14th Rolex Farr 40 Worlds day 3 was another fascinating day of dog eat dog.
Two races, two intriguing tales and all square at the top. A more enthralling setting for a final day of a world championship?
Get the master of suspense, Hitchcock, to write it better. Defending champions Massimo Mezzaroma and Antonio Sodo Migliori’s Nerone (ITA) holds a one-point advantage over the local heroes, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Transfusion (AUS). No one else is in sight.
Wind back to last year and the positions were reversed. Nerone had to overcome a two-point deficit to beat Transfusion to the title. Will Transfusion avoid the disappointment of twelve months ago and stop the seemingly unstoppable? Transfusion had a chance today. Leading race seven to the halfway point, three boats slipped inside her before the finish, whilst Vasco Vascotto’s relentless tactical efforts saw Nerone claw back three places to end up sixth. None too significant until Nerone crashed through the fleet in race eight to grab an unshakable lead on the first downwind leg. Transfusion, stumbling in the slipstream ended up in fifth. Will this reversal of fortune prove a fatal psychological blow? At least this year, Transfusion has another day of racing to make amends and win their first Rolex Farr 40 Worlds.
Whilst the frontrunners played their own game, elsewhere teams were making some moves. William Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA), with James Spithill riding shotgun, put together her best day to date with an extraordinary bullet in race seven followed by a six in race eight. Wolfgang & Angela Schaefer’s crew on Struntje Light (GER) dusted themselves off after their disqualification from race four to post a 2, 8; and were extremely close to a race win, shaded on the line by the thickness of the Goombay Smash spinnaker. Helmut and Evan Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA), working hard under Bill Hardesty’s guidance, took advantage of another below par day by Martin and Lisa Hill’s Estate Master (AUS) to move into third. Worse was to follow for the early event leaders as Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad (USA) barged past into fourth.
The Rolex Farr 40 Worlds is a tough event: four days, up to ten races and no discard. Yesterday the crews got back to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron at 7pm. No place for the timid and a surprising backdrop for three teams to be fielding husband and wife combos. Steve and Maxine Phillips on Le Renard (USA) have proved a successful formula: they finished overall winners of the Worlds in 2002. The Schaefers on Struntje Light may not have a championship win to their credit, but they are stringing together a set of fine results. The Hills on Estate Master came into the event with high hopes, and whilst they will not be realised, they have certainly left their mark with their young crew.
The Schaefers met at Kiel Week in Germany forty years ago and have sailed together ever since. For the Phillips, too, sailing together has been a natural fit after meeting at a regatta in the USA. Maxine explains, 'Steve and I are very busy people. Running his company consumes much of his time, and really his only downtime is sailing. With sailing being our mutual passion it works out perfectly.' Steve complains that he suffers a critique after each race, but accepts this because 'Maxine is a very good sailor and she puts the team together, managing the whole programme. She is very positive and keeps the crew motivated.'
The Hills take a similar view to their sailing. Time together, even racing, is a good thing Martin notes, 'many years ago I used to go sailing and Lisa would be looking after the children. She would ask how was my day and I would be simply exhausted. Now when we get home she’s exhausted too, which makes us quite compatible!'
Lisa enjoys the opportunity, 'it’s very business like on the boat. We don’t really talk much, but he is not a different person; he doesn’t turn into Captain Bligh. He even does what he is told.' And Martin finds her presence an oasis in an otherwise highly charged, highly professional environment, 'sailing with people like Tom Slingsby, Michael Blackburn and Malcolm Page, it is a very high standard and at times that standard is beyond my capabilities. Lisa gives me great encouragement. The boat does not leave without her.'
For Martin there is no doubt that the formula works, 'I advise all families to sail together.'
In 2009, Jim Richardson took Barking Mad to Sardinia for the second time. No American crew had ever won outside of home waters in the ten-year history of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds – if the Bahamas are counted as a quasi-US locale. Richardson and his crew, which included Terry Hutchinson as tactician, were desperately keen to right this scenario. More so, since archrival Vincenzo Onorato had won his third title in a row the previous year.
Barking Mad pressed the gas pedal hard from the off. Linda Lindquist-Bishop, former America's Cup sailor and one of two women on the team was clear what they had to do, 'in the words of my great sailing mentor, Buddy Melges, the best strategy is to get out in front and stay there.'
Barking Mad did just that, leading the event from start to finish and winning her third title with a points-score average of 3.8 over the ten race series. It was an impressive display of calm under pressure as Nerone pushed her hard. Entering the last race of the championship, one point separated the top two boats. It was all about nerve. According to Richardson, immediately before the start, 'we just looked at each other and said this is why we're here. We're here for an opportunity to win the regatta on the last race. What more could you want.'
It looked easy in the end, a seven-point margin, but it was a dream come true for Richardson, 'we're very, very happy. Coming to Italy and winning the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in Porto Cervo is an amazing feeling. There are so many good teams out there, particularly the Italians, and to be able to win in their home waters is a great thrill for us.'
After the nail-biting finish to the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds 2009, Terry Hutchinson, a man at the top of his game was full of praise for his opposite number Vasco Vascotto, 'sailing against somebody like Vasco makes you a better sailor and we hold the highest respect for that team.'
Meanwhile, Vascotto remained his usual entertaining self, when processing his team’s performance, 'it's quite difficult to stay consistent, but I think that we have had a great Championship except for the third race of the first day and the third race of the last day. With a little more conservatism maybe we could be leading.' Would he have been happier if he had sailed more conservatively? 'I'm not able to sail conservatively!' was the reply. Day 3 – Top 10 provisional results (pending protests)
Place, Boat Name, Country, Owner-Helm, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5-R6-R7-R8, TOTAL
1) Nerone , ITA, Antonio Sodo Migliori & Massimo Mezzaroma, 2-1-10-8-1-1-6-1, 30
2) Transfusion, AUS, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, 4-4-2-1-7-4-4-5, 31
3) Flash Gordon, USA, Helmut & Evan Jahn, 11-2-9-2-8-5-11-3, 51
4) Barking Mad, USA, Jim Richardson, 15-10-5-9-2-3-10-2, 56
5) Estate Master, AUS, Lisa & Martin Hill, 1-8-1-5-9-10-12-12, 58
6) Kokomo, AUS, Lang Walker, 19-5-4-7-5-9-3-7, 59
7) Struntje Light, GER, Wolfgang & Angela Schaefer, 3-13-3-21-4-13, 67
8) Hooligan, AUS, Marcus Blackmore, 13-3-6-4-16-14-8-4, 68
9) Voodoo Chile, AUS, Andrew Hunn & Lloyd Clark, 5-9-8-15-3-2-16-16, 74
10) Goombay Smash, USA, William Douglass, 9-6-17-10-11-16-1-6, 76
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2011 is organised by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be held in the waters off Sydney from Wednesday, 23 February to Saturday, 26 February. www.farr40worlds.com www.regattanews.com