This time it was both the owners and sailors who starred as the class offers the best in owner-driver one-design racing. Farr 40 Class rules have been drawn tightly to create a level playing field: an amateur owner helms the boat and only four professionals are allowed among the usually 10-strong crew.
The owners are luminaries on and off the water, including the likes of Helmut Jahn, the renowned German-American architect and Andrew Hunn, an Australian neurosurgeon.
Indeed, some owners could be called modern “’captains’ of industry.” Australian Guido Belgiorno-Nettis of the multinational Transfield Holdings, German Wolfgang Schaefer who is a medical doctor and hospital owner and Dutch-American Alex Roepers of Atlantic Investment Management. These skippers can hire the best talent and they do.
At the opening reception I asked in-demand Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Terry Hutchinson, tactician on Alex Roeper’s Plenty, the favored boat of the regatta, what draws him to the Farr 40 Class.
“I like the competition, there are a lot of really good teams – world class teams – and great owners… Just look around the room, where else are you going to find such a high caliber of sailors?” Terry asked.
Scanning the room I’d have to agree. An avid America’s Cup fan, I immediately spied Tom Slingsby of Oracle Team USA and Ray Davies of Emirates Team New Zealand, then renowned Italian Maxi racer Vasco Vascotto and Ian Williams, quadruple world champion in the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
Terry’s thoughts were echoed by Tom Slingsby who said simply, he enjoys racing against the greatest tacticians of the world.
“It’s serious racing, but fun off the water, we can go to the bar and laugh about it,” Tom said.
Five-time Australian Farr 40 and one-time (2011) Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Guido Belgiorno-Nettis said Farr 40 racing is as dynamic as his business life, requiring concentrated skills, talent, energy and politics. He said it’s all about the crew work with one-design and he enjoys the challenge.
The very competitive but equally friendly nature of the circuit creates a “family” feeling – it was a word used by several to describe the class. There is family support, particularly for the Corinthians.
Ray Davies commends the class for the success of the Corinthian division, which has injected additional teams and excitement into the Farr 40 Circuit, which is the longest lasting grand prix sailing class currently.
Eight of the 19 World Championship entries were Corinthian, meaning they had no more than two professional sailors aboard.
Ray’s skipper Wolfgang Schaefer shared how they support the Corinthians, “We give them the keys to the door; we tell them our secrets.” Then his wife Angela who sails with him as navigator on Struntje light, laughingly said, “we keep a few little ones.”
The Farr 40s had a warm up during the Rolex Big Boat Series here last month. Buoyed by their first place win in the Corinthian Division, skipper Andrew Hunn decided to step up from Corinthian and add two more professionals to Voodoo Chile.
Andrew who has 1st or 2nd in 12 different Australian Classes chose the Farr 40 as “it’s the most challenging and intriguing class.”
Later I learned Andrew purchased his Farr from Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Yes, the Farr 40 class is like that.
Challenging and intriguing… With Andrew’s words in mind I looked forward to seeing the Farr 40s in action and they did not disappoint. They are so sleek and fast… from a distance they evoked elegant greyhounds rounding the course. Up close they were nothing short of majestic.
A sailing master class was being led by Plenty, who won all three races the first day. The teamwork was amazing, a choreographed ballet that was beautiful to watch.
As the boats raced by, I was also impressed by the number of female sailors aboard. Plenty had Jennifer Wulff as Pitt Assist and Struntje light had Angela Schaefer as navigator. Foil, a Corinthian entry from Rancho Palos Verdes, had an equally divided crew.
Back at the dock I chatted with Foil skipper Gordon Leon, a retired Satellite Program Manager, who said he originally began with one female crew member and over time added more capable females. It was not a conscious effort on his part.
“It’s all about the best people available for the job to be done,” he said. “We started the season with four women and now we have five.”
Evelyn Hull and Alisa Hawkins, of Twisted, the sole Bay Area entry, are both aerospace engineers who revel in the intense competition the Farr 40s offer.
“At this level of competition, the fleet is unforgiving. The tight racing pushes you to be your very best,” said Evelyn.
Alisa, who is Twisted’s strategist, shared she enjoys using her technical skills in the many variables of racing, the wind, tides, currents all going on at the same time.
The ladies of Huntington Beach, CA entry Temptress, Stacie Straw, Terry Johnson and Bobbie Sterbins love the strategy and camaraderie required.
“It’s like a game of chess – in 3-D,” Stacie said. Terry added, “It’s a family, my second family.”
Chatting with Sena Akman of White Knight proved especially inspiring, her drive and passion for the sport contagious.
“Sailing is life,” she said. “It teaches you so much. You explore yourself and grow so much while sailing.”
Two years ago Sena, who hails from Istanbul, Turkey, set her sights on grand-prix racing and never looked back. Committed and ambitious, Sena reached out to the renowned American sailor Dawn Riley and two days later was training at the high performance Oakcliff Sailing Center in New York. Sena’s skill and determination led to a Pit Assist slot with White Knight.
Sena said she chose the Farr 40 Class as it was “the most competitive, powerful and prestigious and fit her personality.”
“Everything in Farr 40 is for perfection. It is a game of inches and the ambiance and friendships between owners and crew is unique and very special,” she said.
Sena’s dedication and passion has been recognized. Shortly after the worlds she was appointed Turkish representative for the Farr 40 Class Association. Sena will work to promote the existing Turkish fleet by organizing regattas, procuring sponsorship and establishing one-design control.
Day 2 showed Penty had serious competition. Their winning streak was broken by Wolfgang’s Struntje light winning the first race, followed in the second by three-time Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson, who was at the helm of Australian-flagged Kokomo. Kokomo was made available when her owner, Lang Walker, had a pressing business commitment. The final race of the day went again to Plenty.
San Francisco’s famous breeze was noticeably absent Day 3 and racing was abandoned, leading to even more excitement for the final fourth day.
My thoughts turned to fashion with racing postponed. The clear winner among the teams was Voodoo Chile. They looked so smart in their red Musto Gear both on and off the water.
On land, I loved Australian Farr 40 Class Administrator Jennifer Hughes casual chic Banana Republic dress and particularly her 727 Sailbag. The bags are made from recycled sails, many having sailed in prestigious regattas around the world. They have such style and a wonderful romance about them.
I also love the authentication tag inside each 727 bag – it gives a history of the bag and sail. Jennifer’s was designed by Beyou Rogen and it sailed in the Transat Jacques Vabre, a cool French race that follows the historic coffee trading route between France and Brazil.
727 Sailbags are now sold in the U.S. by North37 Design here in San Francisco. I have one of their bags and love it. Although the sails in mine weren’t raced in a regatta, they did grace an uber-chic Wally Yacht as it sailed the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
Expectations were high four Day 4 though at first it seemed the wind might not cooperate again. While we waited, and waited, for wind we were entertained by the fun-loving Aussies aboard Transfusion.
First they swung from the halyards as the boat did circles and then they took turns skurfing behind Transfusion. It was a delightful break from what was shaping up as a long day of no racing.
Finally a 10-12 knot breeze came up and the final race got underway. First around every mark and across the finish line as well, was Struntje light. It was Wolfgang’s second win of the series and moved Struntje from sixth to fourth in the overall standings.
Team Plenty sailed a very conservative race and placed a surprising 10th, but the 18-point lead they had established during the first two days of racing proved insurmountable for the others.
Back at the dock, everyone awaited Plenty’s arrival. There was a buzz of well wishers and media. A special treat was seeing Rolex photographer Daniel Forster working his magic up close.
Celebrations began with champagne and then an impromptu dip!
The final ranking was Plenty first, with Australian Martin Hill’s Estate Master second followed by Italian Alberto Rossi’s Enfant Terrible. Hasip Gencer’s Asterisk, the Turkish team won the Corinthian Trophy. The full results can be viewed here.
One of my favorite aspects of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds was there were more entries with women than not. In fact, had Martin Hill’s wife Lisa not suffered a neck injury there would have been one more. Lisa, who sails in the critical Pit position – which she calls her “office” – has sailed with Martin in every regatta since 2001 until San Francisco.
The Farr 40 Class is a special one. It’s a unique meeting of corporate and sailing elite that is thrilling to witness. From the exacting owners to the driven professionals to the skilled amateur crew, it is precision personified.