Flash Gordon 5, the Farr 40 owned by Helmut Jahn won the 2009 Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship, held September 24-27 in Chicago, Ill. Nine teams representing the best in North American one-design racing battled on Lake Michigan beneath the skyline that Jahn’s architecture firm Murphy/Jahn has helped to define over the past three decades. Racing was hosted at the Chicago Yacht Club (CYC), which provided race committee assistance under the leadership of Principal Race Officer Sue Reilly. At the awards ceremony held at the CYC, Jahn was presented with a specially engraved Rolex timepiece by Farr 40 Class Secretary Bunny Wayt.
“This title means a lot to the team because it is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Evan Jahn, Helmut Jahn’s son and co-helm of Flash Gordon 5. “With the achievement there now is the added responsibility of defending it and that requires continued effort so that we can stay at the front of the fleet. This victory solidifies us as one of the top Farr 40 teams in the country, and world, and we will use the upcoming winter events to prepare for the 2010 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds at Casa de Campo.”
The younger Jahn, who is pursuing a Masters Degree in environmental management and sustainability, alternates helm responsibilities with his father, driving the boat at the race start, upwind to the mark and then trading off for the downwind legs.
Personally, Evan Jahn was thrilled with the victory. “This is my first National and North American championship,” he said. “I know Helmut and a couple of the other crew members have won some world championships in other classes, but for me this is a big achievement. It is really reinvigorating to win something big, finally, as a testament to how much time, hard work, and energy our team has put in over the past three years towards not only this class, but the sport as well.
Conditions ranged from light to moderate wind over the four days of racing. Amazingly consistent, Flash Gordon 5 won five races in the 10-race series. “On day 2, in the first race, it became apparent that the ability to go to the left was very powerful, and in the first race Heartbreaker proved that by winning the pin end and eventually winning the race,” explained Evan Jahn. “We told ourselves that we needed the pin after that, and succeed in executing that plan in the following two races. Also that day was the first time during the regatta that the RC decided to put in a gate and identifying that allowed us to gain a slight advantage as it seemed we were one of the few boats to recognize that. The other races that we won were not due to great starts, but they were not bad starts either. Day 3 was really light and shifty so those victories came down to (tactician) Bill Hardesty’s patience and our boat speed. Our starts were not decisive that day, but we ducked some boats when we had to and were able to get in phase and arrive at the windward mark in contention, and then used good downwind speed and excellent crew work at mark roundings to pick our way to the front.”
Understandably the second day of competition, on Friday, stands out for the team aboard Flash Gordon 5. “Day 2 was nerve racking!” continued Jahn. “We put up our heavy, medium, and light (sails, in that order) and the result was a condition that we were never fully set-up for until the last race when conditions had stabilized. The light air combined with the chop and little feel with the wheel required a lot of attention from everyone. Weight placement was always changing, as was constant trimming on both the main and the jib. It was one of those conditions where you could lose a couple of boat lengths in a minute if you hit a bad set of waves or were not able accelerate out of a tack. After that day was over the whole team breathed a sigh of relief because they were conditions that anything could have happened with no real fault of our own, and to come out as well as we did was a big stress relief.”
Crew member David Gerber explained the feeling on board going into the final day of racing on Sunday. “Honestly, we felt very much in control of the regatta on Saturday evening,” he said. “I believe we had an 11-point lead. We knew there was wind in the forecast for Sunday and there would be no light air ‘stress.’”
On Sunday, in honor of the late sailor Tom Neill (Chicago), who campaigned many race boats including the Farr 40 Nitemare, the Flash Gordon 5 team donned red shirts with the initials ‘TN’ embroidered on the back.
“The last day of racing was fantastic” said Gerber. “It was a true Chicago pleasure – sailing in a strong, firm southwest breeze. We knew when we left the dock we had to sail clean, keep the crew and boat safe. There was no need to run any huge risks. Our first two starts were very conservative and we kept ourselves clean. I don’t think this worked well for us. We never have sailed from a spot in the lead and Race 9 was our worst race. We didn’t sail well and our crew work wasn’t polished. I think the team was too reserved. Fortunately, Helmut wanted to stay out for Race 10 and the crew wanted to go out with a win. I feel Race 10 was one of our better, if not, best races of the regatta. We were slightly behind, sailed fast, sailed smart and survived. We won a tacking duel on the final beat.”
Gerber went on to explain that the goal for Flash Gordon 5 was the North American title. “Not always an easy thing to do — say you want to win and do it,” he said. “These guys were awesome. We stayed positive, pushed hard and sailed well. Two other team members that deserve recognition are Kyle Kandt, the boat captain and Ed Adams, our coach. These two men did everything they could to help us go faster and sail smarter. Kyle had the boat in fantastic shape, the best boat in the fleet. And, Ed was his usual self of picking up strengths of the other teams and blending them into our strengths. There is no detail either one of these two miss. For Helmut and Evan — the fastest Father/Son tandem in the Farr 40 Class — I think this is awesome. For our team, I think this is awesome. For many months the North Americans was our bull’s eye and we hit it.”
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