When it was all over, after a wild and windy week at Quantum Key West 2013, Jim Richardson bought a mudslide for John Demourkas and two veteran owners discussed another regatta filled with close competition.
Such is the nature of the iconic Farr 40 class, which features heavyweight fights out on the water and a Corinthian spirit back at the dock. Barking Mad and Groovederci were docked just a few slips apart at The Galleon and it was a daily occurrence to see the two crews mingling after racing. Richardson and Demourkas exchanged congratulations when warranted while rival tacticians Terry Hutchinson and Cameron Appleton compared notes about decisions made out on the course.
"What makes this class so special is the camaraderie that exists among the owner-drivers. They are fierce competitors, but also true gentlemen," said Geoff Stagg, longtime manager of the Farr 40 one-design fleet. "Things can get quite heated and intense on the race course, but that never carries over to the dock because of the respect these owners have for each other."
Richardson and his crew aboard Barking Mad came out on top after a typically back-and-forth week of racing. America's Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson called tactics for Richardson, a Newport (RI) resident who has now captured Key West on three occasions.
"It's always special to win at a venue like Key West. This is a world renowned regatta and the conditions are always very dynamic. Between the currents and the shifts, it is extremely challenging," Richardson said. "Our goal was to stay consistent and not make any major mistakes. We did not try to hit many home runs."
Barking Mad took the lead in the six-boat fleet on Tuesday and held it the rest of the way despite stiff competition from runner-up Flash Gordon (Helmut Jahn, Chicago) and third-place Struntje Light (Wolfgang Schaefer, Lueneburg, Germany). Volvo Ocean Race veteran Rob Salthouse trimmed the jib while two other pros - main trimmer Skip Baxter and bowman Bernard Labro - played key roles as Barking Mad won two races and placed second or third in six others in totaling 21 points. However, Richardson said a pair of fourths may have proved decisive as Barking Mad finished five points ahead of defending world champion Flash Gordon.
"Fighting back when you're in a bad situation is huge because every point counts in this class. There were a couple races when we could have easily finished last, but fought back to fourth," he said. Linda Lindquist-Bishop (pit), John Dolan (downwind trimmer), Ted Hackney (offside trimmer), Lindsay Bartel (sewer) and Chris Fortin (mast) completed the crew aboard Barking Mad, which earned the Lewmar/Navtec Boat of the Day honor on Tuesday. Hutchinson, who rejoined the program after a year layoff, was proud the team closed the regatta with consecutive seconds on Friday.
"Jim sailed his best day of the entire week. He was really on his game today. As a team, we sailed to win, sailed with conviction," Hutchinson said. "I'm not surprised at all. We have a good team with really good sailors. Our expectations are to always win."
It was incredibly close racing with all six boats routinely rounding the first windward mark within 30 seconds of each other. Remarkably, the boat that rounded the top mark in first place ultimately did not win in eight of the 10 races held. "It was very tough to hold a lead because you just got pounded into submission by the trailing boats," Richardson said. "All the boats are so well sailed. There could not have been any closer racing."
Groovederci opened with a pair of seconds on Monday to take the early lead and Demourkas was still in second after six races were completed by Wednesday. However, the California entry suffered a pair of last place finishes on Thursday and that opened the door for others.
Flash Gordon got off to a tough start and stood in fifth place after two days of action. However, Jahn, with Ian Williams aboard as tactician, began a steady ascension that was aided by a strong Thursday that saw him post a 1-2 score line to take over second place, five points behind Barking Mad. Flash sailed well on Friday and won the last race, but was unable to cut into Barking Mad's lead.
Jahn, a Chicago-based architect, was pleased with the runner-up result considering Flash Gordon had just four of its regular crew members for the regatta. Evan Jahn, who normally handles starts and upwind legs for his father, was unavailable as was tactician Bill Hardesty.
"We had a couple bad races early, but by Thursday and Friday we were coming on strong. I think if there had been one more day we might have won," Jahn said. "We improved our starts as the week went along, which was crucial in a six-boat fleet. We are the reigning world champion and I think we sailed like a world champion considering we had six new people on the boat."
It was also a solid week for Struntje Light, which placed third with 35 points. The German entry won three races, but could not avoid those fifths and sixths that Richardson noted were so costly. Former Olympian Jonathan McKee was a late replacement as tactician and quickly developed a rapport with Schaefer.
"Key West was again a great event with fabulous weather conditions," Schaefer said. "This result is okay for us as we had nice boat speed and our positioning on the race course was decent. On the down side, we had some problems with our starting procedure that gave us some disadvantages. We know where we had our problems and are sure we will have solved very soon."
Charisma, skippered by Nico Poons with Morgan Reeser as tactician, finished fourth - just two points behind Struntje Light and four ahead of Groovederci. The Farr 40 class will gather again in Miami the weekend of March 13-16 with nine boats expected on the start line.
"These owners and crews are all good friends and you can feel every time that they like to race together," Schaefer said. "This spirit is exceptional and I personally haven't seen such camaraderie and high level competition anywhere else in our sailing world."
Farr 40 Class Secretary