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California Cup - Farr 40 class returns to contest

by Tink Chambers on 16 Jun 2014
Flash Gordon, skippered by Helmut Jahn of Chicago, holds third place in the International Circuit standings. - Farr 40 California Cup Sara Proctor http://www.sailfastphotography.com
California Yacht Club established the California Cup in 1963 and the regatta has a rich, storied history. Founded as a match racing event and later switched to fleet racing, the Cal Cup has featured many great classes, renowned yachts and famous sailors.

Jim Kilroy won the third edition aboard his 73-foot ketch Kialoa II while Paul Cayard captured the 1983 edition aboard the six - meter St. Francis. George Coumantaros claimed victory with his highly-successful 80-foot sloop Boomerang while Ed McDowell won with his equally-accomplished Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion.

At various times, the California Cup has been contested using the 12-Meter yachts that were a staple of the America’s Cup for many years or the 70-foot maxi sleds that have done so well in Trans-Pacific Yacht Race and other West Coast distance events.

Bill Stump has held the title of Senior Race Officer at California Yacht Club since 1992 and is well-versed in the Cal Cup tradition. Stump said some of the most competitive and compelling racing has come in the Farr 40 class, which has participated on five previous occasions (2001-2004, 2013). In most cases, the boats involved came from the class’s West Coast fleet.

This week, the Farr 40 class returns to the California Cup, albeit in a much grander fashion. A deep and talent-laden fleet of 15 boats will battle for the coveted perpetual trophy while also looking to compile points toward 2014 International Circuit Championship.

'We are very happy to be hosting the Farr 40 class again. It’s going to be a much bigger turnout than years past and will have competitors from around the globe, which is extremely exciting,' Stump said. 'We have cleared out a section of docks right under the clubhouse to showcase the Farr 40s and our members are anxious to see the boats, meet the sailors and watch the racing.'



This is the third stop on the 2014 International Circuit and skipper Alex Roepers leads after steering Plenty to victory in Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship, held May 14-17 off Long Beach. Veteran professional Terry Hutchinson is calling tactics aboard Plenty, which placed second at the Farr 40 Midwinter Championship in April.

'Obviously, we are very pleased with our progress so far. We sailed well at Midwinters then built on that at North Americans,' Roepers said. 'We look at this as a long-term commitment with the ultimate goal being the world championship. There is a learning curve that takes place over the course of a season and you have to continue improving.'

Plenty compiled 72 points in the opening two regattas and leads Enfant Terrible by eight points. Skipper Alberto Rossi led his Italian entry to victory at the Midwinter Championship then finished fourth at the North American Championship. Flash Gordon 6, owned by Helmut Jahn of Chicago, is third in the circuit standings with 96 points – 11 ahead of Nightshift (Kevin McNeil, Annapolis).

'We have been getting off the line cleanly and have not been overly aggressive on the course. Our upwind speed has been very good while our execution in the corners has been crisp,' Roepers said.

Hutchinson heads a strong afterguard that includes trimmers Skip Baxter and Morgan Trubovich. Roepers is happy to welcome back bowman Greg Gendell, one of the other pros in the crew who has been sidelined with an injury.

'I’ve got a terrific crew. These guys have been working together for 15 years and just operate like clockwork. I’ve clicked with the whole team and feel very comfortable sailing with this group,' Roepers said. 'Terry is very meticulous in terms of preparation. We have done well because we have spent a lot of time properly prepping the boat.'

Roepers chuckled when asked if he thought Plenty would have a target on its stern since it leads the International Circuit.

'This is the most competitive class in the world and all the top boats are capable of winning races or losing badly,' he said. 'Some of the Corinthian boats that are doing the circuit keep getting better and can pass the pro boats at any time. We come into every Farr 40 regatta with respect for every boat in the fleet.'

Wolfgang Schaefer and his team on Struntje Light are displaying tremendous dedication by traveling monthly from Germany to compete in all five events on the 2014 International Circuit, which concludes with the Rolex Big Boat Series out of St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. Struntje Light stands fifth in the cumulative standings after finishing fourth at Midwinters and sixth at North Americans.

'All of us aboard Struntje Light have been quite pleased with the West Coast circuit so far. On the course, the competition has been at a very high level. For every small mistake, you get your penalty immediately. The conditions during the first two regattas were changing all the time and the races were never over before the boats crossed the finish line,' Schaefer said.

'This circuit has started in the spirit that has made the Farr 40 class so famous. All the races have been organized very well and the hospitality from Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club and Long Beach Yacht Club were both incredible. So we are looking forward to sailing out of Marina del Rey and experiencing a new venue.'

Stump said the prevailing wind on Santa Monica Bay, which is a bight of the Pacific Ocean, comes from the southwest and usually fills in around midday. Principal race officer Peter Reggio will set courses that take the fleet away from shore and Stump said it is usually very difficult to determine the favored side.

'It’s pretty challenging racing. Tacticians will not have an easy time figuring out which way to go off the start line. Local knowledge doesn’t really help,' Stump said.

Stump called it a 'wide-open' race course and said the standard start line is set in 60 feet of water with the weather mark anchored at a depth of 120 feet. Afternoon winds tend to range from 10-12 knots with the wind usually moving right from 220 degrees to around 250.

'It’s quite a bit different than Long Beach. It’s not quite as breezy so it’s all about finding the best pressure,' Stump said.

The California Cup begins on Wednesday and concludes on Saturday. For more information, please visit website.

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