In 1936 audiences were captivated by superhero Flash Gordon on his first journey to save the world from certain doom. Since then, Flash Gordon has remained a cultural icon who brings to mind speed, agility, and strength. When Helmut Jahn named his Farr 40 after the superhero, he was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy; but instead of defeating extraterrestrial life on the final frontier, he’s battling some of the toughest competition on the water.
Jahn has been a member of the Farr 40 class since 1999, and has raced competitively for those 18 years.
“The Chicago fleet is a very good competitive fleet, we have seven boats here,” says Dave Gerber, who is the trimmer aboard Flash Gordon. “We enjoy sailing with them and they push us hard.”
The Helly Hansen 2017 NOOD Regatta Chicago, provided the perfect setting for the team to come together and train for the its upcoming world championship. The weekend provided the fleet with the opportunity to practice in a variety of conditions, from light breeze to 20-knot winds and swell on Saturday.
Sailing onboard Flash Gordon doesn’t feel too far off from being onboard a spacecraft. The adrenaline rush is real, and the team is as calculated and dialed in as an astronaut leaving the launchpad. There’s an intense calm that falls over the deck and it’s clear that each crew member is putting their best effort into the racing.
One small step for Jahn, one giant leap for the Chicago Farr 40 fleet…
The crew’s focus and preparation had paid off in 2012 when they won the world championship in Chicago. Dave Gerber was there in 2012, alongside Jahn, as he has been since the beginning. Onboard, Gerber, also referred to as “Super Dave,” is an essential cog in the well-oiled machine of a team that pushes Flash Gordon to success.
“I found the Farr 40 fleet because I sailed with Helmut years and years ago and we did a bunch of competing. When Helmut got to the Farr 40 class he asked me to continue to sail with them and I’ve been sailing with them since he’s had the Farr 40. I’ve been very fortunate that we’ve got to travel to some amazing places and we’ve been very successful in the class so I’m looking forward to going [to the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship] in July, in Porto Cervo, and hopefully getting another world championship.”
If this weekend’s performance is any indicator as to how the team will do in Italy, then Chicago YC is well represented. Flash Gordon finished first, boosting the crew’s confidence in their own performance. “We realize that from bow to stern and left to right, we’re only as strong as our weakest person but we try to make sure that our weakest person is as strong as our strongest person and we really do a great job at picking each other up,” says Gerber. “We make sure that we continue that process of getting better and better every day every race.” While they may not be blasting into space like the hero, Flash Gordon, they are blasting down the racecourse and assigning new fame to the classic character in the sailing world. This team is sure to live up to the Flash’s reputation as “The Fastest Man Alive.”