Perfect sailing conditions greeted the 37-boat fleet on the first day of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, which is being sailed in front of Porto Cervo, Sardinia and organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda this week.
25-knot winds, flat warm water and bright sunshine left nothing but smiling faces on the 370 crew who stepped ashore after finishing the first two races late this afternoon. The happiest crew in town being the group that sail on board Steve PHILLIPS' Le Renard, the defending world champion who leads the fleet after the first day's racing.
With extremely tight action all day today the Farr 40 Class is once again proving why it is the most competitive large One-Design keelboat around. No one can question the action. There is always enough close racing to make even the hardest of sailors come ashore smiling.
Principal Race Officer Peter REGGIO was initially forced to delay the first start for 45 minutes whilst his race committee crew attempted to make the committee boat anchor hold in the prevailing conditions. The first race saw the 37 boat fleet sail a 2-mile weather leg to a top mark positioned just offshore from Capo Ferro, the Costa Smeralda's famous lighthouse. The leaders at the first corner came from the right side of the course and it was John COUMANTAROS, at the helm of Bambakou, that rounded in front with a healthy four-boat length lead. By the time the fleet had got to the leeward gate Coumantaros, assisted by tactician Chris LARSON, had opened a 30 second lead, something that is hard to touch on a stable fresh day like today.
The fresh conditions saw broaches, loss of control in gybes, spinnaker blowouts and even missed approaches at the laylines. On board each boat the nine crew, supporting their helmsmen, felt warm seawater, fresh breeze and the close contact of another 30 boats at all times.
The next two boats back were Crocodile Rock and Struntje Light, both managing to stay out in front of the pack and the latter not quite managing to pass Crocodile Rock in a late, high speed charge to the finish. But then came the pack, who at every mark rounding saw a different set of pretenders, surging forwards, dropping back, making boathandling mistakes, exploiting opportunities to give the order of the next 34 places. The skipper who extracted himself from this the best and finally finishing in fourth place was Phillips, steering Le Renard.
The second race got underway shortly after 1400 hours and saw the fleet spread evenly along the long start line. Jim RICHARDSON'S dark blue Barking Mad made the best exit from the blocks at the committee boat end. Just to weather and slightly behind was the morning's winner Bambakou. This pair set the pace for the first lap of the course, with Coumantaros making all the running, demonstrating enough extra boatspeed to draw level by the second weather mark. A slight boathandling error by the Bamabakou crew meant that what was planned as a close port tack dip astern of Barking Mad ended up with a stalled rudder and an emergency tack to leeward of the leader. Having committed a foul in the process, Bambakou exonerated herself with a 360-degree penalty turn. At this level of competition that kind of mistake costs places and five boats sailed past.
One of the boats to slip through and eventually pass the leader too, was Massimo MEZZAROMA'S Nerone who added a win to a 13th place in the first race. Another was Phillips' ever present Le Renard, finishing third to post the best results of the day.
The fleet tonight is full of stories of what turned out to be a brilliant start for some and what might have been for others. The warning signal for the first of three scheduled races tomorrow will be given at 11:30. The weather is expected to give more moderate sailing conditions.
Provisional Results after two races
Pos. Yacht Owner Tactician R1,R2/TP
1 Le Renard Steve Phillips Kevin Hall 4,3/7
2 Bambakou John Coumantaros Chris Larson 1,7/8
3 Nerone Massimo Mezzaroma Vasco Vascotto 13,1/14
4 Warlord VII Phlip Tolhurst Chris Main 10,4/14
5 GBR-25 Mark Heeley Iain Percy 9,6/15
6 Seven Alberto Signorini Tommasso Chieffi 8,11/19
7 Struntje Light Wolfgang Schaefer Michael Coxon 3,19/22
8 Warpath Steve & Fred Howe John Cutler 14,8/22
9 Game On Oswald/Bainbridge Anthony Haines 11,12/23
10 Barking Mad Jim Richardson Terry Hutchinson 22,2/24