Ever since Rolex brought the precision of a marine chronometer to the wristwatch, the company has naturally become associated with activities that share its excellence, precision and team spirit. Nowhere is that more evident than this week in Long Beach, California, where the 2015 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship is underway at Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC).
Long Beach has a well-deserved reputation in sailing circles as a superior venue for racing; and LBYC, founded in 1929, has contributed to the area’s reputation by hosting high-profile events, such as the Congressional Cup which has become one of the nation’s premier sailing regattas.
“The location is key,” said Ian Williams, a six-time competitor in the Congressional Cup and two-time winner (2011, 2012). “It is one of the iconic places in the world to come sailing: regular breeze, sunshine, and a friendly atmosphere. I just love coming here.” This week Williams is calling tactics on Martin Hill’s Australian-flagged Estate Master, and the five-time World Match Racing Champion loves the close battles that come with Farr 40 racing. “At the top level, this is absolutely the cutting edge of one-design fleet racing.”
Yacht clubs are the backbone of sailing, and while LBYC has put on the Congressional Cup for 51 years, this is the first time it has hosted a world championship. “This event is a complete step up from what we normally see,” said John Busch, a past Commodore and the Event Chairman, noting the detail oriented approach Rolex takes with the events they partner with. “What we’ve really enjoyed about it is that they’re tough with their requirements and what they really need, but they’re very easy to work with.”
Terry Hutchinson also has a reputation for being tough with his requirements, and always exacts the best from whichever team he’s working with. His ‘tough love’ approach brought victory for Alex Roepers and Plenty at last year’s Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in San Francisco. Going into the final day of competition Roepers is positioned to defend his world title; he stands atop the leaderboard again, although tied for points (38) with John Demourkas’ Groovederci.
The key moment for Plenty came in the final 300 yards to the finish of race eight, as Roepers explained: “We were lying in eighth at the top mark, but we did a lot of gybing, caught some waves, did everything right, and came through to fourth in a photo finish,” he said. “It makes it exciting, it’s a game of inches in many races, and it’s rare that you have a great start and lead all the way.”
The 2013 Rolex Farr 40 World Champions on Enfant Terrible made amends for an awful start to the regatta with Alberto Rossi turning on the afterburners to finish second in the first race of the day, followed by two start-to-finish victories. Enfant Terrible’s one minute 47 second win in race eight was the most emphatic win of the regatta, but stand-out performances don’t earn extra points in Farr 40 racing. Even after their 2-1-1 from the day, the Italians still lie well out of contention in seventh overall.
With two races scheduled for the final day tomorrow, Struntje light and Nightshift remain within striking distance of the leaders. Nightshift’s Kevin McNeil paid tribute to his tactician Chris Larson and the solid work by his crew. He knows just how tightly fought these regattas can be, having just missed out on the 2013 Rolex Farr 40 World title in Newport, Rhode Island, two years ago when he fell the wrong side of a tiebreak to Enfant Terrible.
John Kostecki has won most titles in sailing, including an Olympic medal, the Volvo Ocean Race, the America’s Cup and he is also a three-time Rolex Farr 40 World Champion (1999, 2008 and 2011). Tomorrow Kostecki wants to help John Demourkas, owner of Groovederci, enjoy his first taste of world victory. ‘Never Give Up’ was emblazoned on Groovederci’s team shirts today, in loving memory of Gwendolyn Strong, daughter of a friend of the Demourkas family who at the age of seven lost her fight earlier this summer with spinal muscular atrophy. “Never Give Up is a strong statement,” said Kostecki, “and it’s one that you can always apply with sailboat racing. This is tough competition and we’re one of a number of boats that can still win this regatta. It’s game on.”