For the teams competing at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in the Dominican Republic, it was a long, hot morning waiting dockside at the Casa de Campo Marina for the breeze to fill in. PRO Peter Reggio postponed the 11am start and kept the fleet dockside where they could find shade and stay hydrated. After an hour and a half delay, the fleet was sent out to the race area just a mile out from the marina entrance and racing was underway by 1pm. But the tropical Caribbean – temperatures in the 900F and high humidity – tested crewmembers’ concentration and focus.
The SSW breeze was light at 6-8 knots for the first race. The race committee sent the fleet on a 1.7 nautical mile W-L-W-L course. Transfusion (AUS) led the pack down the line on starboard and was at the pin end at the gun.
Owner/helmsman, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis said, “We decided we wanted to go conservative at the start – we got ourselves a nice little lane, and we had a good start. And then the boat was fast and we just kept out of trouble, but Tom (Slingsby, tactician) must have felt it was just worth staying were we were — we didn’t do many tacks, and we got to the top mark first. Then we just kept that gap all the way. Very light, very challenging conditions…very exhausting, I’ve got to say it was really hard work.
“I think the first race was very nice, it was very satisfying, particularly with the Pre-Worlds result for us (Transfusion finished 10th). It was nice to come back and get a first in the first race and keep the good result going.”
For the second race, the race committee reset the starting line to the west and sent competitors on the same course as the breeze increased slightly up to 12 knots. The fleet was even more tightly packed and hard by the pin end of the start line, Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone (ITA) was very close to being over early. Clearly they thought they were, though there was no flag or call from the RC boat, and after a boat length, Nerone turned around, sailed back and recrossed the start line. But the team was impressive as they clawed back from last place to finish in 5th place.
A frustrated Vasco Vascotto, Nerone’s tactician said, “We were supposed to be over the line, and we came back (to restart). It was a big present to everyone. We have an opportunity to do better – we made a present of four points today, I hope it is enough for the competitors!”
Alex Roepers’ Plenty (USA), overlapped and to windward of Lisa & Martin Hill’s Estate Master (AUS), tacked away for clear air and went to the right side of the course. Transfusion, midway down the start line was in clear air and stayed left up the first beat, slowly working they way through the fleet. At the top mark they were in third place and from there worked up to second at the leeward mark and by the windward mark the second time, they were in the lead, which they held to the finish.
The breeze dropped back to 6-8 knots for the third and final race of the day. At the start, it was Doug Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA) at the pin end leading Estate Master, with Transfusion and Wolfgang Schaefer’s Struntje Light (GER) on their hip. Goombay Smash led the fleet all the way around the course and down the last leg they were under attack from Barking Mad.
Jim Richardson, Barking Mad owner/helmsman said, “The wind had lightened up a bit, and when you’re out in the heat all day and it’s light, it’s hard to concentrate. People get cranky on the boat, and people get cranky on other boats. But I thought our crew did a really good job of sailing in those conditions and everyone kept their focus. We realized how difficult it is to sail in those conditions, so factoring all that we were pretty pleased.”
Barking Mad was second around the first mark and second around the leeward gate – they rounded the left gate, while Goombay Smash and Nerone went for the right hand gate. Heading downwind to the finish, Barking Mad started to reel in Goombay Smash, and Richardson said, “It’s hard to defend downwind in light air, and we got inside of them a little bit and we had a little bit of pressure. We were quite a distance away from them, but we were on their air.” The finish was looking to be too close to call until Barking Mad got into a bit more pressure and they crossed the finish line just ahead of Goombay Smash.
Today was the Casa de Campo Race Day. Day One’s overall leaders after three races – Transfusion, Barking Mad, Nerone – were presented with Farr 40 boat models built by Abordage. The company, based in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, has been proudly producing beautifully hand-crafted ship models since 1989.
POS BOAT NAME OWNER / HELMSMAN
1 TRANSFUSION GUIDO BELGIORNO-NETTIS AUS 6422 1 1 3 5
2 BARKING MAD JIM RICHARDSON USA 50955 4 3 1 8
3 NERONE MASSIMO MEZZAROMA ITA 1972 2 5 5 12
4 GOOMBAY SMASH DOUG DOUGLASS USA 2 8 8 2 18
5 FIAMMA ALESSANDRO BARNABA ITA 252 5 7 6 18
6 ESTATE MASTER LISA & MARTIN HILL AUS 615 7 2 10 19
7 PLENTY ALEX ROEPERS USA 60059 3 9 7 19
8 ENFANT TERRIBLE ALBERTO ROSSI ITA 20091 6 10 4 20
9 STRUNTJE LIGHT WOLFGANG SCHAEFER GER 40 9 4 9 22
10 FLASH GORDON 6 HELMUT & EVAN JAHN USA 60002 10 6 8 24
The sailing conditions off the Casa de Campo resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic lived up to expectations as the Farr 40 fleet finished up a five-race series for the Rolex Farr 40 Pre-Worlds. Ten boats and teams from four countries – United States, Italy, Australia, and Germany – are in the Caribbean to tune up for the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship which will run from April 21 – 24, 2010.
After five races for the Rolex Farr 40 Pre-Worlds, it was Lisa & Martin Hill’s Estate Master (AUS) that finished on top, with Doug Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA), and defending Rolex Farr 40 World Champion, Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad (USA) in third place.
Though the fleet is smaller than in recent Farr 40 Worlds, the racing was just as tight and competitive: in the five races, eight teams posted scores in the top three, the shifty conditions over the weekend giving all teams a shot at coming out on top.
On Saturday, Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio and his race committee ran three races — two nautical mile leg windward/leeward courses — that gave the fleet of ten boats a taste of the local conditions.
The 2008 Rolex North American Champion Doug Douglass and his Goombay Smash team won the first race of the regatta and went on to finish the first day of racing at the top of the leader board. Lisa and Martin Hill’s Estate Master took second in race one and held off the Nerone (ITA), steered by Alberto Signorini to finish second. Defending Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad took the gun in race two ahead of Enfant Terrible (ITA) crossing in second and fellow Italian team Alessandro Barnaba’s Fiamma (ITA) sliding into third.
On Sunday, two more windward/leeward races were run, and going into the fifth and last race, Estate Master was tied with Goombay Smash for first place overall. Both boats had a plan to start at the pin end, but it was Estate Master that pulled it off. Added to that, at the top of the first windward beat, Goombay Smash incurred a penalty for a port-starboard incident and had to do a 7200 turn, which effectively ended their chances of catching Estate Master.
Owner/helmsman Martin Hill plan to start at the pin end paid off, “We noticed there’s a trend at the bottom of the course — there’ s a right breeze and you get to the top mark and it goes left, so ideally you try to start on starboard as far as you can towards the pin, and then tack onto port and go for the top mark. That was our plan and we got down there and no one was around us, so happy days! I don’t know what was wrong, so we tacked and led the entire race. We’re not stupid enough to know that this is a practice race for the Worlds. Still I take any win, and it was lovely – the wind, the sunshine, and just being in the Caribbean, it’s just fantastic here.”
Hill, clearly enthused about his teams Pre-Worlds win, cautioned, “The only thing is there’s always a type of voodoo about winning the Pre-Worlds, it’s bad luck. But I said, ‘I’m not into superstitions, I’ve got to take any international regatta that I can’.
Hill’s wife, Lisa, sails on the boat in the pit position. Apparently a quick learner, she’s only been sailing six years, four of them on their Farr 40. After raising three kids in Sydney, she was looking around for something to do to fill her time. Hill said, “So I thought, well Martin’s not going to stop sailing, and so I sort of turned up one day and said ‘I’m here boys, and they sort of looked horrified’. And I thought, ‘I’ve brought up three kids I think I can do this. Just be patient.’”
Given the distance they had to travel from Australia, Hill and his crew arrived in the Dominican Republic last Saturday a full week before the Pre-Worlds began, to get acclimatized to the time difference. They put the days to good use, sailing in the local conditions. Hill said, “We had a new mast and things to test out. It gave us a lot of confidence in testing the breeze and also we’ve been recording for the last month the wind direction, so we’ve been watching the trend.” “It’s a little obsessive”, he said with a laugh, “but you need a certain amount of confidence. We had the patience to wait for the shifts, we knew that it would come.”
Indicative of several teams whose scores trended up through the series, Alex Roepers’ Plenty (USA) had a second in the last race. Tactician Tony Rey said, “ We pulled some magic out there. We had a reasonable start and hit the first two shifts and sort of put our elbows out from there and tried to put everyone behind us.”
About the upcoming Worlds, Rey said, “It’s going to be shifty enough, especially if we sail close to land – they’ll be plenty of lead changes to follow. This week is about getting off the starting line and being able to go straight for the first eight minutes. If you can do that, without tacking, you’re going to be in the top four at the top mark.”
Added to that is the fleet size which makes it even more critical to sail well, Rey said, “With ten boats you have to be very fast and you have to get a good start, it’s very hard to come back.”
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship racing begins on Wednesday, April 21 through Saturday, April 24, and is organised by the Casa de Campo Yacht Club and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be led by Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio, with Henry Menin as Jury Chairman. The Race Committee intends to conduct as many races as practical on each scheduled day of racing, with up to a maximum of ten races for the series.
A charity fundraising golf tournament for the competitors, on the famed Pete Dye-designed “Teeth of the Dog” golf course, will be held tomorrow, Monday, April 19. Monies raised from the tournament will be donated to benefit the Haitian disaster relief effort, through Partners in Health (PIH), a Boston-based non-profit organization that has been on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. PIH operates world-renowned clinics and health care programs with 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses and nursing assistants in eight sites across Haiti. For more information, go to www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti.
Rolex Farr 40 Pre-Worlds – Final Results
(Position, Name, Owner, Country, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5, Total Points)
1. Estate Master, Lisa & Martin Hill (AUS), 2-4-4-1-1, 12
2. Goombay Smash, Doug Douglass (USA), 1-5-3-2-6, 17
3. Barking Mad, Jim Richardson (USA), 4-1-6-4-4, 19
4. Fiamma, Alessandro Barnaba (ITA), 9-3-1-7-5, 25
5. Nerone, Massimo Mezzarona/Alberto Signorini (ITA), 3-6-2-9-7, 27
6. Enfant Terrible, Alberto Rossi/Roberto Strappati (ITA), 6-2-7-5-10, 30
7. Flash Gordon 6, Helmut & Evan Jahn (USA), 10-9-9-3-3, 34
8. Struntje Light, Wolfgang Schaefer (GER), 5-7-5-8-9, 34
9. Plenty, Alex Roepers (USA), 7-10-8-10-2, 37
10. Transfusion, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (AUS), 8-8-DNF-6-8, 41
You cannot ask for much more. Tremendous racing conditions with a building Mistral and a lumpy sea, made worse by the constant attention of the spectator fleet. Porto Cervo laid it on thick and the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds 2009 delivered. None more so than the new World Champions Barking Mad (USA) and runners up, Nerone (ITA).
Nerone went out all guns blazing. Once again she took the left side of the course popping out from the pin; tactician Vasco Vascotto relying on his vast experience in these waters to take the initiative early, He could not have been more right. First to the windward mark, Nerone led around the track to win from Giovanni Maspero’s Joe Fly and Helmut Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA). Barking Mad, meanwhile, had opted for the centre and according to Richardson, things did not go as well as intended.
These are the moments that championships are won and lost. Rounding the top mark mid-fleet, the American crew may have briefly wondered if this was the regatta slipping away from them.
But Richardson and crew had a game plan and were not about to give up on it just yet, as Hutchinson chips in, “without question we felt we could win going into the start of the week. But feeling it and doing it are two completely different things. When we lined up on the first day we had a mode that we have not had in a while. We had a game plan of being safe and the mantra all week on the boat was that we just want to get on base, we didn’t want to hit any home runs, just keep getting on base and advancing the runners.” To get back ‘on base’ in this race was going to take some effort.
If doubts were creeping-in none were shown. “We showed a lot of fortitude to sail back through the fleet to finish sixth which kept us one point in the lead,” said a relieved Richardson.
The minds of both crews must have been buzzing heading to the start of the final deciding race.
Again, it was all down to keeping one’s head and applying the game plan. Nerone headed left once more. Mezzaroma confirmed their strategy did not change because of their relative position to the leader, “we were one point behind and were not in a position to control them. So we had to make our own race.” On Barking Mad, the lure of the left was not so strong. This was a conservative crew after all.
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.” Any self-doubts were kept private, though post-race Richardson confessed to some troubled thoughts, “I never doubted my team’s capability. But leading wire-to-wire puts a little bit of extra pressure on each and every race. In 1999, we led going into the last race and ended up third, so that was in the back of my mind. I felt pretty comfortable that we were going to be able to get a good start in the race and get around the course in good shape. We certainly weren’t giving up. We knew we had our hands full, but we knew we had to sail well and that is what we did.”
As the initial beat unwound, the crew of Barking Mad found themselves in second place, hot on the heels of Alessandro Barnaba’s Fiamma (ITA) and overtaking them at the offset mark with a textbook spinnaker hoist. Those watching the racing started counting back to Nerone. The left had clearly not paid. In fact, it had bitten the Italian crew hard. The miraculous recovery of the previous day that kept them in the hunt was going to have to be repeated. That was a Herculian task. Barking Mad were not sailing as though their lives depended on it, they did not need to. They just needed to keep between Nerone and the finish, as Hutchinson explained, “the team responded brilliantly. We got a great start. We got a little break from Plenty, who let us tack across them. From there it was into a good lead and extend. Fortunately Nerone was back. They gained on us on the second beat, but we were safe down at the bottom mark. At that point it was about minimising damage and sailing a good clean race through to the finish.”
With Barking Mad home and dry in second, the finish of Nerone was immaterial, although eighth was good enough to hold onto the runner’s-up position overall.
A feature of the Farr 40 fleet is the friendly rivalry between crews on and off the water. Vascotto and Hutchinson have been adversaries for many years, but they found time to speak this morning before heading onto the course, as Hutchinson remarks, And, it is evident that the competitors hold each other in a regard rarely seen in other sports. “Sailing against somebody like Vasco makes you a better sailor and we hold the highest respect for that team,” he adds.
Both Hutchinson and Richardson knew they had been engaged in a battle royal. When they last won in San Francisco it was by 40-points. Mezzaroma echoed the quality of the contest, “it was a great competition sailing against all these good crews, these good boats. It is the key of the Farr 40. The level is always so high, it becomes higher and higher every year.” Vascotto, too, was gracious in defeat, “I think we did a fantastic championship: three firsts, two seconds, two eighths – usually you win with these kind of results! This time we found in front of us Barking Mad, sailed in a perfect way. We tried our best, but this is sport.”
For Richardson, it is a dream come true, “We’re very, very happy. Coming to Italy and winning this World Championship in Porto Cervo is an amazing feeling for us. 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.
We tried to stay calm all week. It’s easy to get too wound up and too hyped up. Our basic philosophy throughout the regatta was not to take chances, or take risks. If necessary we ducked boats rather than try to force an issue. Our point-score is a tribute to how well we sailed the boat, without taking any risks. Our worst race was a sixth and that is pretty good.” He is not kidding, no previous winner of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds has averaged less than four points for the Championship. As Vascotto pointed out, even Nerone’s score would have won in all previous years.
For Vincenzo Onorato, the outgoing, three-time (in a row) World Champion, who laughingly remarked that his last race this year was the first race of his 2010 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds campaign, this was “a wonderful story for the Class.”
After four days of competition, played out in an exceptional venue, we’ll allow the winners to sum it up: “there’s nothing better than this, that’s for sure!”
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER 10 RACES
Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5-R6-R7-R8-R9-R10-Points
1. BARKING MAD Jim Richardson USA, 1-6-4-1-6-6-3-3-6-2-38.00
2. NERONE Massimo Mezzaroma ITA, 5-1-13-2-4-2-1-8-1-8-45.00
3. JOE FLY Giovanni Maspero ITA, 4-5-5-4-1-19-2-6-2-5-53.00
4. MASCALZONE LATINO Vincenzo Onorato ITA, 2-10-2-9-8-1-13-13-7-1-66.00
5. FLASH GORDON Helmut Jahn USA, 20-4-3-11-11-20-4-2-3-3-81.00
6. PLENTY Alex Roepers USA, 12,13,19,13,10,4,15-5-4-7-102.00
7. TWINS Erik Maris FRA, 14-8-15-14-5-5-6-18-8-9-102.00
8. TRANSFUSION Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AUS, 9-7-1-3-20-25-5-4-17-13-104.00
9. ESTATE MASTER Lisa & Martin Hill AUS, 8-18-10-7-15-21-9-10-5-10-113.00
10. TWT Marco Rodolfi ITA, 6-9-14-19-13-13-7-1-20-15-117.00
Barking Mad (USA) heads the table after another day of conservatism, whilst Nerone (ITA) stands six-points behind in second, after a performance of truly mercurial liberalism. Two opposing race strategies seemingly on a collision course.
With two races left, Joe Fly (ITA) in third is by no means out of it, but bridging a sixteen-point gap will require a god of Jupiter’s standing to step in. Current World Champions, Mascalzone Latino (ITA), will go down fighting to the last, but a twenty-eight-point gap to the lead looks insurmountable even for the miracle workers on board.
Three races today in a building westerly, with an underlying sea swell running, made for excellent racing conditions. Again, we had three different winners. Vincenzo Onorato looked to have put yesterday behind him, carving out a fine victory on Mascalzone Latino. The next two races though were killers for his Championship aspirations, as Mascalzone scored 13, 13. Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone picked the plum in race two, following a second in race one. All this good work was almost wiped out as he started the third race too early. In that race, Marco Rodolfi and TWT (ITA) finally showed their true potential passing Helmut Jahn and Flash Gordon (USA) on the final leg to win.
The first race was notable for Joe Fly being over early. Giovanni Maspero’s crew could finish no better than nineteenth, pushing them back in the standings, while Mascalzone’s first and Nerone’s second place had enabled them to close the gap to Barking Mad which finished sixth.
Come the second race, conditions had picked up further and the tension on the racecourse was becoming tangible. As the initial beat unwound at the first windward rounding, Mascalzone’s recovery looked to be short lived as she struggled round in mid-fleet. At the front, Nerone led with Barking Mad in fifth – a result that would level their scores. But the race was far from over.
Joe Fly was in second place. Maspero and tactician, Francesco Bruni, were sailing her like a blowfly, an annoying presence buzzing all around Mezzaroma and his tactician, Vasco Vascotto, engaging in every strategy possible to try to get past. Further back, the normally steadfast Barking Mad crew appeared to be pushing hard to limit the potential loss to Nerone. Sitting behind Goombay Smash and Flash Gordon at the first leeward rounding, Terry Hutchinson worked some magic to pass first Doug Douglass and then slip in front of Helmut Jahn at the second windward mark. The dogfighting was not finished by any means, but those two precious places saved meant the difference between Barking Mad leading overall at the end of the race or seeing their position eroded still further.
As it was, the third race of the day proved to be the more critical. In keeping with his character, Vascotto looked to seize the initiative early. One of a clutch of boats aiming to secure the pin end of the line, Nerone looked to have hit the line perfectly and at speed. A few seconds later, the heros to zeros were heading back to restart. One of two boats caught over early by the vigilant race officials. Quite what goes through the mind of top class tactician at this critical point in a World Championship regatta is anyone’s guess. What marks them out though as better than the rest is their response.
With the fleet heading left, Nerone went right. By the first windward mark she was only up to nineteenth and it looked game-over. Barking Mad rounded in third, a position she never gave up. By the finish, though, Nerone had played the poker hand of poker hands and crossed the line in eighth. Some recovery. In the circumstances, bleeding only five-points to the Americans must have felt like the aftermath successful heart-surgery. Bruised but certainly not dead and buried.
Vascotto was his usual chirpy-self once back ashore and the great escapologist is certainly no apologist, “it was a really good day after two races and I think we sail the best race in the last one when we started over the line and we had a great recovery because we finished eighth. We are inside the championship still and I think tomorrow will be a great day. It will be a lot of fun, should be a lot of wind and we’ll try to be ready for the fight.”
Even when she won the Championship in 2003, Nerone did not opt for the steady approach, starting and finishing the event with some appalling scores. Vascotto is refreshing in his processing of their performances so far, “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 this championship, but we are second and still ready to fight.” Wouldn’t he be happier sailing more conservatively? “I’m not able to sail conservatively!” is the reply.
For Jim Richardson, a two-time World Champion in the Class, it could not be much better going into the last day. Averaging under four-points a race would have won all previous Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, so the Barking Mad crew is on the money at this event. Understandably, Richardson chooses his words carefully when describing their performance so far. There are still two races to go and the Championship is clearly his to lose, “I think we are sailing very well. I think we are sailing conservatively, we’re not taking chances even though sometimes we start on the wrong end of the line, away from the bias, so that we do not get congested or influenced to be over the line.”
Richardson is explaining a strategy that could not be more opposite in appearance to that displayed by Nerone, as he continues, “I’m not entirely surprised at some of the mistakes being made. People get aggressive and want to get to the start line bow out and sometimes it causes people to be over the line. We’ve taken sterns when we needed to, we’ve not pushed anything on the racecourse, we’ve figured it best to come in sixth rather than spend three hours in the protest room to maybe come in third. We’re just trying to avoid the big mistakes and hope that people around us make them.”
So far Barking Mad have made no mistakes. They are the exception in this Championship. The question tomorrow is conservatism versus liberalism, which one will win through. It is a fascinating struggle that has even the normally irrepressible Geoff Stagg almost speechless, “in my opinion it’s Barking Mad’s to lose. Everyone else around them has tripped. They have been so consistent, they are starting very clean and do not appear to be rattled on the water. But it’s a World Championship. Nerone is barking at the door. Two races to go, only six-points in it. Anything can happen.” We can’t wait.
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER RACE 8
Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R1-R2-R3-R4-R5-R6-R7-R8-Points
1. BARKING MAD Jim Richardson USA, 1-6-4-1-6-6-3-3-30.00
2. NERONE Massimo Mezzaroma ITA, 5-1-13-2-4-2-1-8-36.00
3. JOE FLY Giovanni Maspero ITA, 4-5-5-4-1-19-2-6-46.00
4. MASCALZONE LATINO Vincenzo Onorato ITA, 2-10-2-9-8-1-13-13-58.00
5. TRANSFUSION Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AUS, 9-7-1-3-20-25-5-4-74.00
6. FLASH GORDON Helmut Jahn USA, 20-4-3-11-11-20-4-2-75.00
7. TWT Marco Rodolfi ITA, 6-9-14-19-13-13-7-1-82.00
8. TWINS Erik Maris FRA, 14-8-15-14-5-5-6-18-85.00
9. PLENTY Alex Roepers USA, 12,13,19,13,10,4,15-5-91.00
10. FIAMMA Alessandro Barnaba ITA, 3-12-7-10-24-10-16-12-94.00
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2009 is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing is being held in the waters off Porto Cervo, Sardinia and runs from Wednesday, 24 June to Saturday, 27 June.