Porto Cervo put on one of the feasts for which it is famous in the sailing world. A cobalt blue sky as an antipasti, solid warm breeze for the primi piatti, decent waves for the secondi and the dolce were three excellent races. All on day one of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2009. Barking Mad (USA) sits atop the heap this evening, with a narrow three-point lead over the 2008 Worlds sparring partners Mascalzone Latino (ITA) and Joe Fly (ITA). Today was all about keeping clean and trying to stay mean. Some got it right, others did not.
The three race winners were Barking Mad, Nerone (ITA) and Transfusion (AUS). All three sit in the top five and will be happy to have held it together on a day when only four boats posted results inside the top ten in each race. American owner, Jim Richardson, and his Australian counterpart, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, are flying the flag for the international contingent and will be pleased with their day's work. Massimo Mezzaroma has reason to be content too, but will be ruing the 13th posted in race three by Nerone. Ominously, current World Champion, Vincenzo Onorato on Mascalzone, sits in second place after quietly going about his business to score a 2, 10, 2.
All three races were held in a breeze that varied between 16 and 22 knots over the day, but stayed pretty consistently from the west. All three races were won from the front and clearly getting of the line cleanly, in good position was key. The second key to a successful day was minimising the points spread. According to Vasco Vascotto, tactician on Nerone the left hand side of the course looked the best, certainly for the first two races where their tactic of winning the pin worked well. In the third race, Nerone went hard left again and was more than a little disappointed to find itself the wrong side of a shift, which bumped the crew hard down the rankings to mid-fleet.
For Giovanni Maspero and Joe Fly the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds is their first Farr 40 event of the season, so to be the only yacht in the fleet to post front-five results in each race must be pleasing. However, the crew with the biggest grins at the end of the day appeared to be the Australians on Transfusion. Belgiorno-Nettis was suitably impressed with his team's performance, “it was a wonderful day with tremendous conditions here at the Costa Smeralda. A little bit of building pressure and the boat was perfect. We made a few mistakes in the first couple of races where we didn't quite clear the start as we would like, but we're also here to figure out how it all works. This is the first time we've competed against the big boys of the class.”
As one of the newcomers to the elite of Farr 40 racing, Belgiorno-Nettis is finding his feet at this level and like so many before him reckons the secret to success is a clean start and good lane selection, “in the first two races we were a little bit late to the start. We couldn't get the lanes we wanted and other guys kept moving up on us. It's amazing when you are the front how much fun it is. Tom (Slingsby), our tactician, got us a really good start in the last race and that made a big difference.”
This is something echoed by Doug Douglass, owner of Goombay Smash, the second of three American yachts in the leading pack overnight. Like Nerone, Goombay Smash blotted its copybook with a poor result in the third race and, whilst he would have liked to finish the day closer to the front, Douglass enjoyed his time on the water, “we're pleased to be here, it was great to have the big breeze; a great day of sailing. We were fast both upwind and downwind, but in the last race didn't find our lanes as nicely as the previous two. It really helped to get a clear lane off a good start.”
Two-time Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby (Transfusion) is one of a number of small-boat sailors filling the all-important tactician role at this year's World's. A relative newcomer to the Farr 40, Slingsby has been sailing on bigger boats for the past five years or so. Does it help to be a dinghy sailor in this Class? ” Sometimes my role as tactician on a Farr 40 is very similar to being on the Laser. They have similar boat speeds and I love the tactical game of chess of picking the shifts and trying to find my way through the fleet without using only boatspeed,” answers Slingsby.
There are big differences too though, as Slingsby points out, “at the starts I'm not used to the timed runs in. In a Laser we'll just sit on the line, wait and wait and wait and then go. In these big waves you have to get a good run in, which is a challenge. Then at mark roundings you're telling the owner 'up and down' while trying not to put a hole in another Farr 40. The Laser is a bit of a bumper boat and you can bump off others and get going again. Here there is a bit more riding on it.it's much more important to stay in the rules.”
A number of boats on the course would attest to the last remark. The temptation to duck into the line on port tack is ever present at the close-fought mark roundings. Get it right and you walk away smelling of roses. Get it wrong and the crew suffers the dizzying effect of a 720 degree penalty turn, plus the ignominy of returning to the fray a lot closer to the back of the fleet than intended.
More used to being alone in his boat, Slingsby says it has taken time to get comfortable with the team environment. “I'm getting used to it, but sometimes I can go a bit quiet on the boat, like I'm sailing the Laser again,” he comments, emphasising that despite the unfamiliarity he enjoys being part of the crew and regards the Farr 40 as the best one-design yacht racing around. According to Belgiorno-Nettis, Slingsby is more than capable of holding his own in the hot seat helping him stay focussed on the job of helming with some gentle words of encouragement. “The tactician always has the whip on me,” he laughs, “don't turn around, don't look at anything except what you're doing and the numbers!” Good advice certainly, but when it is all kicking off around you it must be tough.
Racing continues tomorrow, 25 June, with the first gun at 11.00. Geoff Stagg, of the Farr 40 Management Committee, sums up the state of play, “there's a lot of boats lurking near the top; tomorrow will be a day where boats start to make their moves. It's still anybody's to win.” Stay tuned.
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER THREE RACES
Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R's-Points
1. BARKING MAD Jim Richardson USA, 1-6-4-11.00
2. MASCALZONE LATINO Vincenzo Onorato ITA, 2-10-2-14.00
3. JOE FLY Giovanni Maspero ITA, 4-5-5-14.00
5. TRANSFUSION Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AUS, 9-7-1-17.00
6. NERONE Massimo Mezzaroma ITA, 5-1-13-19.00
7. GOOMBAY SMASH William Douglass USA, 7-2-12-21.00
8. FIAMMA Alessandro Barnaba ITA, 3-12-7-22.00
9. FLASH GORDON Helmut Jahn USA, 20-4-3-27.00
10. TWT Marco Rodolfi ITA, 6-9-14-29.00
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2009 is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be held in the waters off Porto Cervo, Sardinia from Wednesday, 24 June to Saturday, 27 June.
For more information about the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds including entry and crew lists, tracking, live reporting from the racecourse and results please visit www.farr40worldchampionship.com