Contrary to expectations, the opening day of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds produced a fleet leader without professional crew or a two boat program or even a coach boat. Norwegian Steam owned by Eivind ASTRUP (NOR) leads the 31-boat fleet after two races.
In front of a backdrop that includes downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges and Alcatraz Island, racing got underway on time in eight knots of breeze, with an inevitable two general recalls from the anxious teams.
At the weather mark rounding, Italian boat TWT, owned by Marco RODOLFI (Comasco, Italy), led Peter DE RIDDER'S (Monaco) Mean Machine and Norwegian Steam. By the leeward mark Norwegian Steam had slipped ahead, a position it clung on to for the remaining three legs of the race.
"We were lucky in our choice of where we went on the course; we did more right than wrong,"
explained Astrup. "At the start we were on the right side near the committee boat. We tacked over immediately and had a good run out to the right. We had a small wind shift at the end, so we overstood, but it was worth it. Then downwind, we were catching the wind shifts and jibing on them well."
During the course of the race the breeze built to around 15 knots. Finishing 45 seconds after the Norwegian boat was TWT and Takashi Okura's (Tokyo,Japan) Sled on which Tony REY (Portsmouth, R.I.) is calling tactics. Mean Machine was close behind until it had a collision with TWT at the weather mark.
"We were coming alongside TWT and we tried to pass them at the top mark by forcing them a little past it,"
recounted Mean Machine's tactician Ray DAVIES. "The current was sweeping us up and when we tacked, we had overlaid the mark and had to come back down. We were having trouble getting the bow down and we hit TWT."
Acknowledging their mistake the team performed a 720-degree penalty turn, losing four places that they were unable to regain during the rest of the race.
Prior to the start of the second race there was drama on board David VOSS' (Marina del Rey, Calif.) Piranha. Although they are the most successful team in the Schlock 35 class, Voss' crew is one of the newest racing here. Voss purchased the boat in July. During the pre-start, tactician Gordon PALMER was caught by the main sheet during a jibe, hurling him down to leeward. Palmer was unloaded onto a chase boat and taken to the hospital where he received two stitches. Apart from this and two black eyes, Palmer is expected to be back racing tomorrow.
By the start of race two the westerly sea breeze had filled in and was blowing 20 knots.
Mean Machine had one of the best starts, in the middle of the line. "There was a lot of sag in the line and we had nearly a boat length on everyone around us,"
explained Davies. They continued to the left, the only occasion today when this tactic paid, and rounded the top mark first ahead of two class favourites - Jim RICHARDSON'S (Boston, Mass./Newport, R.I.) Barking Mad and defending World Champions Antonio Sodo MIGLIORI and Massimo MEZZAROMA (Rome, Italy) on Nerone.
Mean Machine extended on the run, to approximately 200 yards ahead of its competitors as the boats flew downwind, semi-planing, in 25 knots of wind and an increasingly choppy sea. From here the Dutch team was untouchable finishing one minute ahead of Barking Mad.
Mean Machine is clearly one of the top boats to watch this week. This is only de Ridder's second season in the Farr 40, but to date this year he has won both Key West Race Week and the SORC. Here in San Francisco he is sailing with most of the same crew on board as took part in the East Coast regattas earlier this year.
The second race was one of mixed fortunes for the Norwegian Steam team. After a poor start and picking the wrong side of the first run the team was down to around 25 place. They then staged a remarkable recovery getting to the right side of the course on the second run, then hitting the left side aggressively on the final beat up to the finish by which time they had dropped to fifth.
After the first day Norwegian Steam leads the fleet. Astrup, who is in the shipping business in Oslo, has been campaigning the boat for three years and has an all-Norwegian crew including Arve ROAAS, who sailed the last Volvo Ocean Race aboard djuice and tactician Herman Jorn JOHANNESSEN, 2000 Olympic bronze medallist in the Soling class.
Racing continues through Sunday. Three races are planned for Thursday, the second day of racing.
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