Owner Demourkas earns first victory since joining class in 2004
As Groovederci pulled into the docks at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard, crew members from the other Farr 40 programs stopped what they were doing, stood and applauded. It was a testament to how popular owner John Demourkas has become within the class.
Demourkas scored his first victory since joining the Farr 40 class in 2004, and boy was it a big one! The California skipper and his crew aboard Groovederci put forth a consistent performance over four days of racing on the Chesapeake Bay and captured the Farr 40 East Coast Championship.
Veteran owners Jim Richardson and Wolfgang Schaefer were among the first to come over to the boat and congratulate Demourkas, a Santa Barbara resident who returned to the class this year following a lengthy hiatus.
“I’m really happy for Johnny D. He’s a first-class individual and deserves to finally win a regatta,” said Richardson, a three-time world champion from Newport, R.I.
Groovederci was atop the 12-boat fleet upon conclusion of racing on Saturday, but it was a tenuous lead as Ramrod trailed by one point and five other boats were within six points. With six boats still in contention, Sunday’s final day became a free-for-all with numerous tacking duels on the upwind legs during both races.
Cameron Appleton called tactics for Demourkas, who maintained his lead by posting a pair of fourths on Sunday and finished with a low score of 41 points. Groovederci won two races and placed fifth or better in six others to beat Barking Mad (Richardson) and Struntje Light (Schaefer) by three points.
Barking Mad and Struntje Light won three races each en route to totaling 44 points but Richardson’s crew won the tiebreaker by virtue of having more second place results (two).
“It was a real slugfest out there today. I can’t say enough about Cam and the rest of the team. Everyone rose to the occasion,” Demourkas said. “Now I know what it’s like to be Jim Richardson. It feels awfully good to win and we are going to really enjoy this.”
There was a consolation prize for Richardson as Barking Mad took over first place on the United States Farr 40 circuit. Barking Mad, which won Key West, placed second in Miami and now has five total points. Enfant Terrible, the Italian entry owned by Alberto Rossi, was the circuit leader after two events, but finished fourth at the East Coast Championship and fell to second with seven points. Struntje Light remains third on the U.S. Circuit with nine points.
“It’s nice to be leading the circuit with one event remaining, but it ain’t over till it’s over,” said Richardson, repeating the line made famous by New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. “We had to fight really hard to get our result here. We were behind the eight ball early and had to really battle to come back.”
Barking Mad will now return to its home port of Newport looking to consolidate its lead on the U.S. Circuit with a strong performance at the Rolex North American Championships, being held July 4-7 on the Narragansett Bay.
Barking Mad won the start, went hard to the favored right side of the course on the first upwind leg and was never headed in leading Race 9 from start to finish. Ramrod, the Annapolis entry skippered by Rod Jabin, got pinned out to the far left and lost significant ground to most of the fleet. That one disastrous leg led to an eighth place finish that basically took Ramrod out of contention.
“This is the only class in the world that you can go into the last day of racing one point out of first and wind up finishing fifth,” Jabin said.
In the 10th and final race of the series, Struntje Light got a great start and was allowed to sail clear of the fleet while the likes of Barking Mad, Enfant Terrible and Ramrod beat up on each other. Barking Mad covered Enfant Terrible closely on the second upwind leg and that strategy ultimately had a major impact on the outcome.
Enfant Terrible was at one point in position to win the regatta and maintain its circuit lead, but the tacking duel with Barking Mad pushed the Italian boat back just enough to make a difference. On approach to the second windward mark, Enfant Terrible came close to crossing Provezza 8 and Barking Mad on port tack, but realized at the last minute it could not do so and wound up ducking three boats.
“It was a tight situation and we were not able to cross cleanly so we had to bear off and lost several places,” Enfant Terrible tactician Giovanni Cassinari said. “That race is not what cost us the regatta. We did not sail well Saturday because I was not in sync with the wind.”
When it was over, skippers and tacticians on five boats could shake their heads about mistakes made in various races and play the game of what if? Meanwhile, Demourkas and crew were popping bottles of champagne and exchanging hugs.
It was also the first Farr 40 victory for Appleton, who has been calling tactics for Demourkas since 2008. Christian Kamp (jib, spinnaker) and Andrew Estcourt (main) served as trimmers aboard Groovederci.
“It’s overly special to be able to share this win with John. We’ve been working really hard to improve as a team and get things right,” Appleton said. “We set some goals this week to sail smart and stay out of trouble. All credit to John for driving the boat well and holding his nerve when it came down to the wire there at the end. John was fantastic in this regatta, really solid on the helm. He has gotten better because he believes in himself.”
Demourkas did not campaign his Farr 40 for almost two years while racing on the Farr 30 circuit and recovering from major reconstructive knee surgery. He said driving a J/105 in club events back home in Santa Barbara helped hone the steering skills.
“Sailing on my own without any pros forced me to focus and raise my level. When I get back into this boat and am surrounded by pros, I’m even better,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the level of competition in this class. It’s unnerving, but it’s also unbelievable!”
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