Do Not Go Gentle

The bell may be tolling for the Farr 40 class, but Boat of the Day winners John Demourkas and the crew of Groovederci are just hitting their stride.

Sailing World

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John Demourkas is happy to be racing the Farr 40 again after a two-year break from the class.Michael Lovett

The Farr 400 may be the talk of the town, but it's not the only one-design that showed up in Key West ready to play. Quantum Key West 2012 is the inaugural regatta for the Farr 400, the boat that Sailing World's Boat of the Year judges named "Best Offshore One Design" for 2012, and sailors here seem to be wondering whether they're witnessing the birth of the next great one-design.

Yet, even as the Farr 400 makes its grand debut, another Bruce Farr-designed 40-footer is reminding us that it's still very much alive and kicking. The Farr 40 division here in Key West features seven top-notch teams, and it produced the regatta's first Boat of the Day, John Demourkas's Groovederci.

Demourkas and crew, which includes tactician Cameron Appleton and main trimmer Luke Malloy, posted a 4-1 scoreline today, even as they were knocking off the rust from an extended hiatus. "Two years ago, I lost my knee here in Key West," explains Demourkas. "I like to think of it as a barroom brawl, but really it was just a man hug after midnight. Thursday night, the boys finally got me to come out. Ian Walker had a bit of a misstep, and it cost me an ACL. So we put the boat away for awhile, and it took me a year to recover."

With his knee on the mend, Demourkas is slowly regaining his footing in the Farr 40. "I was nervous today," he says. "In the first race, we had to do a double tack. It's a long runway from side to side on these boats. I misstepped and got off balance, and we had two very bad tacks. It just goes to show you that you can get all the 3DL, 3Di, and what have you, but it won't do you any better than just having a good tack."

The Groovederci team recovered from their mistakes on the first leg of Race 1 and, thanks to an "awesome" run, salvaged a fourth place in the race. In Race 2, they nailed the start and put themselves in a controlling position. "Toward the end it was a bit of struggle," says Demourkas. "We had up a heavy No. 1, and the rest of the boat had the No. 4. When the wind would go up to 22 [knots], we'd lose, but when it was 18, we were skating. Ultimately, by the end of the third leg, the breeze laid down and allowed us to prevail. That was magic."

Although Demourkas is elated to have won Boat of the Day on his first day back in the boat, he knows the prize comes with no guarantees. "Winning is more fun than not winning, and I'd rather be in front than ducking four or five boats. But this is a tight fleet, and it's going to be tight. I'm not going to get my accolades on the first day. I know how this fleet works. You can't win the regatta on the first day, but you can certainly lose it on the first day. So at this point, all we've done is not lose the regatta, just yet."

So what does Demourkas think of the new Farr design? "I wasn't that impressed with the 400 today," he says. "They started them after us, and I thought they'd sail through us, and we'd all say, 'Oh God, I want one of those.' But that didn't happen.

"Don't get me wrong," he continues. "The 400's a great boat, no doubt. It has a lot of potential, it's going to be a challenge to sail, and, like any new fleet, there's a lot to sort out. It'll take time to do that. And, obviously, we're in a dying fleet [Farr 40]. So obviously there's going to be another step here. What that step is, I don't know yet. There are a lot of options. There's the 400. There's the McConaghy 38. But it's a little sad, because what we had in the Farr 40 was a consolidation of one fleet. Now, there's so many options, I'm afraid we're going to fracture. What we need is for people to come together, build a big fleet, travel together, and have fun, competitive racing."

_ Access SW's complete coverage of Quantum Key West 2012. _