After another action-packed day on Santa Monica Bay, the California Cup for Farr 40 class is too close to call. Three boats will enter the fourth and final day in contention for the overall victory and it figures to be a battle royale among Plenty, Nightshift and Flash Gordon 6.
Skipper Alex Roepers steers the boat while trimmers Morgan Trubovich, foreground, and Skip Baxter, midde, join tactician Terry Hutchinson in keeping a close eye on what's ahead. Plenty won two races on Friday and holds a one-point lead over Nightshift.
'In typical fashion for this class it all comes down to the last day,' Farr 40 manager Geoff Stagg said. 'It's really up for grabs and it's going to be all on. It really is amazing how closely contested every Farr 40 regatta is.'
Plenty, the New York entry skippered by Alex Roepers, made a big move on Friday - winning two of three races to surge from third place to first in the overall standings. Back-to-back bullets to begin the day pushed Plenty past Flash Gordon 6 and Nightshift and the team survived a sixth in Race nine to maintain the low score of 29 points.
'We had two fantastic races in which we basically got everything right,' Roepers said of the two wins. 'We got great starts and went left on both upwind legs, which proved the right choice. We had very good upwind speed and did a good job of tacking on the shifts.'
Principal race officer Peter Reggio intends to complete two races on Saturday and Plenty holds a one point lead over Nightshift and a seven point advantage on Flash Gordon 6. Plenty is coming off capturing the Rolex North American Championship and leads the 2014 International Circuit after two events.
'We're happy with where we are, going into the last day with a good chance to win it,' Roepers said. 'Now we have to go out tomorrow and just focus on what we do well. At this stage of the game, it's all about execution.'
If Plenty winds up capturing the California Cup the crew will know it was due largely to a dramatic comeback in Race nine. Arriving at the first windward mark on port tack, Plenty could not find an opening and was forced to duck several boats. After finally tacking, tactician Terry Hutchison realized the boat would not make the mark and bailed out. When all was said and done, Plenty had fallen from second to 13th in the fleet.
However, the team was undeterred by the setback and proceeded to pick off four boats on the downwind run and another three on the second upwind leg. By the finish, a 13th had turned into a sixth and those seven points could prove decisive in the end.
'It's all about what Terry calls mental toughness. When something goes wrong, you have to keep your head down and continue sailing hard,' Roepers said. 'We have a good competitive spirit within the team and our guys fought hard to rebound from that little disaster. There is no doubt the placements we picked up over the final three legs of the last race were critical.'
Skipper Kevin McNeil and his team on Nightshift led the 15-boat fleet upon conclusion of racing on Wednesday and Thursday. However, the Annapolis entry had some issues on Friday - finishing ninth in Race seven and fifth in Race eight before rebounding with a second in Race nine to remain right on the tail of Plenty.
'Now we have a real boat race on our hands,' McNeil said. 'We had some bad breaks today, but I believe we can still win the regatta. We've got the speed and the crew work. We're looking forward to a good battle tomorrow. The most important thing is to get good starts.
Tactician Andy Horton said Nightshift got a poor start in Race seven and got flushed out to the left, which wound up being the wrong side of the course. Nightshift was leading the second race when it picked up a huge clump of weed the crew had difficulty clearing.
'It doesn't feel like a good day because the potential was there to be 15 points better than we were. We actually sailed well as a team, but had some misfortune,' Horton said. 'We just have to put this day behind and take a positive outlook into tomorrow. Our goal at any of these regattas is to be able to win going into the last day. We have put ourselves in position to do just that, which means we have the boat speed and crew work to get it done.'
Flojito y Cooperando, the Mexican entry co-owned by Julian Fernandez and Bernardo Minkow, sailed splendidly and led from start to finish in winning Race nine. Fernandez, who serves as helmsman, said a poor start prompted tactician Jorge Murrieta to choose the right side of the course and it paid off big-time.
'We went hard right and made huge gains. We managed to cross the whole fleet on the first tack,' Fernandez said. 'We maintained the lead on the run, extended on the second upwind leg and wound up winning by a fairly comfortable margin.'
It was the best day of the regatta for Flojito, which placed third in Race eight. The Mexican boat actually has six single-digit finishes, but a pair of 11ths and a 12th have proved costly to the total score.
'All these mistakes add up and you finally learn from them. It seems like every day we've had one terrible race,' Fernandez said. 'We did a fantastic job in the last two races today so we are very happy. It gives us something to build on.'
Blade 2, skippered by Michael Shlens of King Harbor Yacht Club, holds a commanding 32-point lead in the Corinthian standings. Category 1 sailor Greg Tawaststjerna is calling tactics on Blade 2, which only has one professional aboard. Shlens, a first-year Farr 40 owner, has steered his boat to eighth or better in seven of eight races for a score of 62 points.
The California Cup continues on Friday and concludes on Saturday. For information, please visit website.