Thursday, 24 February 2011

Rolex Farr 40 Worlds: Tight at the Top

Estate Master, with Tom Slingsby (furthest aft) as tactician. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

by Lisa Ratcliff

A second row start to the first race of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds 2011 by Transfusion (AUS) did not result in a second rate day for owner Guido Belgiorno-Nettis. A 4-4-2 scoreline leaves Belgiorno-Nettis in second place tonight by virtue of countback. Martin and Lisa Hill, with Estate Master (AUS), hold top honours thanks to two impeccable races and a 1-8-1 series. Defending champions Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone (ITA) showed a crack in their recent cloak of invincibility; a premature start in the day’s third race blotted an otherwise impressive scorecard. Finishes of 2-1-10 leaves them in third overnight.

Racing took place off the Sydney Heads in a significant swell and building breeze that ranged between 8 and 15 knots from the south-east. Bright sunshine for much of the day brought a shining lustre to the racing as the title contenders went head to head. The top three boats are all sporting different helm and tactician combinations, compared to last year’s worlds. The Nerone duo is certainly the more familiar pairing. Sodo Migliori was only absent from last year’s win due to an accident just ahead of the regatta. He and Vasco Vascotto have been racing recently as though they had never been parted. Tom Slingsby was the tactician on Transfusion last year. This time he is on Estate Master. Change appears good in both cases. On Transfusion, Olympian, and, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winner, John Kostecki has slipped into the role with ease.

Course Notes

GOOMBAY SMASH has James Spithill has tactician. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

The relationship between the owner/helmsman and the tactician is critical to the level of performance achieved by each crew at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. The owner needs to judge well the type of character his crew will get along with. The tactician needs to accurately assess the skill levels at his command, and how to get the best from the crew. The relationship between the owner, often a corporate titan, and the tactician must work on many levels: advisor, coach, friend, and even boss.

Some of the partnerships are fresh to the game this year. America’s Cup winner James Spithill joined Doug Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA) only a few weeks ago. Douglass has a clear objective of a top five finish at this event. In selecting to work with Spithill he looked for “someone calm and who knows where to go on the race course”. Spithill has a worthy reputation for both attributes, despite Goombay Smash ending today in twelfth overall.

TRANSFUSION, owned by Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, tactician John Kostecki. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

Ivan Wheen and Olympic gold medal winner, Tom King, started sailing together on Sputnik (AUS) back in 2006. Wheen sought out someone “who would work with the crew and feel part of the family.” In King’s opinion he is working with a very good crew that, whilst predominantly amateur on paper, is wholly professional in approach. Still, according to King, “it takes a good year to develop a good system and the more sailing you together the easier it gets.” Sputnik shows signs of a good system in place, lying ninth after three races.

Bill Hardesty joined Helmut and Evan Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA) some five years ago. According to both the Jahns, one of the benefits of Hardesty is that he is very direct and honest. None of the three hesitates to say what’s on their mind. Helmut once laughingly remarked, “Bill says to me some things no one else tells me, not in my office or even my clients. But it’s in the heat of the battle, so you take it because you know he’s right.” The Flash Gordon combo got plenty right today and sits in fifth place.

Vascotto and Sodo Migliori have been sailing together on Nerone for about fifteen years. The owners of Nerone were looking for someone who would stay with them for a long time. They seem to have struck lucky. So well has the crew bonded over that time, that Vascotto admits that even were he given the opportunity, “he would not want to replace any of the amateurs on board with professionals“. He is comfortable with the team, and enjoys the fact that the post-race congratulations and criticisms come from friends not colleagues.

Off the Wind

Vasco Vascotto is tactician on board 2011 Australian Champion Nerone. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

Sailing in Sydney as tactician on Martin & Lisa Hill’s Estate Master is Olympic hopeful Tom Slingsby. A three-time Laser World Champion, Slingsby is more generally regarded for his dinghy racing skills. In 2010, though, he broadened his experience racing at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in the Dominican Republic as tactician on Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Tranfusion, almost achieving the dream result of an overall win. That performance combined with his Laser skills and victory in the Etchells worlds led to his nomination for and eventual award of the highest accolade in the sport of sailing: ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2010.

Rolex has supported the World Sailor award since 2001, coincidentally the same year it started its partnership of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. Whilst Slingsby is the only winner of that award here this week, there are plenty of heavy hitters on the crews. Slingsby gives the impression of being a child in a candy store as he lists some of his heroes against whom he competing this week, “I’ve always looked up to James Spithill, he’s a great ambassador; Hamish Pepper, Vasco [Vascotto], John Kostecki... all the big names are here. I would like to emulate what they’ve done in their careers.”


Rolex first became involved with the Farr 40 class at the worlds in 2001. That year, the event was hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, a yacht club with whom Rolex enjoys a special relationship. The 2001 championship was no less hard-fought than any of the others before or since despite taking place in the terrible aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist hijackings in the USA.

Twenty-two Farr 40s contested the trophy on The Solent. Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi (SUI) won overall by three points from the 2000 winner, John Calvert-Jones and Southern Star (AUS). Most impressive about the win was the way in which the Alinghi team recovered from indifferent placings at the first mark. It was as though they were able to change gear, accelerate, and pick their way through to the front. Their first windward mark placings were 5-7-13-9-19-7-3-8-2 and their final finishes were 5-7-1-1-2-5-1-6-2. In all, they improved 40 places and never made a loss.

Transfusion downwind. Image copyright Rolex/Kurt Arrigo.

Currently Notable/Previously Quotable

According to Bertarelli, whose team had won the 12-Metre Worlds just a few weeks before their victory at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, “this Farr 40 win was better than the 12s because I was helming!” It was not all down to his steering he admitted, “I just put the bow straight and Simon [Daubney] and Warwick [Fleury] steer the boat for me with their trimming.” He omitted to mention that he had Russell Coutts as his tactician.

Day 1 – Top 10 Provisional Results
Place, Boat Name, Country, Owner-Helm, R1-R2-R3 TOTAL

1) Estate Master, AUS, Lisa & Martin Hill, 1-8-1, 10
2) Transfusion, AUS, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, 4-4-2, 10
3) Nerone, ITA, Antonio Sodo Migliori & Massimo Mezzaroma, 2-1-10, 13
4) Struntje Light, GER, Wolfgang & Angela Schaefer, 3-13-3, 19
5) Flash Gordon, USA, Helmut & Evan Jahn, 11-2-9, 22
6) Hooligan, AUS, Marcus Blackmore, 13-3-6, 22
7) Voodoo Chile, AUS, Andrew Hunn & Lloyd Clark, 5-9-8, 22
8) Kokomo, AUS, Lang Walker, 19-5-4, 28
9) Sputnik, AUS, Ivan Wheen, 6-12-11, 29
10) Barking Mad, USA, Jim Richardson, 15-10-5, 30

The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship 2011 is organised by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Farr 40 Class Association. Racing will be held in the waters off Sydney from Wednesday, 23 February to Saturday, 26 February.

Rolex Farr 40 Worlds