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
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