Jeff Janov's West Coast fleet champion Dark Star looked to be romping away to the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship in winning the first two races Saturday when---surprise!---a new threat popped up out of the turbulent Pacific Ocean.
Viva La Vida, just in from Australia, where it was known as Goombay Smash, won its first race in the hands of new local owners Bill Durant and Jeff Shew to steal some glory of its own.
The double-blue boat---dark on starboard, light on port---is tied for sixth in the 10-boat fleet, with Dark Star (1-1-5) still on top, but suddenly it was a different regatta. Dark Star finished fifth, hanging on to a one-point lead over perennial contender Dave Voss's Piranha (2-3-3).
'We finally got the plan working and got the right start,' Durant said. 'Until then we got a couple of neutral starts and couldn't hold a line. We were going sideways. We felt more confident by the end of the day.'
And a tough day it was, with less breeze than forecast at 11 to 14 knots west-southwest but five-foot seas and a challenging chop.
That was on the outside course off Seal Beach. The race committee has the option of racing inside the breakwater near Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier but hadn't planned to do that until Monday's wrap-up races, unless conditions persuaded otherwise---and Sunday's forecast called for 22 knots.
'Whatever they want to do,' Janov said. 'I just show up to do the races.'
As for Saturday, 'We didn't have any problems,' Janov said. 'It was very tight racing.'
Dark Star (1-1-5) led at every mark through the first two races, which were two and three laps around windward-leeward courses measuring 1.5-nautical miles top to bottom. But in the third go-round, as the wind faded slightly and the course was shortened to 1.25 nm, Dark Star was done in at the start by Frederic Sheer's Far Niente from Hermosa Beach.
As they approached the start, Far Niente, now in fourth place at 4-2-8, squeezed off Dark Star at the committee boat, forcing its rival into the second row from where it never fully recovered, and opening the opportunity for Viva La Vida.
Even Janov could appreciate the tactic.
'They've been practicing very hard and they're very serious,' Janov said. 'It's very tight racing.'
A maximum of eight races will be run, starting at 1 p.m. each day.
The racing is administered by the Long Beach Yacht Club but the boats are based and hosted by Gladstone's restaurant at Rainbow Harbor downtown, accessible to visitors. Farr 40 Class Association Long Beach Yacht Club