Tomorrow morning the hearts and minds of the crews of the twenty Farr 40s berthed at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron will be focused on one thing: the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship. The word on the dock is that this championship is there for the taking. There is no clear favourite, figuring the top three proving as hard as guessing the top ten.
There are plenty of pointers to form. The defending champion, Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone (ITA) is on song having won the Rolex Trophy in December and the Australian Championship over the past weekend. Three-time Rolex Farr 40 Worlds winner Jim Richardson and Barking Mad (USA) came second at the Australians with new tactician Hamish Pepper bedding in well; the 2010/2011 Australian Circuit winner Lisa and Martin Hill’s Estate Master (AUS) with its triumvirate of world champions, and, Olympic medallists and hopefuls (Tom Slingsby, Malcolm Page and Nathan Outteridge) was third. Today, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and Transfusion (AUS), second at last year’s worlds and with John Kostecki in the tactician’s role this year, were runaway winners of an exhibition race around Sydney Harbour.
Tomorrow, the formbook will be torn up. What happens in the future counts for more than what happened in the past. Certainly, until the final race on Saturday.
The helmsman of Nerone, Antonio Sodo Migliori, considers Sydney a fantastic place to race, even though it has its share of quirks, “it’s a fantastic place, a little bit tricky sometimes, but beautiful. In certain conditions it’s difficult, especially when the wind drops down. There is a lot of current outside the harbour, so you have to be very careful in light air.” Sodo Migliori will read little into Nerone’s string of stellar results leading into the championship, “we are confident about our boat speed. The boat is fast, we have a good set of sails and a good crew. But every race is different.”
Jim Richardson, is one of the longest standing owners in the Farr 40 Class. Former class president and winner of the worlds in 1998, 2004 and 2009, he knows he is up against it this year sailing with a new tactician. Like many others he believes the 2011 worlds could be one of the most open yet, ”it’s definitely up for grabs there are a number of great boats. Obviously the Italians [Nerone] are defending champions, they’re sailing very well, their boat is very fast and Vasco is a great tactician. But you have Martin Hill on Estate Master with Tom Slingsby, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year; John Kostecki on Transfusion; Goombay Smash with Jimmy Spithill. There are some great programmes out there.”
Geoff Stagg, Farr 40 Class, confirms the open nature of the event, “the action starts tomorrow. We’ve got twenty boats primed, loaded and ready to go, with some of the absolute best tacticians in the world onboard.”
Off the Wind
The partnership between Rolex and sailing started back in the late 1950s. The extent and depth of its involvement has grown steadily in the intervening years.
Sailing, though, is just one of eight major activities with which Rolex is associated. In sporting terms, in 2011 particularly, Australia plays a major role.
Alongside the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, Australia’s number one sailing event holds a significant place in pantheon. The 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, launched in 1945, which starts from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day (26 December) each year, was first partnered by Rolex in 2002.
The Rolex association with golf, often cited by many yachtsmen as a favourite past time after sailing, dates back to 1967 when Arnold Palmer became a Rolex Testimonee. In November 2011, in the Royal Melbourne Golf Club hosts the Presidents Cup, becoming the first golf course outside the United States to host the competition more than once. The biennial Presidents Cup, of which Rolex is a global partner, offers twenty-four of the world's best non-European players an opportunity to compete in head to head match play competition.
The link between Rolex and tennis commenced in 1978 when the Swiss company took the role of Official Timekeeper of the Wimbledon Championships. Since then it has added a second Grand Slam to its portfolio, becoming Official Timekeeper of the Australian Open, held annually in Melbourne each January.
The previous time the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds were held in Sydney was 2005. Richard Perini's Evolution won the championship by a hair's breadth from fellow Aussie Neville Crichton on Shockwave. Both teams finished the final day on 66 points, and it was Evolution's race win in the big wind two days beforehand that secured victory on the tiebreak. Just a point behind the two Australians was Italian boat TWT.
Evolution’s performance in the on-the-edge conditions of day two of the championship had been exemplary. “The breeze was getting into the 30 knot range and these boats are a serious handful over 25,” Perini said after stepping ashore, exhilarated and relieved in equal measure to have come through unscathed.
Despite this significant race win, Perini and his team almost made a mess of the championship. In the last race, the final run saw Evolution lying 21st in the fleet as she lurched towards the finish in desperately shifting winds. She scraped across the line just seven seconds ahead of Panther, in 22nd. Seven seconds further back, Perini would have ended the worlds in 3rd overall.
Currently Notable, Previously Quotable
Hamish Pepper, Evolution’s tactician in 2005, said of the final race, “Evolution didn't spark up like she usually does. The stress levels were pretty high. We were just trying to figure out what we needed to do down that last run.”
Nerone came into the 2005 Worlds exhibiting serious intent following a world championship win in 2003 and runners-up position in 2004. Mainsheet trimmer Massimo Bortolotto laughingly complained ahead of the regatta, “we said that if we won in San Francisco, we would party in Sydney. As that hasn't happened, we find ourselves in Sydney having to diet and going to bed early.” Not good for the gastronomically enthused Italians.
The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2011 is organised by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be held in the waters off Sydney from Wednesday, 23 February to Saturday, 26 February.
For more information about the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds including entry and crew lists, and, results please visit www.farr40worlds.com
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