An international fleet of 17 yachts is set to take part in the 18th edition of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, hosted from 24-27 September by the Long Beach Yacht Club. The event is the pinnacle of the Farr 40 racing season.
Fiercely contested, this is an event that rewards teamwork, consistency and determination, values which are shared with Rolex. It's rare for one boat to dominate the Worlds, but last year Alex Roepers' Plenty (USA) was the exception, winning four of the seven races in San Francisco to finish 10 points clear of Martin Hill's Estate Master (AUS).
The Farr 40 class rules are tightly drawn, with only owners allowed to drive the boat and a maximum four professionals permitted on the 10-strong crew. A maximum 11 short and fast races will be contested over the four days. The aim is not necessarily to go out and win races, but to play the long game, trying to notch up consistently good scores while avoiding the kind of risks that could put you at the back of the pack.
Teams must stay focused on their boat, and with mere seconds separating the leading yachts, decisions need to be made quickly and manoeuvres carried out to perfection. The critical role played by timing has fostered the partnership with Rolex and the Farr 40 class since 2001.
As the defending champion, Plenty is considered the team to beat in Long Beach, although tactician Terry Hutchinson points out that they have narrowly missed out on victory in all of their regattas thus far in 2015. So he's not taking anything for granted. “We’ve had our opportunities but not quite been able to execute,” says the ever self-critical professional who insists on honesty and accountability as the framework from which to build a winning campaign. “That accountability applies to all 10 people on the boat. When it's firing on all cylinders, and the team functions at a high level, it's awesome to watch.”
Competition will be provided by some recent World Champions including Helmut Jahn’s Flash Gordon 6 (2012, Chicago) and Alberto Rossi’s Enfant Terrible (2013, Newport) in addition to last year’s runner-up from Australia. Martin Hill will be flying in from down under with the aim and expectation of being able to beat the Americans on home waters.
Hill is targeting downwind sailing as one of the key areas for success. “Downwind is not a time to rest, it is a time to make some changes on the ladder,” says Hill, who understands the need for precision and consistency. “It's about sailing a little more aggressively. We found some big wins in that area last year, so that’s something my pep talk will be very much trying to take on – about picking up where we finished off last time.”
The 2015 event will mark the end of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship’s four-year tour of the United States with the 2016 event due to be held in Sydney, Australia.
Here's an insight into the preparation of Estate Master:
When the 2015 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship starts in Long Beach, California, later this month, Australian yachting enthusiasts will pin all their hopes on Martin and Lisa Hill’s Estate Master, the sole Australia entry at the prestigious international event.
Long-standing Farr 40 aficionados of the class, the Hills, who finished runners-up at the 2014 Worlds, will vie for the Rolex Farr 40 crown from 24-27 September, after first ramping up in the Pre-Worlds, to be held over 21 and 22 September.
The Sydney couple, representing Middle Harbour Yacht Club and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, left for California yesterday with high hopes of transporting the trophy and title home to Sydney (host for the 2016 Farr 40 Worlds), as the reigning world champion. It would be special.
The Hills know only too well how difficult it is to win a one-design event of this calibre, having engaged in eight Farr 40 Worlds with Estate Master. Their track record, working back from second in 2014, is fifth, fourth, ninth and 15th.
In a fleet of 19 in 2014, including three other Australian entries, Estate Master finished second overall to Alex Roeper’s US entry, Plenty. In the process, the Australian couple defeated 2013 world champion, Alberto Rossi’s Enfante Terrible (ITA), by one place. The trio will face each other again for the 2015 title and Martin Hill says his crew is up to the task.
Boat captain, James Corrie, has given the boat a complete overhaul of equipment and instruments and a new paint job. Since, Estate Master has placed third at the West Coast Cabrillo Regatta, fourth at the Cal Cup and sixth at the North American Championship – all international events away from home.
“These results do not reflect our improvement though,” said Martin Hill, who is also the Farr 40 Association president.
“Overall, the top six Farr 40’s have become closer and we’ve been experimenting to find that edge,” he explained.
“We know we’re in a better shape in boat preparation and crew sailing knowledge. It’s just a matter of how we put it all together at the main event, but we trust Dog (long-term coach Andrew Palfrey) can keep us growing stronger,” Hill ended.
While Hill, as owner, will drive the boat, Lisa will not be aboard this time, but will be accompanying her husband and the crew to Long Beach. Despite Lisa staying ashore, Hill feels after finishing second at the Worlds last year and upping the ante on training will hold them in good stead.
In Estate Masters armoury for the 18th edition of the Farr 40 Worlds, is the record-breaking five-time world match racing champion, Ian Williams. The British sailor will be backed up by strategist Michael Dunstan, while Darren ‘Twirler’ Jones completes the back end of the boat as mainsail trimmer.
The rest of the crew are: Jason Rowed and Jason Currie trimming, Keith Glynn is in the pit, Harry Bethwaite, son of noted boat designer and sailor Julian, will do pit and box, Paul Atkins is at the mast and bowman is Marco Carpinello.
Estate Master is one of 17 boats from six nations entered for the Worlds. And apart from the past two world champions, Hill expects their toughest opposition will come from German entry, Struntje Light (Wolfgang Schaeffer), and Helmut Jahn’s Flash Gordon 6 (USA).
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship will be hosted by the Long Beach Yacht Club, which has played host to many international sailing events.
– Di Pearson, Estate Master media