Transfusion edges ahead
Day three dawned with the prospect of some breeze and some proper racing for the first time in the 2010 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship. Even so, those watching got more than expected as the racing captivated from the start.
The wind continued to make life difficult for the Race Committee and the competitors as it swung about violently during the day, rarely refusing to settle from one direction for any length of time. The chessboard was active on the race course with boats making moves in all directions.
Nerone (ITA) looked to heading into the final day with a scoreboard lead until an uncharacteristic crew error at the final leeward mark of the day saw her slip from third place to seventh, while Transfusion (AUS) pulled up into fifth from eighth. After an intense day of four races, Guido Belgiorno Nettis’ Transfusion on 21 points leads by two points from Massimo Mezzaroma and Alberto Signorini’s Nerone with Jim Richardson’ Barking Mad (USA) in third on 32 points.
From the first race the story of the day looked to be all about Vasco Vascotto’s irrepressible optimism and ability to pull rabbits from hats when most others would have given up the ghost. In a ten-boat fleet of this quality passing lanes have been at a premium. When Nerone was slow up the first beat of the day rounding in eighth, six places behind Transfusion, her crew must have thought this was game-over. Their tactician, Vascotto, had other ideas. Just a minor hiccough in the master plan. Nerone worked her way through the fleet to finish in second, a long way behind the winner Alessandro Barnaba’s Fiamma (ITA), but just ahead of Transfusion in third. Barking Mad was plumb last, seriously denting her championship hopes.
In the second race of the day, Nerone went one better. Seventh at the first windward mark, she was first at the finish, and, with Transfusion behind her once more. In the third race, the performance was almost exemplary as Nerone hit the top of the beat in second before winning convincingly from Goombay Smash, with Transfusion in sixth. Tied on points going into the final race of the day, Nerone’s luck seemed to be holding. Over early, she set herself a battle from the start, but when the race was abandoned halfway up the beat following a massive shift, the Italians looked to have a higher being watching over them.
The restarted final race then looked to be going all Nerone’s way. Relishing undoubtedly the best conditions of the championship, she was fourth into the windward mark, with Transfusion buried. Was this to be the turning point in the championship race? In fact not. At the bottom mark, a sail handling mess cost Nerone dearly and allowed Transfusion back into the driving seat. Even so, this was undoubtedly Nerone’s day and another series of miracles from the pocket maestro Vascotto.
Vasco Vascotto (right) with Nerone's Massimo Mezzaroma
The Italian former America's Cup helm was particularly cheerful as he stepped ashore: “Today was one of the most wonderful days of the past few seasons. We did two firsts, one second and a seventh, and we can work tomorrow for something really important. We found passing lanes, we raced nicely in the shifts. These are conditions that we like a lot and many times we were ‘in phase’ as you like to say in the Anglo-Saxon language. Only two points is behind is more or less even. Tomorrow will be tough for us, but for Transfusion too. “
Will Nerone do anything special in preparation for tomorrow? Of course, they will as Vascotto remarked with a twinkle in his eye: “Well, tonight we’ll start with a little wine and then tomorrow we’ll decide what to do!”
The Anglo-Saxon tacticians in the fleet were less consistently ‘in phase’ today and some found the going awkward. Two-time Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, tactician on Doug Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA), was close to putting a gun to his head after a 7 and a 10 in the first two races. Ending the day with two podium finishes, improved life considerably: “It was not physically tough out there today, but it was mentally very hard," said the Green Dragon VOR skipper. "In the first two races we were dreadful, just getting on the wrong side of some huge shifts. There was a little bit more wind in the last two races, it was a bit more regular we sailed well and got two seconds.”
Ian Walker with Goombay Smash's Doug Douglass
Emirates Team NZ's Ray Davies, the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race exponent is tactician on Fiamma. Davies echoed the nature of the mental test: “On the first race we had a very good start at the committee boat end and ended up tacking fairly early on the breeze. We went left, got in phase and played the right side of the course harder than anyone else getting a huge righty halfway up the beat. On the next start, we got caught on the line. We had to tack to get clear air and we were a bit out of phase early on the beat. We missed a couple of shifts down the run, got right back in form on the last beat, but then missed the last couple of shifts on the final run. We ended up right back in the pack again and really struggled. It was certainly a shifty day and you just had to be in phase all the time.”
Even Tom Slingsby, thje Australian Laser World Champion, and tactician on championship leader, Transfusion, was feeling the effects of a difficult day: “Things were changing all over the place today. A couple of times we saw Nerone in last and in those two races they finished in the top three. They sailed really well today and we were happy to minimise the damage against them and to be leading going into tomorrow. Everyone was getting tired on our boat by the fourth race. I was stressed out just with all the wind shifts and I was just trying to keep it together. The team did a great job.”
Transfusion was last at the Pre-Worlds, so heading into the final day with a slender lead is a massive, surprise bonus. No one is taking anything for granted. Would Slingsby be adopting the same approach to tonight as his rival Vascotto? Not a chance, the Australian is heading to bed: “I’m not doing anything special tonight. Just sleep. The more sleep the better! It could be an early start, so I’m just going to rest up and hopefully the team will too.”
Geoff Stagg, Manager of the Farr 40 Class, was out on the course today and had nothing but respect for the hard-working Race Committee and the persevering teams. He is relishing the prospect of a mouth-watering final day. “It was tough day out there," Stagg commented. "Luigi (Peter Reggio) and his team were full on. The wind was moving around about 50 degrees. Tomorrow is a normal last day of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. It is down to the wire. Barking Mad is lurking, 10-points back, that is a big reach, but Transfusion and Nerone are going to be all on. It is going to be very interesting to watch. Whoever wins the Rolex watch tomorrow will know they have been in a heck of a battle.”
Today was Land Rover/ AutoBritannica Race Day, and overall winners for the day (Races 5-7) were Nerone, Transfusion and Estate Master. Race 4 was the Happenex Race, with Fiamma, Nerone and Transfusion in 1st – 3rd places.
North Sails provided on-site sail repair from their Ft. Lauderdale, FL sail loft, as well asa daily weather forecast.
Racing in the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship concludes tomorrow, Saturday, April 24 with a possible first warning signal at 10.00.
Full results here