An international Farr 40 fleet is gathering in Australia to contest the 14th Rolex Farr 40 World Championship next month. Twenty boats have entered to date, representing five countries, and include defending champions Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone, from Italy.
The event will be hosted by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (RSYS) from 23 to 26 February. Principal Race Officer, Peter “Luigi” Reggio will lead the race committee assisted by members from the RSYS, with racing scheduled to take place on the waters outside of Sydney Heads. Immediately preceding the Worlds, the RSYS will host the Australian Championship from 18 – 20 February.
Martin and Lisa Hill will be competing on their boat, Estate Master. Martin, the Farr 40 Australian Class President, reports that, “excitement is growing for the Worlds: the Sydney waterfront is already abuzz with news of professional calibre teams, and top-gun tacticians that include America’s Cup and Olympic stars such as James Spithill, Tom Slingsby, Hamish Pepper, Grant Simmer, Michael Coxon, Adrian Stead, Chris Larson, and Vasco Vascotto.”
“Teams have been taking on coaches and doing good old-fashioned training drills to sharpen up the skills required for sailing the highly competitive Farr 40, and cutting it in a fleet containing some of the best sailors in the world. The Farr 40 class continues to live up to its reputation as providing the highest-level one-design competition for offshore racing yachts and their owners and teams.”
One secret to the longevity and success of the Farr 40 Class is the strict the owner/driver requirement. Another key factor is the limitation on the number of professional sailors on board. Over the years the Farr 40 has attracted owners interested in pitting their helming skills directly against their peers, and in building a team that works at the highest level. Added to this dynamic package, the World Championship moves each year around the world to venues that not only offer challenging conditions, but appeal to the owners.
The last time the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds were held in Sydney, in 2005, local sailor Richard Perini, on Evolution, won a hard-fought championship decided on the final race of the series. The racing is expected to be no less tight this time around. Several past World Champions will be on hand to contest this year’s title including: Jim Richardson on three-time winner, Barking Mad (1998, 2004, 2009); Steve Phillips, Le Renard (2002), John Calvert-Jones, Southern Star (2000), and Nerone (2003, 2010).
Steve and Maxine Phillips, from Annapolis, Maryland, on Le Renard, have not competed at the Worlds since Copenhagen in 2006, but prior to that they were on a roll, starting with the 2002 Worlds in Nassau, Bahamas, which they won, and then racing in the 2003, 2004, and 2006 events. Having missed out the 2005 Worlds in Sydney, what has enticed them Down Under this time? Steve Phillips admits, “during my last trip to Sydney, after several bottles of the best Australian wines that Max and I have ever enjoyed, Lang Walker (of the Farr 40 Kokomo) talked me into chartering his second boat. It was not really a difficult decision, as Sydney is one of the greatest cities and sailing venues in the world.”
The Phillips’ will have Michael Coxon onboard as tactician. Coxon was tactician on the second-placed boat at the 2005 Worlds, so certainly knows the fine margins for winning and losing in this neck of the sailing world. Absent from the World’s fleet for the past five years, Le Renard’s crew is taking their event preparation seriously, as Steve Phillips says, “I intend to arrive early and practice in the very difficult Sydney ‘seaway’, with the opposing tides versus wind direction. These conditions will present a challenge for me, since I am used to sailing in the mild Chesapeake Bay with light winds and minimum wave action. I need some ‘tiller time’ to be competitive against the other very talented helmsmen who are more used to a seaway, or as we say in America, some ‘chop’!”
While acknowledging the disadvantage of not having sailed Le Renard since 2006, Maxine Phillips has an upbeat outlook, saying, “we have decided to approach this event with the attitude that we are going to be sailing in one of the greatest sailing venues in the world, in one of the most competitive classes in the world, and with and against some great friends and amazing fellow competitors. What could be better than all of that?!“
The 2010 Rolex Farr 40 defending World Champion, Nerone, won in the Dominican Republic despite helmsman Antonio Sodo Migliori’s absence. Sodo Migliori was involved in a helicopter crash last winter and suffered serious back injuries. He has since mostly recovered, and is back on the helm. Thus far Sodo Migliori has competed in two events, the Farr 40 European Championship in October – which Nerone won. Nerone was then shipped to Sydney to compete in the Rolex Trophy One-Design Series in December. It seems that that too was a good idea, as the Italian boat made a strong showing, winning six of the eight races, and finishing 25 points ahead of the second placed boat: a clear marker for the home-grown entries that the international crews are not coming just to make up the numbers.
The 2010 Worlds was another closely fought regatta, and local Australian entry Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Transfusion ended only two points out of first place on the last day, after an exciting nail-biter of a final race. In the immediate aftermath, Belgiorno-Nettis was enthusiastic and already looking ahead to this year’s rematch, serving the Italians on Nerone notice when he said, “it was a fantastic opportunity to see how the world’s best sailors sail, and know that we can mix it with them.”
Belgiorno-Nettis has every intention of improving on last year’s position and readily acknowledges the conditions will play their part in determining the eventual victor, “we have challenging conditions that can vary from quite light to quite heavy. Most of the racing will be offshore and we’ve got a complex wave pattern that comes from everywhere – south, east, sometimes from the north. When the waves mix it up and you get the reflection back off the rocky coastline, it’s a big tumbler. It’s going to be challenging for everybody.”
Martin Levy, Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron is “looking forward to welcoming all the teams in the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds and especially the international participants. We expect some wonderful competition on the waters off the Sydney Harbour Heads.”
The RSYS was founded in 1862, as ‘The Australian Yacht Club’. The Patron is HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the yacht club was established in its present location at Wudyong Point, on the eastern side of Kirribilli on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour, in 1903, The club premises include the original stone cottage, along with a sizeable marina and travel lift.