Alberto Rossi and Rick Goebel will be looking to close out impressive seasons on the Farr 40 International Circuit when the Rolex North American Championship is held August 19-22 off sunny Southern California.
Rossi and his team aboard Enfant Terrible have won all three regattas held to date, earning narrow victories at the Midwinter Championship (March 4-7, San Diego) and West Coast Championship (May 27-30, Cabrillo Beach) before running away with the Cal Cup (July 22-25, Marina del Rey).
Rossi has the 2013 Rolex World Championship to his credit among many other notable achievements in the class, but the International Circuit crown has eluded him. The Italian skipper is determined to rectify that situation this week when the fleet gathers at Santa Barbara Yacht Club for one of the class’s premier events.
“It has been a great season so far, but we are not satisfied,” Rossi said. “North Americans is a very important regatta and we have never won the U.S. circuit. We have been second several times so we are hungry. That is something I very much want to accomplish.”
It is a similar story for Goebel and the Insanity team, which have topped the Corinthian standings at all three regattas held so far. Goebel, a first-year Farr 40 owner, would love to complete the season with another Corinthian victory.
“At this point that is absolutely the goal. A clean sweep would be incredible,” he said.
Enfant Terrible holds a commanding 40 point lead over Flash Gordon 6 in the circuit standings. Only nine points separate the third and fourth place boats with Struntje Light (145) and Groovederci (154) battling for a spot on the final podium. However, things could change dramatically following the Rolex North American Championship as each boat will be able to throw out its worst regatta result.
Rossi said his crew cannot rest on their laurels and said further improvement is necessary in order to achieve the ultimate goal of capturing the 2015 Rolex World Championship, being held Sept. 24-27 off Long Beach.
“Every regatta is a new story, and we all know that nothing is a given in the Farr 40 class,” said Rossi, who praised the performance of tactician Vasco Vascotto following the Cal Cup. “We are working to get better and I think we can do something more.”
Skipper Alex Roepers and the Plenty team return to the circuit after missing the Cal Cup. Roepers, a New York City resident whose business commitments prevented him from participating in the last regatta, is the reigning North American and World champion.
Plenty was runner-up at the Midwinter Championship, finishing five points behind Enfant Terrible due largely to an eighth in Race 7. Plenty then finished fourth at the West Coast Championship, done in by a Z Flag penalty in Race 5.
“I feel like we sailed really well in the first two regattas. We could have and should have won both,” Roepers said. “One bad race hurt us in each event. We had a crossing situation with Enfant that cost us valuable points in San Diego. Obviously, being over early was the difference in Cabrillo Beach.”
Roepers said the Plenty crew is loaded with pride and returns to California with the goal of finishing the season strong. Tactician Terry Hutchinson leads a strong team that will be without headsail trimmer Morgan Trubovich for this regatta.
“We want very badly to defend our North American and World titles,” Roepers said. “We know the boat is capable of doing so provided we sail cleanly. We know exactly what we did wrong in the other regattas and we intend to iron out those problems.”
Roepers believes the Rolex North American and World championships will be real dogfights and would not be surprised to see any of the other three professional boats come out on top in either.
“Enfant is sailing extremely well and we have huge respect for Alberto and Vasco. Groovederci almost won in Cabrillo Beach while Struntje Light and Flash Gordon are always capable of winning,” he said. “It’s a very, very close, competitive field.”
Groovederci tied Enfant Terrible on points at the West Coast Championship with the winner being determined by number of third place finishes. Skipper John Demourkas said the boat speed is there, evidenced by the fact Groovederci has won races at all three regattas.
“Consistency has been our problem. We have to eliminate the bad results,” Demourkas said. “We have suffered in light air, which is something we need to fix. Whenever the wind has been over 12 knots we have done well.”
Demourkas is a member of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club and is looking forward to welcoming the class. With the steeply-rising Santa Ynez Mountains behind the city and the Channel Islands to the south, sailing conditions off Santa Barbara in August tend to be typical of southern California with an afternoon sea breeze providing consistent velocity.
“I expect we’ll get our typical westerly winds, but there is the possibility of the Santa Ana winds, which can cause gusty conditions that are quite challenging,” said Demourkas, noting the mountains can affect the breeze.
Demourkas admitted his local knowledge could be a slight advantage, but is more concerned with getting better starts. “Enfant has done a terrific job of getting off the line quickly and that is something we would like to replicate. It is so important in this class to be able to start with speed so you can get a clean lane. We’ll see if we have improved our acceleration.”
Skipper Helmut Jahn and the Flash Gordon 6 crew came on strong toward the end of the Cal Cup to pull away from a tight pack of boats and take second. German skipper Wolfgang Schaefer and the Struntje Light team posted their best result of the season with a third in Marina del Rey.
Insanity is 55 points ahead of the second place Temptress (Ray Godwin) within the Corinthian fleet, which numbers eight boats. Goebel is quite pleased with rapid progress of his program, but knows there is much more work to be done.
“It’s like night and day where we are today as compared to when we started,” Goebel said. “We’ve made exponential gains in terms of handling the boat. I know I’ve personally taken a huge step forward as a driver.”
Insanity has shown the ability to beat the professional boats, winning one race and taking third in another at Cal Cup. Goebel said his crew needs to be a bit more consistent in order to break into the top five of the final standings at the Rolex North American Championship.
“We would really love to beat one of the pro teams. That would be a real highlight of the season,” he said. “All of the pro programs are so polished. If could somehow finish ahead of one of them at this regatta, that would be a real feather in our cap.”
Goebel said it has been very rewarding to compete at a high level with a team comprised of amateur sailors. He might eventually add some professionals, but wants to complete this season on a high note before making any decisions about the future.
“We have put together a team of top shelf Corinthian sailors that all get along. We have become a family during the season and are having a blast,” Goebel said. “We really have a great time sailing together so I am going to hold off the tough decision of moving forward into the pro ranks until after this first season is under our belt.”
Rolex will host a fabulous party for owners and crews at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on Friday night. All other social gatherings will be held at Santa Barbara Yacht Club, which was roundly praised by the Farr 40 sailors last year.
“We’re thrilled to have the Farr 40 class come back. We had a great event last year and got to know all the skippers and many of the sailors,” said Bill Guilfoyle, rear commodore of Santa Barbara Yacht Club. “We feel like we have a nice partnership with the class and couldn’t be happier about hosting a major event such as the Rolex North American Championship.”
The Farr 40 Class would like to thank: Title Sponsor Rolex USA, Race Day Sponsors North Sails, Quantum Sail Design Group, Santa Barbara Yacht Club; Official Beer Coronado Brewing Company; Official Graphics provided by North Sails Graphics.
2015 International Circuit
March 4-7: F40 Midwinter Champ – San Diego, CA
May 27-30: F40 West Coast Championship – Cabrillo Beach, CA
July 22-25: California Cup – Marina del Rey, CA
August 19-22: Rolex North Americans – Santa Barbara, CA
September 24-27: Rolex World Championship – Long Beach, CA
Click here for full 2015 calendar.
Report by Bill Wagner