Principle Race Officer, Peter REGGIO squeezed out three races in light and fickle conditions today on the rolling swell of the Pacific Ocean. Evolution extended her one point lead from day three to a much healthier twelve points going into the last race, thanks to ninth and second place finishes. The championship seemed all but secured for PERINI (AUS), but the wind had reached its most unpredictable for the finale.
Evolution did not have a great first beat, and rounded the windward mark in 15th, ten places behind Shockwave and three behind TWT. However by the leeward gate it looked like PERINI would pull through the fleet and close out the regatta, with Evolution rising to 13th, just two behind TWT and seven behind Shockwave.
Neville CRICHTON's (AUS) boat did herself no favours by yielding four places up the final beat to round in tenth place, with TWT among those to have overtaken her. The big story though was Evolution who having a terrible time of the conditions and fell to 19th. She was still leading the championship but she could not afford any more mistakes.
However it went from bad to worse for the Australian boat. The final run saw her fall to 21st as she lurched her way towards the finish from out to sea. She scraped across the line just seven seconds ahead of Panther. Seven seconds further back and PERINI would have finished third overall.
So close was the championship that PERINI says it was a good ten minutes after the finish before he knew that he had won the Rolex Farr 40 World Chamionship. 'We like keeping the crowds in suspense,' said a much-relieved PERINI afterwards, who admitted he hadn't enjoyed the last race one bit.
Tactician Hamish PEPPER (NZL) said: 'Evolution didn't spark up like she usually does. The stress levels were pretty high, and we were just trying to figure out what we needed to do down that last run.'
PEPPER's opposite number on Team Shockwave, Michael COXON, said the crew were delighted with their performance despite having missed the world title by such a tantalizing margin. 'You can look back on plenty of times when you could have gained that extra point,' he said, 'but I'm sure Evolution and TWT can do the same. We started off the week in ninth and we climbed the rankings every day.'
Marco RODOLFI's (ITA) TWT team took defeat in good spirits, but were ruing their poor start to the final day when they scored a 16th place. They were one of the few overseas boats to be able to match the Australians on their tricky home waters. Last year's World Champion Barking Mad earned themselves a consolation prize by winning the final race by almost two minutes, but the American team were deeply disappointed with their sixth place overall.
Tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) said: 'I think we sailed better here than we did in San Francisco. You look at the results and that tells a story, but we passed a lot of boats in a lot of these races.' If the World Championship was awarded on how many boats you could pass during the course of a race, then Barking Mad would have won because their ability to climb through the fleet was immense.'
However being over early in one race and other errors prevented the Americans from ever mounting a strong defense of the title. 'Collectively as a team we have sailed better, but things haven't gone our way,' said HUTCHINSON. 'It's a game of inches, and we've been just the wrong side of those small margins.'
The difficult waves outside Sydney Heads called for maximum concentration from the crew, and it prevented many of the favourites from hitting their stride. Perhaps it is significant that the last three World Championships - in Italy, USA and now Australia - have all been won by teams from the host nation. This was particularly the case with the rolling swell of Sydney. 'The conditions were certainly a factor,' said PERINI of his and Shockwave's success in a strong international fleet of 28 boats. 'The Aussie one-two is just fabulous. What a great result for Australia.'
After the stress of the final day's racing, PERINI returned to a triumphant welcome at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Richard DE LEYSER, Managing Director of Rolex Australia, presented the winning skipper with a Rolex Yachtmaster in rolesium. Hamish PEPPER sprayed the team with champagne and then his skipper was given the traditional dunking as he was thrown off the side of the boat. PERINI and the Evolution crew will formally receive the World Championship trophy tonight at a prize giving reception being held at the Water's Edge Restaurant beneath the Harbour Bridge in Sydney.
|2||Team Shockwave||AUS||Neville CRICHTON||4||17||2||3||15||6||4||6||9||66|
|5||Mascalzone Latino||ITA||Vincenzo ONORATO||6||11||4||8||9||18||3||4||12||75|
|6||Barking Mad||USA||Jim RICHARDSON||8||14||13||14||4||5||13||8||1||80|
|7||Ichi Ban||AUS||Matt ALLEN||1||1||14||20||5||14||10||15||7||87|
|8||Southern Star||AUS||John CALVERT-JONES||13||10||5||13||14||1||1||11||20||88|
|10||Morning Glory||GER||Hasso PLATTNER||9||6||3||9||10||17||14||20||4||92|