37 boats from 11 nations representing the cream of owner-driver keelboat sailing and a veritable Who's Who of international yacht racing have assembled in Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the sixth Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.
Racing in the 10-race regatta organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda gets underway today, and continues through to Saturday. Two races are scheduled for the first and last days, the second and third days will see three race starts attempted. All races count and the winner will be the boat that manages to get around the 10 two-lap windward-leeward courses in the most consistent fashion.
The day before any regatta of this calibre sees crews making last minute adjustments and short sorties out to the race course area to practice those important manoeuvres. Measuring in sails and weighing in to assure compliance of the class' strict all up crew weight of 760kg, also occupied most crews yesterday.
On the docks the talk is of how the form shown at the most recent Farr 40 event, held in Porto Rotondo several miles down the coast from Porto Cervo over the weekend, will evolve through this World Championship regatta. After seven races it was Mark HEELEY'S GBR-25 that won from Massimo MEZZAROMA'S Nerone and Tony de MULDER'S Victric. Four previous Rolex Farr 40 World Champions are also on the entry list for this year's event, including Steve PHILLIPS' Le Renard the defending champion. Just after the opening ceremony at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda yesterday evening Phillips said:
"I'm from Annapolis in the States, where there is normally light winds. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It will be fun to sail in the breeze. We have sailed here before. I brought the team here last year because we knew we wanted to be as prepared as possible for this event. This is the most competitive big boat One Design regatta there has ever been. We'll do the best we can."
With more than half the fleet capable of winning the championship it is a brave person who can predict form in the evolving class and with the constantly changing weather conditions expected over the next four days. Yesterday evening saw 25-30 knots of wind from the North West blowing across the race course area. This strong wind is forecast to continue at least into today's first day of racing and will yield flat water conditions. It will however result in gusty and shifty winds as the hilly island of Sardinia sits between the wind and the race course. The un-seasonally hot weather that continues to grip Southern Europe shows no sign of cooling down in the near future, conditions in Porto Cervo are flirting with the 40 degrees C in spite of the strong Mistral that blows.
The warning signal for the first race today will be given at 11:30 local time.