A day of sun, big breeze and a short lumpy sea on San Francisco Bay proved to be the favoured conditions for Jim RICHARDSON'S Barking Mad at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.
The New England-based team set the tone by winning the first of three races and is the only boat in the 31-strong fleet to have a score line comprising single-digit results. Yeasterday's first race began in lighter conditions with the sea breeze kicking in and building during the afternoon to more than 25 knots. Massimo MEZZAROMA and Alberto Sodo MIGLORI'S Nerone from Italy is in second place, with Peter de RIDDER'S (Monaco) Mean Machine in third-place overall.
After some extreme tactics at last year's Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in Sardinia, which disqualified Barking Mad from the penultimate race, the team has been playing it safe this time. "The thing about the early days of a regatta is that you can put yourself behind the eight ball and that's difficult to recover from," said Richardson, who is the 1998 world champion. "So we've been trying not to lose the regatta in the first couple of days and position ourselves for the end."
Barking Mad's tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA), who won the J/24 World Championship on this course six years ago, explained the day's strategy. "We did our best to get off the starting line in a position that wasn't going to be at a disadvantage to the rest of the fleet,"
he said. "We've been doing a pretty good job at getting the best starts without too much risk, and then from there, pick our way through when we can. We aren't trying to hit any home runs. We're relying on the things we do well to get us past boats."
The Italians seem to be almost shadowing their old rivals on Barking Mad around the race-course. "They are the defending world champions,"
explained Richardson. "They know they have to beat us and we know we have to beat them."
While 12 points seems to be a comfortable lead, Richardson and his tactician are only too aware that all it takes is one bad result in one race to see this evaporate. "It's a war of attrition right now to get to Saturday,"
As ever, there is much dockside discussion about the tactics for sailing San Francisco's Berkeley Circle, with the most common advice being to 'hit the right side' of the course going up the beat, where there can be advantageous current in the deeper water, followed by a favourable shift off Angel Island. In fact yesterday's three races were all won off the start line.
Peter STONEBERG'S (USA) Shadow won yesterday's second race. "It was a perfect race,"
said tactician Peter ISLER (USA). "The right was favoured and we were fast. We started in the upper third of the line, punched on all the boats around us, and upped the speed. It was a classic good start, our first of the regatta. We pushed for two minutes and tacked over and I said to the boys 'we could win this race.' Then it all fell into place."
Richard PERINI'S (AUS) Evolution team, the winners of today's third race, are sailing a brand new boat in anticipation of being the top local boat when the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds are held in Sydney, next March. "We got a great start at the pin end and we were able to tack across pretty much straight after the start,"
described tactician Hamish PEPPER, who recently returned from Athens where he represented New Zealand in the Laser class. "We had a good lead right from the beginning. We jumped out at the start and had a good lane across, then the breeze shifted to the left and gave us a nice 50-yard lead at the top mark. They don't often come like that, but when they do, it is fantastic."
But the final word today goes to Isler. "This Rolex Farr 40 Worlds is the best big boat regatta for owner-drivers that there's ever been,"
he said. "In terms of the performance, two or three years ago, any boat here in the top 10 would be so far ahead, the game has been raised so much."
Racing continues through Sunday. Three races are planned for today, the third day of racing. Full results are available on the event website at the address below.