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Boat of the Week: Barking Mad

After 10 years trying, Jim Richardson's /Barking Mad/ tops the Farr 40 class at Acura Key West Race Week.

January 27, 2008

It took Jim Richardson eleven tries to win the Farr 40 class at Acura Key West Race Week, but when he finally did, it was in extremely dramatic fashion. Trailing Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino by a single point going into the eighth and final race, Richardson and his crew aboard Barking Mad recorded a bullet with Mascalzone a close second. That put the scoreboard at 29 apiece for the two boats, but Barking Mad broke the tiebreaker by virtue of more first-place finishes. And because the 25-boat Farr 40 competition was so tight-there were seven different winners over the series-_Barking Mad _earned an impressive double by being named Boat of the Week. Afterwards, Richardson and long-time tactician Terry Hutchinson talked about the honor.

Tell us about the week.
TH: A tough one. On Monday eight of our ten crew came down with a stomach virus. On Tuesday six of us were throwing up while we were racing. So we were completely bogged down with that. So to battle in the manner that we did, we’re really happy about that. And with the Farr 40 Worlds coming up, it was quite a big deal. By no stretch did we sail our best regatta. I made a lot of tactical mistakes; I can put my hand on the table for about seven points. But it’s pretty gratifying to come up against this field and to be successful.

What about Friday’s racing, when you wrapped up the event?
TH: We had a very good day in (Thursday’s) two races, a 6-1. So we came in today four points clear in the lead and knowing it was going to be a three-race day. So the regatta was only 60 percent of the way done. Our mode was just sail like we sail and try to get to the last race with a chance to win. We went into it a point out of the lead and the unfortunate thing was we actually sailed pretty well today, but we just didn’t get things going quite our way. So we had a quick conversation and Jim asked what he thought we should do and I told him we should just do exactly what we did the last race, get a great start and trust that things go our way this time. We battled a little but I take my hats off to the team, it was ten people who won that race. There wasn’t one thing in particular, but a culmination of a week’s worth of training and work. We won the event and Boat of the Day and everything in the last one-hundred yards so it was very exciting.

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Can you pick a Most Valuable Player off the boat for today?
TH: It’s funny you bring that up cause when we finished the last race I said the game ball goes to Chuck Wilk and Mike Hill. Chuck handles the pre-start computer and Mikey’s the bowman who calls the line and our last two starts were absolute perfection. And the starts today were massive.

Jim, sum up your accomplishment.
JR: We’re just over the moon. It was a really hard week. Our whole crew was sick with the flu. Somehow we gutted through. To come down to the final race, and to have to win it, it’s just an awesome feeling.

I got Terry’s take on the most valuable players. Anyone else stand out?
JR: I couldn’t really single out anybody, but this guy right here (Jim and Terry were arm in arm) is the glue that keeps us together. It always starts and ends with Terry. In my opinion he’s the best sailor in the world. And to have him on my team is an awesome, awesome feeling.

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Tell us about your preparation. What’s the key to success in Key West?
JR: We got here early. We went sailing on Thursday, then full practices on Friday and Saturday, half a day on Sunday.

TH: Sunday was interesting. It was really windy, and there were about five or six Farr 40s that went out. We specifically went out and practiced jibing the boat and heavy air, because Monday was going to be really, really windy so we figured if we’re going to win in heavy air we have to practice in heavy air. So we took it on and it was a little gnarly but it was a good thing to do.

JR: It was definitely a good thing to do. I saw 34 knots out there and we had the masthead kite up. Terry was driving the boat and he turned around and said to me, after we did one jibe, water just pouring over the deck, “Do you want to give it a go?” And I laughed and said, “Not really, you’re doing just fine!” We put a fractional kite up after that and I steered for a while but it was very, very good for us to go out and do that.

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What about your day-to-day routine during the week?
JR: I had my own place and the rest of the crew stayed at Truman Annex. We had dinners together-though not too many this week cause everyone was sick! We try and treat it like a family.

TH: Family. That’s the perfect word. Going into the last race today, and talking about the whole concept of the race, we battled. Adversity is probably too extreme of a word but we had a couple of things going against us and nothing really going for us. To a certain extent we said F.U. to the wind gods, we’re going to beat this thing here. But what Jim just touched on, with the whole family concept, we ride each other like we’re brothers and sisters. We beat on each other unmercifully. But that’s because everyone on the boat is really good friends. When the times are tough, those characteristics allow the team to shine.

Going back to that flu bug, that sounds like adversity. How did you all get sick at the same time?
TH: Maybe the family’s a little too close sometimes!

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We won’t take that any further. Back to the program. You have to feel pretty good with the Worlds coming up. Do you have some momentum going?
TH: Actually I’d say no to that because I think we have a lot of things to work on. We’ve done two regattas now and we’ve had the same result. But there were a lot of things in this event we could’ve done better. Tactically, I wasn’t as sharp as I need to be. There are some things we need to continue to work on with our sail program. And we need to work on some of our heavy-air downwind technique and get that better. Our biggest mistake would be to think that our performance reflects our result. We sailed well and did some things well but there are a lot of other things we need to do better.

Is Terry being a bit hard on himself here?
JR: He is a bit but I also understand exactly what he’s saying. In this class, if you’re not moving forward you’re actually moving backwards. You can rest assured that there are a lot of people here with great sailors on their boats who are looking at us, and everyone else, and saying how are we going to get better. And you know they are going to get better. So we have to do that much more to stay ahead of them. And it’s not easy. It’s really not easy.

But worthwhile?
JR: Definitely worthwhile. And it feels good where you have a week and at the end of the day you can say, “We won.”

Jim, I’m looking into your eyes and they seem a little misty. Is it getting a little dusty in here, or what?
JR: I tell you, when I came in I spoke to Bill Wagner, who’s doing the press for the event, and I almost started crying. I really did. This has been an event that I’ve always wanted to win. We’ve come close, really close, but to get here and to win it, it just feels like a really important victory to me right now. I couldn’t be happier winning this regatta.

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