Charisma comes out on top
Nico Poons and his mostly Dutch crew aboard Charisma sealed their deal today, winning the Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship in Martha’s Vineyard with only two finishes worse than second in a 10-race series.
The event, which began on Wednesday and hosted 11 teams from six nations, had seen Charisma top the scoreboard at the end of each of three prior race days, and going into today, with seven races in its score line, the team had a rare-for-the-class ten points on its closest competitor, Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad. In contrast, Italian Alberto Rossi’s Enfant Terrible was only five points behind Barking Mad, which put into play a most intriguing game of chess on the game board that was the flat, sunshine-soaked sea off the Vineyard’s northeast shore.
As it did yesterday, Enfant Terrible (with Roberto Strappiti filling in for owner/driver Rossi, absent for medical reasons) won the day, starting off in light breeze to win the first of three races held, while Barking Mad finished second and Charisma settled for eighth after a bad start forced the team to tack and cross behind the entire fleet.
In the second race, it was Barking Mad’s turn to misstep: the team chose the wrong side of the course after rounding the first downwind gate. Charisma, in the same way it had done several times before in this regatta, rounded the top mark and second windward mark in first; however, on the run to the finish, a gybing dual with Enfant Terrible ensued, and the latter team prevailed, crossing the finish line two boat lengths ahead of Charisma to win its second race of the day. (Barking Mad finished seventh.)
“Today’s third race started full-on as a match race with Enfant before the start,” said Barking Mad’s Richardson, who is the defending North American champion here and three-time world champion. “The odds of Charisma going deep enough for any of us to pass her was remote, and besides, we had two reasons to match race Enfant.” One, explained Richardson, was obvious: to determine who would finish second at this event, since Barking Mad was now two points behind Enfant in the standings. The other was that the Farr 40 US Circuit Championship title was at stake. “Whoever beat who in the last race today would win,” said Richardson.
To spectators it might have appeared that what happened next was caused by the match racing hunt, but Richardson says it wasn’t. The Enfant team was called OCS and had to turn back to restart. “We had other boats around us, too, so we were managing traffic as well as each other,” said Richardson. “At one point we thought they had fouled us, so we put up a protest flag (later withdrawn) and then we broke off on a reach down the line. I missed what happened after that. All I know is they were over early and then pushed to the wrong side of the course. We didn’t do it; we just set them up for someone else to do it.”
In the all-or-nothing race, Enfant was left with nothing, as it struggled to catch up but only managed eighth in the end. Barking Mad and Charisma, which rounded the top mark in fourth and fifth, respectively, wound up 1-2 at the finish, and both were satisfied - Charisma for holding on to its lead and Barking Mad for making its double play for second place and the US Circuit Championship title.
At the Rolex Awards Ceremony, Richardson, who serves as chairman of the Farr 40 Class, said of Charisma’s performance: “This event was sailed in all kinds of conditions - sunshine to rain, light winds to high winds. It’s the mark of a true champion to win in all of these.”
This is Poons’s first North American title in the Farr 40 class, for which he was awarded the 2013 Farr 40 North American Trophy and a Rolex Submariner timepiece. His next target is the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in Newport, R.I. in September.
“It’s always our goal to win the worlds,” said Poons, who added that this is his fourth season sailing in the class, “but sailing is a humbling sport; you need a lot of luck and all kinds of things—everything can happen.” About his team’s performance here he said, “Eighty percent of the job is good starts. You saw it today in our first race. We did not have a good start, and it was hard to get back in it, and you see the results. The rest of the regatta, we had good starts and not too many boats got ahead of us, so we were able to just continue sailing our race.”
Enfant Terrible’s tactician Vasco Vascatto revealed that his team’s premature start today was simply an unforced error: “We were one second over early. It was our fault, but in the end we are proud of what we have done. We were in the game up until the last race, and we won two of five events on the U.S. Circuit. We are ready for the Rolex Worlds.”
1. Charisma, Nico Poons, Monaco, MONACO - 2, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 4, 8, 2, 2, ; 25
2. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Boston, Mass., USA - 7, 2, 3, 1, 3, 5, 2, 2, 7, 1, ; 33
3. Enfant Terrible, Alberto Rossi, Ancona, ITALY - 5, 5, 4, 6, 4, 3, 1, 1, 1, 7, ; 37
4. Groovederci, John Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Calif., USA - 3, 6, 5, 4, 8/ZFP, 6, 3, 9, 5, 5, ; 54
5. Nightshift, Kevin McNeil, Annapolis, Md., USA - 4, 3, 8, 7, 8, 2, 5, 10, 8, 3, ; 58
6. PLENTY, Alexander Roepers, New York, N.Y., USA - 6, 4, 7, 3, 9, 8, 6, 4, 9, 4, ; 60
7. Struntje light, Wolfgang Schaefer, Lueneburg, GERMANY - 1, 8, 2, 10, 7, 4, 7, 7, 6, 12/DSQ, ; 64
8. Flash Gordon 6, Helmut Jahn, Chicago, Ill., USA - 9, 12/DSQ, 10, 5, 1, 9, 9, 5, 4, 8, ; 72
9. Flojito y Cooperando, Bernardo Minkow/Julian Fernandez , Distrito Federal, MEXICO - 12/DNF, 9, 9, 9, 5, 7, 8, 3, 10, 6, ; 78
10. Asterisk Uno, Hasip Gencer, Istanbul, TURKEY - 8, 7, 6, 8, 10, 10, 10, 6, 3, 10, ; 78
11. Oakcliff Farr 40, Oakcliff Sailing, Oyster Bay, N.Y., USA - 10, 10, 11, 11, 11, 12/DNC, 12/DNC, 11, 11, 9, ; 108