From the off all eyes were on Mascalzone and Nerone. The first mark of the first race proved to be the real turning point. Whilst, Wolfgang SCHAEFER (GER) and Struntje Light were having their moment in the sun leading the 21-boat fleet around the windward mark - and remained in front to the finish - attention was focused firmly on the activity further behind. Nerone, in sixth place at this point, approached the mark confidently and found plenty of room to round cleanly. By contrast, Mascalzone found themselves in trouble. On port tack and no gaps in the line-up to the mark they eventually rounded in last place. The eight-point cushion from the previous day had evaporated in the Sardinian heat.
Siragusawa (in fourth overnight) were just ahead of Nerone at this stage and, even in such a tense situation, Owner Olli-Pekka LUMIJARVI (FIN) would have been excused if a momentary thought of glory slipped into his mind. It was not to be, an eventual seventh and eighth were enough to secure fourth overall, but MEZZAROMA and his experienced crew were not about to be upstaged by the class newcomers, overtaking the Finns on the first downwind run to minimize any problems from that quarter. Even so, MEZZAROMA and tactician Vasco VASCOTTO (ITA) must have had their hearts in their mouths as Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA) proceeded to carve through the fleet in a desperate attempt to recover lost ground. Three places on the first run, five places on the second beat and, just for good measure, one more place at the finish, set up a real nail-biter for the last race of the 11-race series. Nerone were one point ahead. MEZZAROMA had to beat ONORATO to have a chance of victory. If the two boats ended up tied, Mascalzone would win on countback by virtue of its single bullet of the series. Of course, if both boats had shockers there was always the possibility of one of Kokomo, Siragusawa or Alessandro BARNABA (ITA) and Fiamma slipping in front.
It could not have been more enthralling. The Hollywood script writer seemingly overseeing the championship even threw into the final race a fading wind strength and a huge shift that saw Stratis ANDREADIS (GRE) and Atalanti XI start in last place after being caught over the line early and proceed to beat the entire fleet to the first mark after taking a flier and going out to the right-hand side of the course whilst the rest of the boats went left. Of more significance was the sight of Nerone rounding in fifth position followed by Mascalzone in 13th after the two boats had started the race side by side in true gunslinger style. With the breeze shifting and dying the race was a captivating spectacle for the onlookers. Just who would play the shifts best? The answer was emphatically Nerone. Third by the leeward mark, MEZZAROMA and VASCOTTO had worked themselves into the lead by second windward mark. ONORATO and tactician Adrian STEAD (GBR) would not give up until the very end, working their way through the fleet once more to finish the race in sixth. But by then, the Rolex Farr 40 European crown had passed to MEZZAROMA and the crew of Nerone, who were celebrating a hard-fought victory with no little sign of relief. After MEZZAROMA, the biggest smile was on the face of the former Latin Rascal, VASCOTTO, who surely knew he had been in one of the toughest regattas of his career.
In the manner befitting a true champion, MEZZAROMA praised those around him for their efforts and put victory down to team work, 'The most important thing of all is the crew, when you're putting a team together the human aspect is the key: it's almost like a marriage. There is no point having the best athletes and the best technicians if they can't work together, you have to spend hours and hours on a boat in the middle of the sea with these people. One thing I'm really pleased about is that we won with a girl on the crew, I'm really happy that we have finally broken this taboo for Nerone!'
MEZZAROMA, also celebrating the birth of his son, Pietro, just 20 days ago, is immensely proud to have added a third European title to the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship he won in 2003 - also in Porto Cervo. He is also delighted to have won with VASCOTTO as tactician, 'I have been sailing together with Vasco for around 20 years. It's great because we were all youngsters when we started sailing together and we've grown up together, now we are all getting married, having kids; things change in life and in sport.'
Praise From The Top
For Farr 40 European Fleet President, SCHAEFER, this has been an excellent event, 'The level was extraordinary, it was very high. I personally believe it was higher than previous years and that is not only because we have the Worlds in August in northern Europe [Copenhagen, Denmark]. The guys are becoming better and better, which is an excellent thing. You can see that in the results because in one race you can come first and it is very easy to be last in the next race. Everything is completely mixed up and that is a good sign. It is one reason why so many are sailing this class.' With a bullet in the first race of the final day and a last in the second, SCHAEFER knows as well as anyone that this is a hard class in which to do well.
Farr 40 Class President, Jim RICHARDSON (USA), a two-time Rolex Farr 40 World Champion, also believed the regatta had been one of the best and certainly one of the toughest, but is confident it demonstrates the strength and attractiveness of the class to the Owners and crew, 'The competition this week has been intense. It's been 11 races over four days in varying conditions and there are 11 different race winners coming from the bottom end boats to the overall winner. It really sums up the spirit of the class that it is a level playing field for everybody and everyone has their shot. We had a terrible day today but there are days that you can turn around. If you do the little things right and get it all sorted out you'll have a good time and if you don't it can be pretty humbling.'
RICHARDSON has nothing but praise for Nerone, 'They sailed very, very well. They are excellent sailors and they were very consistent throughout the regatta. What wins in this class is consistency.. You can't afford to get too down when you come in 15th and Nerone showed that by plugging away and chipping away.'
Lang WALKER all the way from Australia, and whose Kokomo finished a creditable third, had also enjoyed himself, 'The regatta's been a excellent event, very well run by both the club and obviously the sponsors. It's been so tricky. Every race has been won by somebody totally different; a different boat on top every day. Everyone's been up and down and all over the place - it's been amazing. It's good to see so many of the top boats having good days and good to see that they have bad days too. I wouldn't want to have been the tactician out there. Colin's [BEASHEL (AUS), Kokomo's tactician] had a pretty hard road.' As for dealing with the rough and smooth of Farr 40 racing, WALKER was equally candid, 'We're a pretty resilient bunch the Aussies, so we bounce straight back into the next one. It's like having a bad golf shot. You've got to forget about it and move onto the next one. We're looking forward to the next event. We're going up to Hanko in Norway and then the rest of the northern European circuit.'
The 2007 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship will be held in Copenhagen from 29 August-1 September.