Australian boats take an early lead
A second row start to the first race of the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds 2011 by Transfusion (AUS) did not result in a second rate day for owner Guido Belgiorno-Nettis. A 4-4-2 scoreline leaves Belgiorno-Nettis in second place tonight by virtue of countback. Martin and Lisa Hill, with Estate Master (AUS), hold top honours thanks to two impeccable races and a 1-8-1 series. Defending champions Massimo Mezzaroma’s Nerone (ITA) showed a crack in their recent cloak of invincibility; a premature start in the day’s third race blotted an otherwise impressive scorecard. Finishes of 2-1-10 leaves them in third overnight.
Racing took place off the Sydney Heads in a significant swell and building breeze that ranged between 8 and 15 knots from the southeast. Bright sunshine for much of the day brought a shining lustre to the racing as the title contenders went head to head. The top three boats are all sporting different helm and tactician combinations, compared to last year’s worlds. The Nerone duo is certainly the more familiar pairing. Sodo Migliori was only absent from last year’s win due to an accident just ahead of the regatta. He and Vasco Vascotto have been racing recently as though they had never been parted. Tom Slingsby was the tactician on Transfusion last year. This time he is on Estate Master. Change appears good in both cases. On Transfusion, Olympian, and, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winner, John Kostecki has slipped into the role with ease.
The relationship between the owner/helmsman and the tactician is critical to the level of performance achieved by each crew at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds. The owner needs to judge well the type of character his crew will get along with. The tactician needs to accurately assess the skill levels at his command, and how to get the best from the crew. The relationship between the owner, often a corporate titan, and the tactician must work on many levels: advisor, coach, friend, and even boss.
Some of the partnerships are fresh to the game this year. America’s Cup winner James Spithill joined Doug Douglass’ Goombay Smash (USA) only a few weeks ago. Douglass has a clear objective of a top five finish at this event. In selecting to work with Spithill he looked for “someone calm and who knows where to go on the race course”. Spithill has a worthy reputation for both attributes, despite Goombay Smash ending today in twelfth overall.
Ivan Wheen and Olympic gold medal winner, Tom King, started sailing together on Sputnik (AUS) back in 2006. Wheen sought out someone “who would work with the crew and feel part of the family.” In King’s opinion he is working with a very good crew that, while predominantly amateur on paper, is wholly professional in approach. Still, according to King, “it takes a good year to develop a good system and the more sailing you together the easier it gets.” Sputnik shows signs of a good system in place, lying ninth after three races.
Bill Hardesty joined Helmut and Evan Jahn’s Flash Gordon (USA) some five years ago. According to both the Jahns, one of the benefits of Hardesty is that he is very direct and honest. None of the three hesitates to say what’s on their mind. Helmut once laughingly remarked, “Bill says to me some things no one else tells me, not in my office or even my clients. But it’s in the heat of the battle, so you take it because you know he’s right.” The Flash Gordon combo got plenty right today and sits in fifth place.
Vascotto and Sodo Migliori have been sailing together on Nerone for about 15 years. The owners of Nerone were looking for someone who would stay with them for a long time. They seem to have struck lucky. So well has the crew bonded over that time, that Vascotto admits that even were he given the opportunity, “he would not want to replace any of the amateurs on board with professionals“. He is comfortable with the team, and enjoys the fact that the post-race congratulations and criticisms come from friends not colleagues.
Sailing in Sydney as tactician on Martin & Lisa Hill’s Estate Master is Olympic hopeful Tom Slingsby. A three-time Laser World Champion, Slingsby is more generally regarded for his dinghy racing skills. In 2010, though, he broadened his experience racing at the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in the Dominican Republic as tactician on Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Tranfusion, almost achieving the dream result of an overall win. That performance combined with his Laser skills and victory in the Etchells worlds led to his nomination for and eventual award of the highest accolade in the sport of sailing: ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2010.
Slingsby gives the impression of being a child in a candy store as he lists some of his heroes against whom he competing this week, “I’ve always looked up to James Spithill, he’s a great ambassador; Hamish Pepper, Vasco [Vascotto], John Kostecki…all the big names are here. I would like to emulate what they’ve done in their careers.”
Day 1 – Top 10 Provisional Results
Place, Boat Name, Country, Owner-Helm, R1-R2-R3 TOTAL
1) Estate Master, AUS, Lisa & Martin Hill, 1-8-1, 10
2) Transfusion, AUS, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, 4-4-2, 10
3) Nerone, ITA, Antonio Sodo Migliori & Massimo Mezzaroma, 2-1-10, 13
4) Struntje Light, GER, Wolfgang & Angela Schaefer, 3-13-3, 19
5) Flash Gordon, USA, Helmut & Evan Jahn, 11-2-9, 22
6) Hooligan, AUS, Marcus Blackmore, 13-3-6, 22
7) Voodoo Chile, AUS, Andrew Hunn & Lloyd Clark, 5-9-8, 22
8) Kokomo, AUS, Lang Walker, 19-5-4, 28
9) Sputnik, AUS, Ivan Wheen, 6-12-11, 29
10) Barking Mad, USA, Jim Richardson, 15-10-5, 30