The Rolex Farr 40 World Championship has attracted 33 international teams to Miami Beach for the regatta scheduled for April 16-19. While the beautiful waters off the coast of Miami can pose a distraction for the teams, little time will be spent in activities other than preparing to compete against the top names in professional sailing who will race against some of the best amateur sailors in one design racing. Much has transpired for the teams prior to the actual date of the Championship regatta: the Rolex Farr 40 Pre-Worlds took place on April 11-12, followed by two days of sail measurement, crew-weigh-in and boat tuning, plus full days of training out on the Atlantic Ocean with practice starts and mark round maneuvers in an attempt to gain boat-handling consistency that is the main ingredient for success. Consider the 2007 Worlds, with 36 Farr 40s competing and Mascalzone Latino scored all top-10 finishes in the nine-race series, and finished 35 points ahead of second-place Alinghi, owned by Ernesto Bertarelli, and Marking Mad, in third. This is serious stuff.
The boat with the fewest professional sailors onboard, only one, and probably the one boat with the most to gain in the pre-regatta experience is Nimbus Blue (USA). Crewed by all midshipmen from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and owned by Hunt Lawrence (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), this is the second world championship for the boat as it competed in the 2006 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, in Newport, R.I.
"Having practiced only one day together as a team before coming into this event, I think we did remarkably well," said Chris Branning, helmsman. "The first two races we had beautiful starts with clear lanes, allowing us to round the first mark in the top 12 or 14 boats. While some of our mechanics are a bit off the pace, overall we seem to be gelling together as a team very well, and I think are poised to have some stellar finishes. Our straight line speed felt solid and we have proven we are capable of smooth maneuvers at all corners of the race course; we just need a little more ironing out in some areas and we will be on our way. We are stoked to be here and to be a part of such an amazing test of skill. The competition on the race course is almost unfathomable it is so intense. From the gun to the finish of each race it is a non-stop battle on every inch of the race course."
Brian Giorgio, mainsail trimmer onboard Nimbus Blue, summed up the team's goals. "Our team's ultimate goal for the Worlds is to become better sailors," he said. "Personally I would like to see us beat five teams and have one top 10 finish. Just the fact that we are here and able to play around with some of these boats is enough for me."
USMMA's offshore sailing director Ralf Steitz, who is sailing onboard John Thomson's Infinity (USA), coordinates the program for Nimbus Blue, but he is not sailing with him as he feels it is a conflict of interest and more importantly they learn without him. "That way the guys get to learn teamwork, leadership and what it is like to have a small group in their command," said Steitz, who recently received US SAILING's Timothea Larr Award for his lifelong commitment to quality sailing education. "We feel it is extremely important to their development and experience for commanding a ship."
Advice Geoff Stagg, the Farr 40 Class organizer, would give Nimbus Blue? "It takes a lot of luck, the stars in alignment, being relaxed and having a good crew sailing together for a long time." Good luck to the midshipman and to John Thomson and the crew on Infinity. They both have their work cut out for them. The 33 teams on the entry list is like a Who's Who in sailing: some of the teams: Alignhi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Barking Mad (USA) Jim Richardson, Goombay Smash (USA), William Douglass, Mascalzone (ITA), Vincenzo Ornorato, and Morning Glory (GER) Hasso Plattner. There will be 10 teams from the United States. Updates on the regatta next week.
It has been said that sailing is a lifelong sport. Think of all the young children you have seen on parents boats, spending family time together on a fabulous vacation surrounded only by the sound of water lapping the sides of the boat as it makes it way to distant harbors. And at the other end of the spectrum, think of all those sailors who continue navigating their boats until the sunset of their lives. There is one sailor, though, who has been in the news lately, who just about everyone in the sailing world recognizes. That could be no other than the master boat designer Olin Stephens, who turned 100 this week. Scuttlebutt, the online sailing newsletter, received the following from his daughter-in-law Carol Stephens: I was sent to Scuttlebutt on behalf of Olin Stephens who celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday near his home in Hanover, NH. This celebration was one of many planned during the coming month, and it was a very warm and delightful family gathering. He is well, enjoyed the party very much, and is off doing his weekly grocery shopping today. He is also looking forward to other parties that are coming along, including a big one (100 days of Olin Stephens) at Mystic Seaport in May. His energy and enthusiasm for life is alive and well. I know that Olin would be most happy to see and hear from all his friends out there in Scuttlebutt land. So, if people would like to contact him and send their cards and wishes to him, he can be contacted at his home in Hanover NH: Olin J. Stephens, II, Kendall at Hanover, 80 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755.
Another age-related story proves that sailing is truly for all ages. Laurence and Marianne Sunderland of Marina del Rey report that their 16-year-old son Zac, who has 15,000 ocean miles to his credit, will set off next month from Southern California in an attempt to become the youngest person to circumnavigate singlehanded. According to Sunderlands, the Guiness Book of World Records says that the current record is held by David Dicks, who completed his circumnavigation in '96 at the age of 18 years and 41 days, thereby beating the record set by Brian Caldwell of Honolulu with his Contessa 26 Mai Vavau. Caldwell was 20 when he finished. Alas, the Guinness folks are a little behind the times, as Aussie Jesse Martin completed a circumnavigation at age 18 with the S&S 34 Lionheart. For what it's worth, he did it non-stop.
Zac, whose first home was a Tradewinds 55, has been sailing all his life, including family adventures to Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and Mexico, the latter being a three-year cruise. The son of a shipwright, Zac is an A student, an outstanding player on the football team, and is working out constantly in preparation for the trip. The original youthful circumnavigator, of course, was Robin Lee Graham, who famously took off at age 16 aboard Dove, his Gladiator 24. But he took something like five years to finish the trip, doing the last legs aboard an Allied Mistress 33. The youngest female to sail around alone was Tania Aebi, who finished at age 21 aboard her Contessa 26 Varuna. Technically, however, neither Graham nor Aebi, who both fell in love on their trips, did it singlehandedly because they took others on very short legs. Love hits very hard during the teen years, and could be a major obstacle to Sunderland-or any other teenager-making it around alone.