This week’s Rolex Farr 40 World Championship will pit the world’s best sailing strategists against each other with a standout talent line-up among the owners, many of them former world champions, and their tacticians.
James Spithill, John Kostecki, Tom Slingsby, Adrian Stead, Grant Simmer, Hamish Pepper and Tom King are among the headline acts as tacticians for the four-day championship hosted by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron at Kirribilli from February 23-26.
Twenty teams representing five countries will vie for the title, including defending champions, Italian Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone.
Spithill will join William Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA) while his ORACLE Racing compatriot John Kostecki, who has twice been on winning Farr 40 World’s teams, will add significant tactical credence to Transfusion’s Australian challenge headed up by Sydney businessman Guido Belgiorno-Nettis who finished the second best placed Aussie in the class’ national title which wrapped up yesterday.
Thirty-one year old Spithill left Australian shores a decade ago and has scaled the sport’s dizziest heights, including helming BMW ORACLE Racing to victory in the last America’s Cup.
Commenting on the entry list for the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds Spithill says, “It’s an awesome turnout of some of the best guys in the world right now throughout the teams. I think it’s going to be a very tough regatta.”
Spithill hasn’t sailed off Sydney Heads for a decade, but he well remembers the effects of the north easterly swell slapping against the sandstone cliffs that guard the entrance to the harbour.
“It’s a challenging place to sail and usually has a confused seaway, depending on how close the course is to the Heads.”
The current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Australian Tom Slingsby, admits it will be a great honour to sail against the cream of the crop. He’ll be part of the brain trust aboard Martin and Lisa Hill’s Estate Master (AUS), and will be watching the world-renowned tacticians talent show and trying to figure out their thinking, while all the time putting Estate Master in a commanding position.
“It’s an honour to race against some of the best tacticians in the world and it will be great to see how I fare against them, and what I can learn,” Slingsby said.
On the final outcome, Slingsby believes the Italians will be hard to beat, particularly given their supremacy in the Farr 40 Australian Championship with yesterday’s win to the green white and red flag. On Estate Master’s chances, “A top three for us would be excellent,” he added.
Estate Master was the best placed Antipodean in third but couldn’t keep the national title out of the Italians’ reach. Second was Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad (USA) with Richardson (tactician Hamish Pepper) attempting to set a class record – four world championship victories.
Belgiorno-Nettis finished runner up at last year’s worlds in the Dominican Republic with Transfusion and is fancied another of the Australians who could profit from the home game advantage.
Spithill rates Transfusion’s tactician Kostecki one of the world’s best, while Kostecki says “Jimmy is a great helmsman and tactician, but this is a big fleet with many top boats competing. I have sailed many Farr 40 Worlds, I know it will come down to the best team, not the best tactician.”
Lang Walker’s Farr 40 Kokomo has some work to do going on their nationals result, but the boat’s renowned UK tactician Adrian Stead knows there will be opportunities to peg the fleet back with a spectrum of conditions on the menu, south easterlies to start the regatta through to north easterly sea breezes.
“You need to take every place at every mark for four days, that’s what gives you the final result,” Stead said today. “The Italians have certainly nailed their colours to the mast but when you look through the crew list there are so many past champions who know the fleet well. Sydney is a testing venue and the eventual winner will have been a total team performance from the owner right up to the bowman.”
Principal Race Officer, Peter “Luigi” Reggio will lead the race committee, assisted by members from the RSYS, with racing scheduled to take place on the waters outside of Sydney Heads. Today some of the tacticians climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and tomorrow the Farr 40 fleet will participate in an invitational event on Sydney Harbour consisting of a number of starts followed by a short practice race. -- Lisa Ratcliff