Focus and Passion
Mean Machine ahead of Alinghi and Warpath. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.
by Giles Pearman
Veni, Vidi, Vici. Three-times in a row Vincenzo Onorato and Mascalzone Latino, the current champions, have taken the sword to all other opposition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship. Whether in a month's time he will have done so again, is in the lap of the gods and the hands of his fellow competitors, all of who have their eyes set on one of the pre-eminent trophies in the yachting calendar. The 2009 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds runs from 24 - 27 June, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, and the burning question is, as ever, over recent seasons: who has the mettle to beat Onorato at what is seemingly his own game.
With 26 boats from 10 nations, including the USA, Australia, Greece, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom and, of course, Italy, slated to compete, the event will be a truly international affair. The Farr 40 Class is justifiably pleased in these difficult economic times to maintain not just a high number of entrants, but also a high level of competition. Geoff Stagg, of the Farr 40 Class Management Committee, expressed the feelings of the organisation, "it's just fantastic. Frankly, I'm astonished. We've got ten countries competing, at least 26 boats. When one sees that number of forty-footers on a start-line or at a mark rounding, one realises just how many boats that is. It's a lot of action."
Stagg is also impressed with the level of preparation he has seen at the regattas leading up to the Worlds and believes it is wide open despite the dominance of Mascalzone Latino over the past three championships, "everyone is ramping up for a great, great event. It is remarkable to think that Vincenzo has a shot at his fourth title in a row, but for certain he will not feel safe. There are a lot of people lurking that could spoil the moment. This year already, Alessandro Barnaba and Fiamma won a tight battle in Porto Rotondo; Massimo Mezzaroma and Nerone were clear winners in Miami."
"We've seen at Rolex Capri Sailing Week that Marco Rodolfi and TWT along with Carlo Alberini and Calvi Network are up for the challenge and look at the Americans - Doug Douglas and Goombay Smash, Helmut Jahn and Flash Gordon, Jim Richardson and Barking Mad - they've shown too that they can do well in these waters," Stagg continues. "There are ten races and no discards, so that puts on a lot of pressure. You cannot afford too many mistakes. Everybody will have one bad race, but you cannot have two. To win this you are going to have to work really hard, whoever you are."
Peter Nicholson, Rolex USA, presents 2008 winner Vincenzo Onorato owner/helmsman of MASCALZONE LATINO (ITA) with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece in Rolesium. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.
A quick look at the tacticians list also gives a flavour of the level of competition in store. The field is full of Olympians, America's Cuppers and others from the world of grand prix racing, ready to test their ability to guide these one-design racing craft around the course, and, to put their reputation on the line. With an owner/driver rule in place, the pros are not allowed to touch the wheel during racing. The guidance comes in the form of advice, picking the shifts, determining the strategy and tactics, and, timing the manoeuvres.
For the likes of Ross MacDonald (two-time Olympic medallist) sailing with Crown Prince Frederik on Nanoq (DEN), Adrian Stead (two-time Olympian/Mascalzone Latino), Tom Slingsby (Olympian/Transfusion, AUS), Colin Beashel (six time Olympian & America's Cup winner/Kokomo, AUS), Terry Hutchinson (America's Cup challenger/Barking Mad, USA), Tomasso Chieffi (Olympian/Fiamma, ITA), Bertrand Pace (Match-Racing World Champion/Aleph, FRA), Morgan Larson (three-time Olympian/Goombay Smash, USA) and the host of others, it is a "heck of a challenge" according to Stagg, who firmly believes in the team concept and that however good a sailor the professional might be it takes a great deal more to hit the high notes regularly and consistently. "If you can stay calm, get the crew working as one with the helmsman, anything can happen. But these boats are so close that if you lose a quarter of inch here, a quarter of an inch there, all of a sudden you are dipping transoms and you're in for a long day. One guy does not make the difference," he explains.
Stagg is clear on a couple more things, "winning this event requires absolute focus and absolute passion. You have to want it enough." Time will tell who meets all the criteria.
Racing for the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be held in the waters off Porto Cervo, Sardinia and starts on Wednesday, 24 June.
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda