The adjectives that describe Farr 40 Class racing - intense, competitive, unrelenting - can be used to describe any one of the competitors, but especially two-time and current world champion Onorato, who is focused only on racing during the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, set for Miami Beach on April 16-19.
Among the 33 entered teams, 10 countries are represented, with the bulk of the fleet (18) consisting of American and Italian entries. At the top of the list for favorites is Mascalzone Latino, Onorato's entry. He will have his work cut out for him as he is up against three past world champions in Barking Mad (USA), Jim Richardson's two-time winner (2004/1998); Nerone (ITA, 2003), co-owned by Antonio Sodo Migliori and Massimo Mezzaroma; and Alinghi (SUI, 2001), owned by Ernesto Bertarelli and the 2007 runner-up - and about a dozen other teams capable of winning the coveted title.
"I do not expect anything less than to have great competition," said Onorato of the fleet. "The Farr 40 is the best class in the world and to drive a Farr 40 is far and away the second most beautiful thing in the world. I love that boat!"
The sentimental favorite of the group may be Richardson, who won the Class's first world championship, also held in Miami in 1998. Barking Mad has retained a core group of professional and amateur crew since the 2004 world championship win, with tactician Terry Hutchinson alongside Richardson. Earlier this year they collected back-to-back first place finishes at Key West Race Week and Acura Miami Grand Prix, which many see as an early predictor to the Worlds.
As always, the fleet is home to notable professional sailors from America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and one-design fame. In addition to Barking Mad, some of the stellar names are Adrian Stead on Mascalzone Latino; Paul Cayard on Steve & Fred Howe's Warpath (USA); Gavin Brady on Rod Jabin's Ramrod (USA); Brad Butterworth on Alinghi; Ian Walker on Doug Douglass's Goombay Smash (USA); Ray Davies on board Peter de Ridder's Mean Machine (MON); Vasco Vascotto on Nerone (ITA); and Bouwe Bekking serving as tactician aboard HRH Crown Prince Frederik's Nanoq (DEN).
For Cayard, a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and Rolex Testimonee (since 1998), the goal is simple. "Our goal is to win the World Championship," said Cayard, who rejoined Warpath after sailing with the team in the 2005 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in Sydney, Australia where they finished fourth. "We have put a bit more time into preparing for the 2008 World Championship which will undoubtedly help us. We received a new boat for Acura Miami Grand Prix last month and finished third there. No doubt others have the same goal and the class is very competitive, so winning won't be easy, but that is what makes winning special."
Warpath has been competing for the past five years with notable top-10 finishes in major Class regattas, including a ninth-place at the 2007 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, winning the 2007 Farr 40 Class North American Championship and a fourth-place at the 2005 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. "It seems to me that the class is the most competitive it's been," said Steve Howe. "Most Farr 40 regattas are coming down to the last race, and all the top boats are sailing consistently well. Our team has really been working hard making sure not one stone goes unturned, we're happy with the new boat; Quantum Sails and our team have been working really hard developing sails."
In addition to sail development - now with the addition of the masthead spinnaker introduced to the Class last year - site-specific training figures into most of the teams' plans.
Although for Takashi Okura, that formula doesn't seem to hold as his Sled rarely spends multiple days training before a regatta. "The Sled campaign usually runs off of minimal training time due to Okura-san's busy work schedule," said Tony Rey, tactician. "We are fortunate in that he is a great natural sailor, and he can come right off the plane from Tokyo and be quite fast driving his Farr 40. Historically, we start off a regatta a bit down in the standings, and make our move up the leader board as the week progresses and once we all get warmed up. Since our boat is one of the oldest in the fleet and still has the wheel instead of the tiller, we are hoping for some big wave conditions that make the wheel a handy thing to have on a long bumpy day."
If you take all of this into consideration, it is impressive that Sled won the 2006 Farr 40 North American championship at New York Yacht Club Race Week presented by Rolex. Sled finished 10th at the 2006 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds.
"One thing is sure about the Miami Worlds, the conditions will be a lot different from the flat water/shifty/cold/rainy conditions we had in Copenhagen last year," continued Rey. "Other than that, the fleet has only gotten deeper and more competitive over the years, and the 2008 World Champion will have to get all the little things right, as well as a bit of luck to swing their way. It should be a fantastic event."
Racing takes place April 16-19 on the Atlantic Ocean south of Government Cut. The Regatta Village is based at Miami Beach Marina, in Miami Beach, Florida.