071204 First Beat Farr 40 Plenty
On Saturday night, while dodging intermittent rain showers at the South Seas Hotel on Miami’s South Beach, Alex Roepers talked about his first few days sailing in the Farr 40 class, which celebrated its 10th anniversary with a 17-boat regatta just off the coast of Miami.
“As I knew before, because I sailed as a crewmember back in 1998-’99 on Phish Food, the class is very competitive,” he said. “When the Swan 45 class petered out and went mostly to Europe, I decided to get a Farr 40 and I’m delighted to be here.”
Roepers’ first few days in the class had been to that moment, largely a learning experience straight from the school of hard knocks. He’d finished last in the second race on Friday, and in the teens in the first three races on Saturday.
But he’d also had himself the sort of moment that will keep anyone coming back for more, a second in the last race on Saturday, and a see-saw battle with one of the fleet’s top guns. He was still relishing the moment hours later.
“That’s awesome isn’t it,” he said. “That was very important. First of all I was actually fairly pissed that we lost to [two-time world champion] Barking Mad, believe it or not, which is a very arrogant thing to say because they are outstanding competitors. I have great respect for Jim Richardson and Terry Hutchinson and the whole crew as well. We were in first at one point, they picked us off, we picked them off again and it was a half a boatlength, five seconds, by which we lost. To be in that game this early on exceeded my expectations.”
There was barely time for him to recalibrate those expectations when he exceeded them again. Guided by tactician Chris Larson, Roepers’ Plenty won Sunday’s first race. Another strong result in the second put the new program in ninth for the regatta, just 13 points out of second.
Plenty wasn’t the only new program making waves in Miami. Like Roepers, Doug Douglass campaigned a Swan 45 in the U.S. until the class switched over to Europe.
Douglass’ Goombay Smash (below) opened eyes before the racing even started as the boat came with a unique paint job, the topsides painted baby blue on port and white on starboard.
“We thought it would be fun to try to confuse people as we went upwind,” he said with a grin on Saturday night.
Douglass was slightly more consistent early in the regatta-three of his first four results were between a sixth and an eighth. Like Roepers, though, he also had a moment of glory on Sunday when he won the last race.
“It’s a pretty easy boat to sail and I’m undaunted by the class,” he said. “I think we have good boatspeed, I think we demonstrated that so far. The start here is extraordinarily important. When you have this many competitive boats on the line, getting a free lane early on in the race is very, very important. When we were behind in the Swan 45, we would have an easier time chewing off boats. So this class seems to be a little more competitive.”
Both Douglass and Roepers have set some lofty expectations for their first season in the class. “I would like us to get into the top 5 here pretty quick,” said Douglass. Roepers has set his aim only slightly lower. “We’ll try to make Plenty, the Farr 40, into a competitive boat, meaning somebody that the others are watching out for at some point,” he said. “Hopefully by the worlds, we’re going to be a contending boat of some sort, top 10 potential, in April. Maybe that’s too ambitious, but we’ll find out.”
The early returns would seem to indicate they have plenty of potential with which to work. However, as anyone who’s sailed in this class with tell you, the difference between first and the middle of the pack is slim. In fact, the defending world champion, Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino, which sailed so well at the flat-water worlds in Copenhagen in August, struggled in the lump off Miami, finishing 8th, one spot behind Douglass and one spot in front of Roepers.
At the head of the pack, and by a good margin, was Richardson’s Barking Mad (below). With the exception of an eighth in the second race, Richardson and tactician Terry Hutchinson were remarkably consistent, scoring four fourths, two firsts, and a second. The final margin of victory was a hefty 25 points.
“We focused really hard when we did our practice session on getting our crew mechanics and our communication on the boat and getting back into the swing of things with Jim and my communication,” said Hutchinson. “So the match-racing practice we did prior to this was worth its weight in gold. We had always set our goal as doing well in the fleet racing and using the match racing as practice. So once we got to the fleet racing on Friday we were pretty crisp in a lot of things. We didn’t really do anything famous, but we were always kind of fighting for every point and chipping away at where we were at the given time, and we were very patient, which helped.”
This win would seem to make Barking Mad the odds-on favorite for the worlds in April. But Hutchinson disagreed with that assessment. “We had three new people on the boat for this regatta so what it does for us is it sets the baseline for where we need to be boathandling wise and allows us to move forward from here,” he said. “The result is purely a by product of the fact that everybody did a really nice job on the boat and sailed well. But I think we’ll enjoy it for 24 hours and move on.”
Stuart Streuli raced aboard Ramrod for the Farr 40 10th Anniversary Regatta. To read his blogs from the week, click here.