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The story of an impossible World Championship

by Vincenzo Onorato on 26 Apr 2008
Vincenzo Onorato, winning helmsman on MASCALZONE LATINO - 2008 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo

Vincenzo Onorato writes of the recently concluded Farr 40 Worlds at Miami, at which his team and crew, Mascalzone Latino won their third successive world championship in the class.

April 15, Tuesday

The plan of the day is a light training, just to stretch before the regattas begin.

I’m focused and quiet: statistics are not favourable, we have already won two championships in a row and the third one is a 'mission impossible'. Furthermore we are conscious that Jim and Terry are in great shapes. They just won Key West and the S.O.R.C. and they are real champions.

It will be difficult to defeat them as well as Mean Machine, Alinghi, Paul Cayard, Tommaso Chieffi, Alberini and others ….

It is ten in the morning and I’m having my ordinary breakfast based on carbs, when my phone rings. It is Adrian, my tactician, the man I have been working with for many years now to build a winning team. He says just a few hard-fought words: 'I am really sorry but I should come back home, my wife is in the delivery room'. I knew this could happen, though the baby should have born in May and I decided to run the risk: Adrian is the key-man of this crew, we understand each other perfectly on the boat. My answer comes from the heart: 'I have five children and they are the blood of my life, this is just a wonderful game, God bless you'.

Yes, right, and now? I gather together the crew and ask them a simple question: 'What are we going to do?'

Technically we should go home of course. It takes years to create a symbiosis among helmsman, tactician and crew. Finding a substitute on the eve of the regatta, without having even the time to try, is embarrassing and ridiculous at the same time. They all speak: Davide states he loses the World Championship in action, Jerry and the others agree with him, Andrea, the wisest of the group, reminds us we are yachtsmen and that we came here for the regattas.

Marco Savelli, a brother to me, says it is better to die than not being present. This is what I wanted to hear: we will sail! But who is going to call the tactics? We think of Dee Smith, but he left to Europe the night before. The name of Morgan Larson comes out. We call him, he is comfortably relaxed in his house on the West Coast. 'Morgan would you like to come?'…'When?'…'You must leave now'…'I have a regatta on the East Coast in two days time'…'Wonderful! Tomorrow you are free then!'…'I am going to sleep in the plane and I will be tired…' 'Try to have a nice rest, you are a champion'. Some other calls and we have John Kosteki for the other days.

Guys smile, we are unconscious relaxed: 'Hey guys, put fore a light blue cockade tomorrow, we sail for Lucca Stead, welcome into the world and fuck off all the regattas! Thanks God we will have time to win in the future!' In the evening, in spite of the strict rule we have unwillingly established (that is to limit drinking during the regatta days), we drank 14 red wine bottles!!! Who said the Californian wine is bad?...Could life be easier?

April 16, Wednesday

First day of regattas. 'Guys, Morgan, let’s have fun!' And we are having fun, we are first. In the afternoon Morgan hugs us and flies away, what a champion!
In the evening arrives a living legend: John Kosteki. I ask him to drink something together. I tell him: 'Hey John, do you know you owe me one?' He looks at me confused.
'In San Francisco, in 1999, you won the Farr 40 World Championship on Samba Pa Ti with only one point less than us. Now you must give me that World Championship back!'
John hardly smiles.

April 17, Thursday

Three regattas and we are in first position. I told John my English was nearly as bad as his Italian. In a pre-start he tells me: 'Nice tack' and I understand 'Quick tack' and I tack again, while he exclaims: 'What are you doing?' During the first upwindleg I swear to myself I have to start again my English classes as I come back in Italy.

>b>April 18, Friday

Two regattas and we are still on the top of the fleet. I have never been so concentrated on steering and the mutual understanding among us is magic.

April 19, Saturday, the last day

We win the World Championship but the protest poisons the day. Yet, for the ones who read me and do not know about sailing, protests, in case of infringement, are a guarantee for the quality of the game. I do not want to go into the merits of the question because it is evident and, most of all, there is the decision of a qualified international Jury. The only thing I have at heart is the personal relationship I was establishing with Giovanni Maspero.

In the Newport World Championship in 2000, while we were winning, we had been disqualified for not giving room to a down wind mark, with the witnessing of an Italian boat, still present, also in this occasion, in the cases against us, that is how the world goes…It was a great sorrow after the second place in 1999.

In the World Championship in Newport in 2006, in a situation exactly alike the one caused by Joe Fly, while rounding the mark we forced Barking Mad to luff. We had learnt the lesson and we made the 720, the penalty provided by the rules. This done even if Jim Richarson and Terry Hutchinson are good friends of us and we could have asked them not to present a protest. Jim Richarson and Terry Hutchinson are gentlemen, models for the world of sailing and we would have never abused of our confidence. We did the penalty and anyway won the World Championship, also thanks to some good luck.

Not seeing Giovanni at the prizegiving has been a sorrow. Maspero has probably been ill-advised by someone, as I know him as a gentleman, an important man, with his real passion for the Italian sailing.

In this World Championship an unpleasant presence was the one of the journalist Luca Bontempelli. 'You will know a tree by its fruits!' said Jesus and the Bontempelli ones are always poisoned. The entire world knows my team and I are always willing for the journalists, to whom goes our deepest professional respect, anytime and in any condition. We have broken off relations with Bontempelli since the America’s Cup in Auckland. I thought, and I was wrong, ignoring each other as people presumably intelligent was an acceptable compromise. In his behaviour in Miami and in his declarations there has been an improvement: I can’t tolerate personal insults to me or to the guys of my crew. We are going to defend ourself with a legal charge to ask for the civil injury we are due to.

Apart from that, greetings go to Giovanni Maspero – the Farr 40s need such a owner – to Geoff Stagg, who the great Jim Richarson keeps the class alive with, to Peter 'Luigi' Reggio always surprising for his extraordinary skill and, last but not least, to our fans.

Thanks and good sailing!

Vincenzo Onorato

X-Yachts AUS X4 - FOOTER - 3J Composites 2020 - FOOTERTeam Windcraft 2021 - Dehler - FOOTER

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