Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 Farr40 Miami Match Race

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to drive the Farr40 "Flash Gordon" in the Miami Match Race. .....what an experience!! When I showed up in Miami the once eight boat fleet had been reduced to 5 boats; however, fortunately we were still sailing against 3 of the top 4 Farr40's in the world. JoeFly, Nerone, Barking Mad, Atalanti and ourselves made up the fleet and the talent was stacked. JoeFly, last years worlds runner-up had Francesco Bruni. Barking Mad was sailing with Terry Hutchinson. Our crew was the same as it has been for the past year, which proved to work in our favor; Bill Hardesty calling tactics, Joe Londrigan trimming main, Dave Gerber trimming Jib, Matt Cassidy on the bow, Ed Norton floating, and T-Ten on the mast...and we had Carrie Howe, a local Detoit girl, doing offside trim for us.

Having Carrie there was pretty cool. I had never sailed with Carrie before on a big boat, although we have sailed dingys together quite a bit. She was very professional on the boat and turned out to be a valuable addition to the crew. Other than that it was business as usual...yeah was like getting the keys to a ferrari. Brand new boat, new rig, new crew in the could I lose? ha.

We practiced for two days before the regatta started and day one didnt turn out how we wanted it to at all. I was too timid on the starting line, and the communication between Bill, myself needed work; and the information coming from the software was lagging. We went 1-3 on the first day, only beating Atalanti. Although we had some moments, I was not doing a good enough job of getting us off the line and the conditions were such that there were not many passing lanes on the course. The thing is that these are still the top Farr40 teams in the world with the top even if we do win the start, we still have to stay ahead of them around the course. So giving them anything off the line put us in a very tough position.

The second day went a bit better. More wind is normally better for us as Helmut was driving a bit more on the second day. Bill and I sorted out all the communication issues and we were getting timely and reliable info from the software. The starts all went well, and in the first race we led Nerone around the first two marks until they passed us up the last beat. That was a tough loss to turns out that a win there would have put us into third for the regatta. We lost the second race to JoeFly and won our third race of the day against we went into our bye the crew was focused on the last race of the day against Barking Mad, one of the fleets top boats and a crew that we have a bit of a history with.

See, thats the thing about the Farr40 fleet. The owners and the programs are, for the most part, very consistent from year to year in their participation. So if you sail in the fleet for a while you develop relationships with the other crews; I cant really describe it, but the owners provide us all with an amazing plaform on which to compete. There is something about travelling all over the world with 200 of your closest friends, its really pretty cool. So Barking Mad, being a US boat, and given all the different people on their boat, has had a close relationship with the Flash Gordon team over the years....and there was nothing we wanted more than to "beat the &@* out of them!"

The start was interesting to say the least. We entered from port in about 13kts of breeze, dialed up and were able to escape off to port underneath them. As we led them behind the boat Bill and I had a bit of a discussion about what to do next....and mind you, it was a discussion, no yelling. He wanted to continue, I wanted to we circled, sort of. I started my circle and decided to jybe back, playing a bit of cat and mouse with him; but Terry had Jim Richardson in a good position to avoid me and subsequently I put us into a terrible position...err, a "really F'n weak position."...according to Bill. Anyway, we ended up somehow making something out of nothing and we started even with Barking Mad, slightly to leward on stbd. They were not able to get control of us up the beat and we rounded right behind them at the first mark. As we ran the breeze picked up right before the three length zone, changing the timing for everything. Matty was able to key in on this and called for the no pole jybe, jib up, chute down...all inside the zone while the boats were overlapped. Barking Mad was unable to pull off the maneuver, they shrimped their kite and we were able to round inside of them and sail on to the win. A great race....a great way to end the regatta. It was an amazing time in Miami for me...four days of sailing in the sunshine, I missed a hellish storm that ravaged the east coast and chilled chicago, and I got to see all my best old friends. A win win no matter what our win-loss was.

By the way, we went 3-5 and finished in 4th. We'll do better next year.

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