With the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds due to begin at midday tomorrow in Sydney, there is a nervous tension in the air at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. The results of the Pre-Worlds might have revealed something of the expected pattern of play, but picking a winner from this fleet remains next to impossible.
As reigning World Champion from the 2004 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in San Francisco just six months ago, Jim Richardson and his Barking Mad crew are as good a bet as any. Richardson saw his fourth place last week as a good omen. “We came in fourth in the Sprint series a couple of weeks ago, and then we won the Australian Nationals. Now we’ve come fourth in the Pre-Worlds, so hopefully that means we’ll win the Worlds.”
Richardson has used the two intervening days to take it easy and to get his head away from sailing. “We’re as prepared as we ought to be. I don’t think it helps anyone by pushing it too hard. We’re in a beautiful city, and it’s important to have some fun while you’re here.”
Barking Mad wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders last week, but the American feels pretty good about his prospects despite the demanding conditions out on the Pacific Ocean. “In San Francisco, everything went together for us perfectly. This is a different venue and a different style of sailing. In San Francisco we were able to start in the middle of the line. Here, I think the sides tend to pay more, and so we’ve been playing the edges a little more here. The Australian boats might have somewhat of an advantage because they’ve been sailing in this stuff all their lives.”
By winning the Pre-Worlds, local sailor Neville Crichton has found himself thrust into the list of favourites for the World title. But Team Shockwave’s skipper is playing down his chances. Last week was the first time he had raced the Farr 40 in a year, although perhaps coming into a regatta so fresh and without the weight of expectation could be seen as an advantage? Crichton doesn’t see it that way. “We haven’t done enough sailing to know whether we’re good or bad. I think it’s a disadvantage because other guys know when to change gear. We don’t have that sort of knowledge.”
Italian boat TWT is another team that has come into the frame following a very creditable 3rd place last week, but like Shockwave, the young crew skippered by Marco Rodolfi prefer to stay out of the limelight. Tactician Tiziano Nava believes fellow Italians Nerone to be a stronger bet for the championship. With finishes of 4-1-2 in the previous three Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, it would be foolish to rule out this Italian team co-skippered by Massimo Mezzaroma and Antonio Sodo Migliori. However, they need to stay out of trouble better than they managed in the Pre-Worlds. But for a close-quarters incident on the run with Team Shockwave, which resulted in Nerone’s forced retirement from that race, the Italians could well have won the regatta.
There were many early starters and general recalls during the Pre-Worlds but the CYCA’s race management are expecting the 28-boat fleet to be on their best behaviour. Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio says that the absence of a discard in the series means teams cannot afford to take risks, such as pushing the start line: “When it’s on the line they’ll behave, because they know it’s too expensive if they get it wrong.” Very few boats managed to salvage a good finish after being ordered back to restart, so perhaps the fleet will be a little more line shy than last week.
Barking Mad was one boat that showed a rare ability to bounce back from bad starts, although this is a skill that Jim Richardson would prefer not to have to use. Better than anybody, he understands the formula for winning Farr 40 regattas. “It’s going to be a matter of consistency, and staying out of the deep finishes. It’s just going to have to be a solid scoreboard, not a spectacular scoreboard. Last year at the Worlds in San Francisco for example, there were ten races and there were ten different winners.”
The forecast is for good medium breezes tomorrow when two heats are scheduled. Richardson can’t wait to begin his title defence. “I wouldn’t bet against us, we feel pretty comfortable. However it comes down, we’ll be ready for it.”
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