Just eliminated from the challenger races for the America's Cup, Italy's Vincenzo Onorato has made a beeline to Paradise Island.
The four-day event, staged at the Atlantis resort, will be hosting the strongest group of sailors north of the Hauraki Gulf and is to be preceded this weekend by the MeesPierson Bahamian Championship at which all but a few in the now 25-boat Rolex fleet will compete. Onorato is bringing with him four of his America's Cup crewmen to sail as part of team Mascalzone Latino, the same name given to his America's Cup campaign.
"I took immediate action because we enjoy sailing and we love the Farr 40 class,"
said Onorato, who finished second at the 1999 Farr 40 Worlds and won both the IMS Worlds and the Mumm 30 Worlds in 2000. "I'm happy to be back."
Onorato, who will charter a boat for both the MeesPierson and the Rolex events, owns two Farr 40s but logistically could not get either to the Bahamas in time.
"The MeesPierson Bahamian Championship will give the teams a chance to check out their Worlds competition at the same venue and under the same conditions,"
said Farr 40 Class Secretary Renee Mehl. "Many of the boats got together in Miami recently, as well, to tune up. There will be some very serious racing at both events."
It would be hard to pick a clear favorite for the Worlds, but the two past World Champions, Jim Richardson (USA aboard Barking Mad and John Kilroy (USA.) aboard Samba Pa Ti, have been training hard all year for this moment. Italy's Antonio Sodo Migliori and Massimo Mezzaroma, who co-own Nerone, should post a strong showing as the current Farr 40 European Champions, with Philippe Kahn (USA) and his Pegasus--helped by 1998 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in the USA and Whitbread Round the World Race winner Paul Cayard (USA)--promising to light a fire under them. As dark horses, Steve Phillips (USA), driving Le Renard, and Terry McLaughlin (CAN), steering Defiant also are keen to win.
"We haven't really sailed Defiant in a big fleet before,"
said McLaughlin, who bought his boat in March of 2001 to prepare for the Canada's Cup, a match-racing event that he won in September. "I anticipate it being difficult, especially with this group."
McLaughlin, the Canadian Yachting Association's 2001 Rolex Sailor of the Year and the 1984 Olympic Silver Medallist in Flying Dutchman class, will bring with him five crew from his winning Canada's Cup team.
Having bought Le Renard only last summer, Phillips will be the other "new guy on the block," but he comes with a cohesive team that most recently topped the 50-boat fleet at the J/105 Worlds. Sailing with Phillips will be Mark Reynolds (USA), three-time Star class Olympic Medallist who was named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2000.
Up to four of the typical nine-man Farr 40 crew are allowed to be classified other than Group 1 amateur, while the owners strictly must be amateurs and are the only ones permitted to drive. This combination of class rules has cultivated a tight knit group of owner/drivers who are second to none in ability and a vast pool of talented sailors -- both amateur and professional -- clambering for crew positions.
Also among the who's who of crew is Chris Larson (USA), America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran who was named Rolex Yachtsman in 1997. He will sail with skipper John Coumantaros (USA) aboard Bambakou, which won both its class and overall honors at the Sardinia Cup held last month in Porto Cervo. Other notables aboard are Great Britain's Lou Varney and Guy Barron.
Other Olympic medallists competing are Steve Benjamin (USA), 1984 Silver-470 Men (aboard Virago, skippered by Stuart Townsend of Chicago, Ill.); John Kolius (LaPorte, Texas),1976 Silver-Soling (aboard Joss, skippered by by fellow Texan Owen Kratz of League City); Robbie Haines (San Diego, Calif.), 1984 Gold-Soling (aboard Crocodile Rock, skippered by Santa Barbara's Alexandra Geremia and Scott Harris); Great Britain's Iain Percy, 2000 Gold-Finn, and 2002 Star Class World Champion (aboard Katanga, skippered by fellow countryman Robin Patterson); John Kostecki (San Francisco, Calif.),1988 Silver-Soling, and winner 2002 Volvo Ocean Race (aboard John Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti); and Jeff Madrigali (Langley, Wash.), 1996 Bronze-Soling (aboard Terry McLaughlin's Defiant).
Two well-known Bahamian sailors, Gavin Mckinney and Craig Symonette, will sail aboard Norwegian Steam, skippered by Norway's Eivind Astrup . Both past commodores of the Nassau Yacht Club, McKinney and Symonette competed in August at the 5.5 Worlds to take a bronze medal and finished second at the Scandinavian Gold Cup. "We are excited to take part in such a high powered regatta and to get the chance to show everybody how beautiful the Bahamas are," said Symonette.
Racing for the fifth annual Rolex Farr 40 World Championship will take place on the crystal blue waters off the coast of Nassau. Sailors will be racing for the World Cup, which is a beautiful Boda crystal trophy. A Rolex timepiece goes to the winning skipper.