Day two of the 2014 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship demonstrated the tight competition in this high-calibre international fleet with three winners in as many races.
Boat of the day honours were taken by Wolfgang Schaefer's Struntje light of Germany which won the first race of the day and then followed with finishes of 3-5. Race two was won by three-time Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson at the helm of the Australian-flagged Kokomo. In today's final race Alex Roepers' Plenty, won its fourth race of the series, and, with a 1-1-1-6-4-1 scoreline for 14 points, retains top spot in the overall standings.
Plenty holds an impressive 19-point lead over three teams who are tied on points, including two Australians – 2011 Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Guido Belgiorno-Nettis on Transfusion and Lisa and Martin Hill on Estate Master – and Italy's defending Rolex Farr 40 World Champion, Alberto Rossi on Enfant Terrible.
After an hour delay to allow the breeze to come up, the 19-strong international fleet was tested on San Francisco Bay by a building 10 to 16 knot sea breeze. "Conditions were not easy," said Schaefer after racing. "The wind came up and was quite shifty. We have a very good crew and these guys did a very good job of taking care of me on the boat, and obviously the performance was not too bad." Struntje light stands seventh overall on 40 points at the mid-point of the regatta, with the organizers planning for five additional races over the remaining two days of racing. "This was one day which was not too bad," said a pragmatic Schaefer. "The game is not finished."
Transfusion tactician Tom Slingsby remains cautiously optimistic about his team's chances of success. "We can catch up with Plenty but they are not showing a lot of chinks in their armour: they are fast, smart. Today they were in deep positions and pulling themselves through the fleet. It's pretty impressive. We can catch them but they need to make a few mistakes."
Plenty's position at the top of the leaderboard owes partly to her consistent and clean starts. "Our starting approach is fairly conservative," revealed tactician Terry Hutchinson. "Our mentality is: you can't win the race from the start, but you can certainly lose it. We tend to gravitate more to the middle of the line and keep it safe." According to Hutchinson, maintaining a cool head under pressure when jostling for position in the start area with 18 other teams is key to commencing the race well. "The best starts are when you are in an element of calm. There is a lot of action around you, occasionally you hear people yelling and screaming. Generally speaking if you are in that situation you are probably not going to get a great start. You want to be tranquillo and have everything set up so you can hit the line right as the gun is going off."
Timing is one of the most important components of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. Crews must stay focused on their boat, particularly given the congested starts, as well as the mêlée at mark roundings. Inches count - come the race finish, only fractions of boat lengths separate the leading yachts.
"It's not the start that counts, it's the finish. That said, it's the start that sets the tone," explained Twisted tactician Norman Davant. "If you have a good start you can control where you go and that's what wins. The prime example is Plenty, they had three very good starts (on Day 1) and could control where they went. Once you are out in front you are controlling your own destiny and not worrying about other boats."
Managing the intense and complex race start falls under the responsibility of Peter Reggio, Principal Race Officer. "For people watching the race, the start is probably the most interesting part in terms of the excitement level. From a sailor's standpoint, they have to figure out which end of the line perhaps might be favoured. From our stand point we have to make sure everyone starts fairly." Competitors need to be aggressive enough, but not so much that they are over the line early, requiring a restart: in a competition decided by fine margins, a split second error at the start can prove costly.
Tomorrow, Friday 17 October, is the third day of racing at the 2014 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship; racing concludes on Saturday.
Preliminary Cumulative Results Day 2 (Top 5)
1. Plenty (USA) Alex Roepers 1-1-1-6-4-1 14.0
2. Transfusion (AUS) Guido Belgiorno-Nettis 3-2-4-4-9-11 33.0
3. Estate Master (AUS) Lisa and Martin Hill 4-3-8-2-10-6 33.0
4. Enfant Terrible (ITA) Alberto Rossi 5-7-6-7-6-2 33.0
5. Voodoo Chile (AUS) Andrew Hunn 9-6-3-11-2-3 34.0