Rolex Farr 40 Worlds - The nail-biting ended at 4:00pm, when the Italian yacht Nerone crossed the line three boats behind the Australians on Transfusion. The separation was enough to give Transfusion’s owner Guido Belgiorno-Nettis revenge for last year’s defeat at the hands of the Massimo Mezzaroma and Antonio Sodo Migliori. More importantly it gave him the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship title.
A three-year voyage successfully completed: for Belgiorno-Nettis a dream moment, 'It was fantastic, what a challenge. Right down to the wire, we never gave up. Today was a really good day for us. We were lucky, but we worked hard and we got it right.'
Conditions were not always easy; the first race was held in eight knots of north-easterly, the second in around 12-15 knots. The emphasis was on tactics and remaining calm. Hard-won lines would be hard to hold, passing lanes would be open as both races showed. Nerone won the first race of the day, with Transfusion in second – although that is only half the story. In the second and final race, Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad (USA) crossed the line first, with Transfusion hot on her heels.
Nerone could only finish sixth. Not enough to retain her title, Transfusion closing the deal by two points. Barking Mad’s final day results were sufficient to move her up into third, ahead of Helmut and Evan Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA) and Lisa and Martin Hill’s Estate Master (AUS).
At the prize giving this evening, Belgiorno-Nettis will receive the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship trophy and a Rolex Yacht-Master for his and his crew’s sterling efforts.
Race nine was a true classic. True gun-slinger style, Nerone took the committee boat end of the line, owning it like no one else was on the course or entitled to the spot. She was not fast, but she was certain and certainty often wins. Transfusion was towards the middle. By the windward mark it appeared game over. Nerone rounded first with a significant gap to second-placed Flash Gordon; Transfusion was stuck in traffic midway down the fleet. Her tactician, John Kostecki, did not get to be a winner of an Olympic medal, the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race by chance. Tactical acumen, self-belief and never-say-die take an awful lot of beating.
Whilst Nerone stood on after the windward rounding, Transfusion stuck in a quick gybe. As the downwind leg unwound, Transfusion popped up in fifth place. She was not yet finished. By the second windward she was in second place. Nowhere close enough to challenge Nerone for the lead, but certainly enough to keep the rubber alive into the final race. In previous Rolex Farr 40 Worlds it has usually been Vascotto pulling rabbits from hats. Kostecki had just proved to the mercurial Italian that he not alone in playing a hand of high-stakes poker well.
Into the tenth and final race of the series: two-points separated the main protagonists. Flash Gordon in third, some twenty-two points behind was not even an outside threat in the fight for top honors. Anyone hoping for a gladiatorial match-race would be disappointed. Transfusion had no choice but to sail her best race and hope Nerone would implode or at least match one of her poorer performances of the week. Transfusion needed two boats between them and Nerone.
Off the start life looked good for the Australians. This time it was Nerone all snarled up in the bad air. Sailing in the crowd is not good for boat speed and by the first windward mark Transfusion was in second behind Barking Mad and Nerone in eighth. Could Nerone do a Transfusion and comeback from the dead? Not on the first leeward run. The Italians went backwards, deeper into trouble rounding in twelfth.
The pressure was all on the defending champions. Transfusion had plenty of distance between her and the fleet. All she could do was hope that the boats in between her and Nerone were in enough of a fighting mood to hold off any last-chance challenge.
This has been an event of the highest calibre. Some of the top names in sailing joined with some of the most competitive, skilled amateur owner/drivers in the sport. The line between professional and Corinthian blurred in terms of spirit, application and ability.
With the likes of James Spithill, John Kostecki, Adrian Stead, Grant Simmer, Tom Slingsby, Hamish Pepper, Tom King and Vasco Vascotto amongst the tacticians it was always going to be fast and fiery. With the defending champions and two former world champions in the fleet, speculation on potential winners was rife from the outset. Nerone arrived as the form boat having won the Rolex Trophy in December and the Australian Championship immediately before the worlds. History is history; only what happened in the Worlds themselves would count.
The Australians had defended home turf last time the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds were held here in 2005. Could they do so again? It looked good at the start as first Estate Master and then Transfusion led the standings. But on the third day the lone Italian crew proved they had not come to make up the numbers, grabbing the overall championship lead.
The twists and turns off fortune kept everyone guessing to the last. The standard of the sailing on the final race raised the pulses of spectators. Goodness knows what it did to the crews on board the two leading yachts.
Five different boats won races during the series. Surprisingly, Nerone won five in total, while Transfusion won only once. But the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds has always been about consistency and minimizing damage. Transfusion never dipped below a seven, with all other results in the top five. The Italians posted a ten as their worst score, and could not keep in the top five for the rest. Still, for both to average under four-points per race is an extraordinary achievement in a fleet of twenty boats. Barking Mad in third could only average six.
Asked how he pulled off the recovery on the penultimate race, Kostecki laughed and asserted, 'We just happened to go the right way' when gybing early on the first downwind run. 'That was a really good race for us, coming back from so far away.' Belgiorno-Nettis’ reaction was clearer on the mental effort, 'yacht racing is an amazing thing. You never know what’s going to happen. We dug deep and kept going.'
Of his win, Belgiorno-Nettis was understandably thrilled,'It was such a privilege to be part of this fleet. I would like to thank the organization, the Farr 40 Association, all of the owners, and particularly Nerone who were tremendous competitors and very gracious in defeat.'
Of the second race, Vascotto rued an error just before the gun, 'we were in crowded place on the line and thought we had ten seconds to kill. Then we discovered we had only five seconds and we lost control of the start.'
'Then, my goal was to be really close to be Transfusion. At one point we were only one and half boat lengths behind. Unfortunately, at the marks, in that one or two boat lengths were seven or eight boats.'
Always one for humor in defeat, Vascotto’s final remark tells a lot about the spirit in which the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds is raced, 'Sydney is a fantastic place. It was fantastic yesterday when we were leading; it is still fantastic after we finish second.'
The next major event on the Rolex Yachting Calendar is the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race, which starts on the 24 May 2011. The course is a 400-nautical mile offshore race from Gaeta, Italy, south to the volcanic island of Stromboli off Sicily, and then north to the finish off Capri. The race is open to all maxi yacht classes, and will be organized by the International Maxi Association in conjunction with the Comitato Vela nel Golfo di Gaeta and the Yacht Club Capri. The race forms part of Rolex Capri Sailing Week.
The next Rolex Farr 40 Worlds will be held in Chicago in the summer of 2012. Final results Top Ten
Place, Boat Name, Country, Owner-Helm, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5-R6-R7-R8-R9-R10, Total
1) Transfusion, AUS, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, 4-4-2-1-7-4-4-5-2-2, 35
2) Nerone, ITA, Antonio Sodo Migliori & Massimo Mezzaroma, 2-1-10-8-1-1-6-1-1-6, 37
3) Barking Mad, USA, Jim Richardson, 15-10-5-9-2-3-10-2-5-1, 62
4) Flash Gordon, USA, Helmut & Evan Jahn, 11-2-9-2-8-5-11-3-4-9, 64
5) Estate Master, AUS, Lisa & Martin Hill, 1-8-1-5-9-10-12-12-8-4, 70
6) Goombay Smash, USA, William Douglass, 9-6-17-10-11-16-1-63-3, 82
7) Kokomo, AUS, Lang Walker, 19-5-4-7-5-9-3-7-9-14, 82
8) Hooligan, AUS, Marcus Blackmore, 13-3-6-4-16-14-8-4-6-8, 82
9) Struntje Light, GER, Wolfgang & Angela Schaefer, 3-13-3-21-4-13-2-8-11-7, 85
10) Voodoo Chile, AUS, Andrew Hunn & Lloyd Clark, 5-9-8-15-3-2-15-16-12-5, 90
Full Results Rolex Farr 40 Worlds