Santa Barbara's Deneen Demourkas Crowned Farr 30 World Champion On Dramatic Final Day
The weather may have backed off from its biblical peaks earlier in the week, but the battle for the prestigious 2011 Farr 30 World Championship raged until the final leg of the last race of a testing, tough championship regatta.
While she didn't lead the event until the final race, Southern California's Deneen Demourkas won when it mattered, becoming the first female skipper to win a big boat one-design World Championship in decades - if ever.
Going into this morning's lighter air action, Santa Barbara-based Demourkas (Groovederci
) trailed Newport, RI's Jim Richardson (Barking Mad
) by just a point in second with another 3 points up to local Scott Easom (Eight Ball
) in first place. Demourkas was on a solid winning streak though, having taken the bullet in the previous three races. "We're actually looking for lighter air today,"
said tactician Cameron Appleton on Sunday morning. "We're confident that we've got speed in all conditions, but we need other boats to get in ahead of Scott and Jim."
The lighter conditions Appleton was searching for wouldn't work out exactly as planned, at least at the beginning. In the first race of the day - Race 8 of the series - Demourkas had a huge lead by the first windward mark when disaster struck thanks to light wind and ripping flood tide. "The current was a bit stronger than we thought, and we ended up touching the mark,"
explained Appleton. The resulting penalty turn allowed four boats, including Barking Mad
, to escape ahead of Groovederci
, while Eight Ball
had a shocking eighth place finish.
In Race 9 of the Championship, Demourkas started strongly again, leading Jim Richardson around the track with John Demourkas slipping in between the two on the last leg of the race. John wasn't happy with just second place though, and he surfed down a big wave just a few feet from the finish, popping ahead of wife Deneen and winning the race by literally inches. Still five points back, Deneen was chipping away at Barking Mad's
lead - but would there be enough racing left for her to catch him?
Appleton didn't think so, meaning Groovederci
needed a new strategy. "We needed to engineer possibilities for the rest of the fleet to get back into the mix and perhaps pass Barking Mad, and in race 10, it couldn't have possibly gone better for us,"
he said. He led Richardson around the bottom gate with the rest of the fleet far behind, and on the final beat of the race, Appleton "pushed him out to the right to let the traffic get back in the race, and it all fell into place when they fouled Wild Thing on the final downwind leg."
While Barking Mad
sailed a penalty turn the fleet sailed by, knocking them back to 11th place while Demourkas sailed to the victory and an overall championship lead she wouldn't relinquish.
With her first lead of the entire regatta, nine-time Worlds skipper Demoukas could finally use her dominant boatspeed and flawless starts to clamp down on the competition, and Demourkas covered Barking Mad
and Eight Ball
all the way around the course on the final race, and Easom and Richardson's battle for second place was an epic one. Richardson needed to finish just one place ahead of Easom to win, but Eight Ball tucked their bow inside Richardson at the final windward mark, working down on the Farr 40 and Farr 30 veteran and making the pass with less than two legs to go. Ironically, the smooth driving that allowed Eight Ball to lead this regatta all week, through some of the most brutal Rolex Big Boat Series conditions in years, would fail them when it mattered most. "I noticed that the vang was off when we rounded the mark, so I called 'vang on' before the gybe,"
Easom said. When Eight Ball
went for the gybe inside Richardson, the highly loaded mainsail came across with a bang, spinning Easom to windward in his first broach of the entire regatta in just 16 knots of wind. "The vang was on hard, and I noticed how hard our main trimmer was working to bring it across a little too late, and as soon as it came across, we were dead."
The resulting broach allowed four boats to pass, giving Richardson yet another second place World Championship finish - his third time as the runner-up in this competitive class. "I guess I'm a permanent bridesmaid in the class,"
he said with a laugh after landing on the dock.
But the bride - as well as queen, empress, and president - of this class is now Deneen Demourkas. "This has been a long time coming,"
said the World Champion after fiercely hugging husband John at the dock. "We certainly didn't make it easy on ourselves today - we had to work really hard to keep our head in the game and not let it get away from us.
" Demourkas said. "I've been doing this for a lot of years, and I've seen everything. The one thing I've learned is that you cannot stop fighting until the bitter end. You never know what's going to happen, and the incident with Jim [Richardson] is a perfect example; you stay in the game, you stay patient and focused, and you see how things play out. There's no giving up, or there's no championship."
Demourkas attributed much of her success to her hard-working crew of tactician Cameron Appleton, main trimmer Darren "Twirler" Jones, bowman Andrew Hudson, trimmers Cameron Biehl and Austin Herlihy and floater Patrick Gavin-Byrnes. "Without these guys I wouldn't have had a chance - they're the hardest working crew in sailing as far as I'm concerned,"
The 2011 Farr 30 Championship sailed as part of the prestigious Rolex Big Boat Series.
Farr 30 Class Website