nature can work in mysterious ways as is such at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. When the nine boats competing in the Farr 40 class headed out to the race course on Narragansett Bay during day two, the wind was absolutely howling. About two hours later, the fleet was totally becalmed.
Enfant Terrible, the Italian entry skippered by Alberto Rossi, won Race 5 on Friday and is now third in the overall standings for Farr 40 class at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta
'It was a really strange, tricky day out there,' said Barking Mad skipper Jim Richardson, a part-time resident of Newport.
That comment certainly summed things up. Winds were whipping at 20 knots with gusts to 25 when action got underway on the second day of Farr 40 competition at the 159th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, presented by Rolex. Race 4 in the series was spectacular with the fleet blasting up and down the course in the big breeze.
Charisma, skippered by Nico Poons, got the gun in Friday's opening race - third victory of the regatta for the Monaco contingent. Barking Mad finished a close second to maintain a one-point lead over Charisma in the overall standings.
Winds had decreased to 10-12 knots by the time the New York Yacht Club race committee got off Race 5, but the conditions were still quite sail-able. Unfortunately, things deteriorated during the first upwind leg and by the time the fleet reached the top mark the wind had decreased to five knots.
Halfway down the run the wind shut down and it became a drifter, which suddenly made a strong ebb tide a factor. Around that time, principal race officer Tinker Myles decided to finish the race at the bottom marks. While the committee boat was moving into position, things were going downhill in a hurry.
Charisma, owned by Nico Poons of Monaco, has won three of five races held so far and holds second place in the 159th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, presented by Rolex
Flash Gordon and Charisma, which rounded the weather mark in first and third place, respectively, got swept past the new finish line by the current. Enfant Terrible and Barking Mad saw what was happening and jibed into such a position as to be pushed across the finish line by the strong tide.
Thanks to the quick thinking of tacticians Vasco Vascotto and Terry Hutchinson, Enfant Terrible and Barking Mad finished first and second in Race 5. Flojito y Cooperando, the Mexican entry co-owned by Bernardo Minkow and Julian Fernandez, also happened to be on the side of the course that allowed for a finish and came in third.
None of the other six boats could get across the finish line before the time limit expired and thus collectively were scored as fifth.
'We figured out the race committee was going to either finish at the bottom mark or abandon and definitely sailed ourselves into position up-current of the two marks,' said Richardson, who went from fourth to second because of the situation. 'I felt bad for Flash and Charisma that they got too low and couldn't make the line. Vasco figured it out first and Terry was right behind him.'
Enfant Terrible skipper Alberto Rossi said his team was overdue for a good break. The Italian entry had suffered some misfortune from choosing the wrong side of the course in previous races.
'In the first race of the day we had a fantastic start and went to the left again and it didn't work - again!' Rossi said. 'Our luck was due to change. At the end of the last race, Vasco understood that it was time to drift and got us in the right position.'
Obviously, the boats that wound up on the wrong end of the time limit were not nearly as pleased.
'I'm not sure you can call that last one a race. When the fleet is drifting and positions are changing, I think you've got to abandon,' Groovederci owner John Demourkas said.
Nobody was complaining about the first race on Friday as the breeze held steady in the upper teens and gave the fleet plenty of action. Charisma sailed a superb opening beat and rounded the top mark in first - maintaining that lead for the remaining three legs despite heavy pressure from Barking Mad. Those two boats engaged in a great duel on the final downwind leg with Charisma controlling Barking Mad and finishing less than a boat length ahead.
'Charisma kind of had the advantage of being to windward. We had a discussion about whether we had luffing rights, which I think we did. Ultimately, we decided not to go there and just tried to give them a good battle,' Richardson said.
This marks the first time Charisma has posted three bullets in the same regatta since Poons joined the Farr 40 class. Former 470 Olympic medalist Morgan Reeser is calling tactics for Poons, who was naturally thrilled by the team's performance.
'To win three of five races makes me very happy. That is very good in a class as competitive as this,' Poons said. 'We are halfway through the regatta and still very much in contention so let's play. Our boat speed has improved a bit, especially in the higher wind range.'
With a pair of second place results on Friday, Barking Mad now leads the regatta with a low score of 12 points - four better than Charisma. Enfant Terrible and Groovederci are tied with 19 points with the former taking third place because of the win in Race 5.
Competition continues on Saturday and Sunday with the Farr 40 class joining the rest of the fleet in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. Racing moves from the Narragansett Bay to the Atlantic Ocean for the weekend.
'There's still a lot of racing left and things are still rather tight. Charisma is going great while Enfant and Groove are also sailing well. We'll have to fight to hold onto our lead,' Richardson said.
Sitting at the dock at Newport Shipyard, Demourkas seemed eager for a change of scenery in terms of race course.
'We have pretty good speed, but obviously we need to sail better,' the California skipper said. 'We're moving outside so that presents a whole new challenge. It's almost like hitting the reset button.'
New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta
1, Barking Mad, Jim Richardson, Newport, RI, 4-1-3-2-2=12
2, Charisma, Nico Poons, Monaco, 1-8-1-1-5/TL=16
3, Enfant Terrible, Alberto Rossi, Ancona, Italy, 2-4-8-4-1=19
4, Groovederci, John Demourkas, 3-3-5-3-5/TL=19
5, Nightshift, Kevin McNeil, Annapolis, MD, 6-2-2-7-5/TL=22
6, Struntje Light, Wolfgang Schaefer, Lueneburg, Germany, 7-6-4-5-5/TL=27
7, Flash Gordon 6, Helmut Jahn, Chicago, 5-5-7-6-5/TL=28
8, Flojito y Cooperando, Julian Fernandez, Mexico City, 8-7-6-8-3=32
9, Oakcliff-Farr 40-1, Seth Cooley, Oyster Bay, NY, 9-9-9-9-5/TL=41
Farr 40 website