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Sydney, Australia, 19 February 2016 – The #rolex Farr 40 Worlds has a habit of turning up the heat as the #competition progresses. Pressure mounts, so does tension and cracks begin to form. Weaknesses are exposed. Small errors are magnified. Only those who have prepared thoroughly and keep their head in this tightest of contests will come through. And, as in all the best sporting occasions, talent like cream will rise to the top. The 2016 #event has been no exception. Entering the final race with a fragile two-point margin over their closest rival, Alex Roeper’s crew of the American yacht Plenty kept calm, held their nerve and executed a race plan that put them ahead of the Australian team of Transfusion to win the #rolex Farr 40 Worlds for a second time.
Alex Roepers was understandably elated. His determination to recover the world championship crown he had won in 2014 and lost in 2015 had paid off: “It’s a dream come true. We battled very hard last year and came up short. This year we battled just as hard and put it all together very consistently. Huge credit to all our competitors particularly Transfusion. It was full on for four days. Everyday was different, and this team showed it can cope with it all.”
Ahead of today’s racing, three teams were in contention for the main prize. Plenty led Transfusion and fellow Americans Flash Gordon by four points. With two races scheduled the game was firmly on. Any error would be exploited.
In the first race of the day, it was Flash Gordon that lowered their guard and in an effort to get the perfect start commited the cardinal error of crossing the start line ahead of the gun. The start is regarded as a fundamentally important element of any Farr 40 race. A good start means you can choose your position on the course and execute your own strategy. A bad start means playing catch up. In a tight fleet having to restart is often terminal. Flash Gordon would eventually finish in tenth place ending hopes of repeating their 2012 World Championship victory.
For tactician Ed Baird, former ISAF #rolex World Sailor of the Year and making his Worlds debut, it had been a positive if ultimately disappointing experience: “A great #event, super close and came down to the final race. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew all the teams were going to be strong and even the ones that would like to be stronger were capable of having their moments. You have to watch out for everybody and work hard all the time.”
One contender down. Transfusion, winners of the 2011 #rolex Farr 40 Worlds last time the #event was in Australia, by contrast, had made the perfect start and led this, the penultimate race from start to finish, executing precisely its own perfectly-formed strategy. Plenty sailed a competent race finishing in third place. Unable to dislodge Martin Hill’s Estate Master from second or challenge for the lead, Roepers and tactician Terry Hutchinson did the next best thing and kept the loss of points as low as possible. It was better to go into the last race with a two-point cushion than potentially throwing it away on a wild throw of the dice.
The final race. Which of the two would secure the best start? Which could deal a potentially morale sapping blow at the outset? Plenty appeared to have kept something in reserve despite the intensity of the situation. “Last year we went into the final race one point ahead and came out losing,” remarked Hutchinson. “We knew that if we went out this time and executed the rest of it would take care of itself.”
“In that last race we had to get the race we wanted. We wanted to start to leeward of Transfusion. Alex and Skip Baxter (mainsail trimmer) got the boat going on time and we managed to get our bow out in front.” It was not all plain sailing. “Ideally I would have liked half a length more,” said Hutchinson.
Unbeknown to Hutchinson the fatal blow had in fact been dealt. Shortly after the start Transfusion found herself struggling to match the speed and line of Plenty. Something had to be done.
In these small moments races are won or lost. Attempting to find clear air Transfusion got into a tangle with the boats to windward and was forced into taking a penalty turn. Catastrophe. Transfusion had been put on the back foot by Plenty’s exemplary start. She was now deeper in trouble. Ultimately, despite storming around the racecourse she could not make up the lost ground. Recovering to fourth place was not enough. Plenty did what they had done all series and sailed to their plan. Concentrating on holding position ahead of Transfusion, German entrant Struntje Light was allowed to run away with the final race win no threat to overall victory.
Plenty’s victory may appear to have lacked panache, winning only two races. It was, though, a win for the purists and in this sense the crew did show flair. The crew performed throughout, particularly the backbone according to Hutchinson: “We are only as smart as we are fast. I can’t say enough about the speed team of Morgan Trubovich (upwind trimmer), Skip and Alex and the work they did to keep the boat going in all circumstances.”
Plenty also managed their series with style, minimising errors. The worst score was a seventh and this was another factor Hutchinson singled out when reviewing how the success had been achieved: “On Monday it was our downwind speed. On Tuesday it was our ability to bounceback from a premature start. Yesterday we battled back from being eighth at the first mark to get a third and actually I think that was the moment we won the regatta.”
Worthy and popular winners, Roepers’ commitment to ship his boat and team halfway around the world had been rewarded with one of the most coveted prizes in grand prix one design racing.
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, the owner/driver of Transfusion, was magnanimous: “It’s disappointing, but it’s no mean feat to come second against such opposition. Our preparation was clearly not as good as Plenty, and I would like to offer a huge compliment to Alex and his team. Our inconsistency cost us in the end, particularly in the last race.”
Sydney is an exceptional place to race. Over the series the crews raced in three different locations and experienced four different sets of conditions. The first day was all about big wind and big waves. The second day on the Harbour itself in view of the iconic Opera House and Bridge was about shifting wind and traffic, day three about light winds and huge ocean swells. The final day offered solid breeze and an awkward chop. Arguably the complete mental and physical test
Belgiorno-Nettis is a great ambassador for the sport, the Farr 40 class and his hometown, drawing positives from the frustration: “We’ve demonstrated once again that Sydney is a wonderful place to hold a world championship. We’ve had the most extraordinarily varied and challenging conditions over the four days. We’ve had superb hospitality from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and wonderful support from our sponsor #rolex.”
The 19th #rolex Farr 40 Worlds had been a success in every sense, and the final word goes to Terry Hutchinson, now a four-time winning tactician atthe #rolex Farr 40 Worlds: “It is big thing. Look down the dock: Olympic medallists, world champions. The quality of the #competition is really really high. This is true grand prix racing. If the amount of energy and and amount of effort you put into it is a measure of success, there is nothing harder.”
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