Saturday's weather forecast: Sunny, 72F., wind 12k WSW
Long Beach, California: Farr 40s need no introduction to Long Beach, but their racing here over Memorial Day weekend will be more serious than ever. The 2011 Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship Saturday through Monday will be the first on the West Coast since the series was launched in 1998, a year after the boat was introduced to the world.
Bringing the only Rolex-sponsored event to Southern California in many years is a significant statement about the strength and competitiveness of the West Coast Farr 40 fleet.
The class has global popularity with 152 boats in 17 countries and, locally, "the fastest growing Farr 40 fleet in the world," said David Voss, president of the West Coast flotilla. "Rolex stands for excellence and the select events they sponsor annually all over the world represent the pinnacle of sailboat racing."
A maximum of eight races will be run, starting at 1 p.m. each day. The forecast for Saturday is a sunny 72 F., with a classic 12 knots of offshore breeze from west-southwest down the San Pedro Channel funnel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland.
The racing will be administered by the Long Beach Yacht Club but the boats will be based and hosted by Gladstone's restaurant at Rainbow Harbor downtown, accessible to visitors.
Saturday's race course will be on the open ocean beyond the east end of the Long Beach Harbor breakwater. Subject to conditions and preferences, the Sunday and Monday races may be run inside the harbor on a course between oil islands Freeman and Chaffee.
The significance of the event is in the growing global popularity of the class, which now has 152 boats in 17 countries. Ten boats are entered in this event, nine from Southern California.
Geoff Stagg, the administrator of the class out of Stagg Yachts in Annapolis, Md., said, "Dave Voss has done a terrific job getting the fleet going there."
The Farr 40s have staged their annual world championships twice in San Francisco, several times in Europe and most recently in Australia in February.
That's where two locals found their dream boat. Jeff Shew and Bill Durant of Long Beach, who have raced a different boat in Long Beach in recent years, bought Goombay Smash from William Douglas, arranged its transport from Down Under and re-named it Viva La Vida (Hooray for Life!). They'll race it for the first time this weekend.
Shew said, "We were interested in the class because the participation in Southern California is growing rapidly and the level of competition is high, so it makes sense to get into this type of racing. We expect great things from this regatta, but we are realists and know that there are a lot of great sailors in the class."
However, like Shew and Durant, all the other drivers are amateurs, too. It's a class rule.
Stagg said, "The strength of the owner-driver [rule] is key to the class. We're very strict about it. We have turned down a number of people. We have a code that fits a level. We vet them quite thoroughly."
Only four professionals are allowed among the crews of nine or 10 sailors, and one of those is often the tactician, like Morgan Larson with Jeff Janov on Dark Star and Eric Doyle with Voss on Piranha---the top two boats in recent times.
Larson was tactician for Farr 40 world champion Mascalzone Latino and counts seven other world championships and an Audi MedCup title to his credit. Doyle is a former strategist for America's Cup team BMW Oracle, a Star world champion and ISAF Sailor of the Year.
Piranha won three fleet championships from 2007 through 2009 and Dark Star won it last year. They have split this season's races between them so far while continuing to lift the competition beyond buoy racing to a broader level. Last month Voss finished first in class and overall on corrected handicap time in his class in the offshore classic 125.5-nautical mile race from Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico.
"Our people have been going offshore for years," he said. "Most of the other [Farr 40] fleets around the world just do buoy racing. We're out there wherever racing's going on. The boat is very suited for it."
To minimize the money factor in the competitive equation, each boat is limited to only nine new sails each year---four for the Corinthian class racers.
Entries (with owner-drivers, tacticians and sail numbers)
Dark Star 80808
Jeff Janov, Malibu, Calif., Tactician-Morgan Larson
Far Niente 37
Frederic Scheer, Hermosa Beach, Calif., T-Marty Kullman
Steve Murphy, Signal Hill, Calif. , T-Mike Priest
David Voss, Marina del Rey, Calif. , T-Eric Doyle
Radical Departure 50060
Joe Carter & Dennis Rosene, Corona del Mar, Calif., T-Harry Pattison
Skian Dhu 51004
Dirk Freeland, Santa Barbara, Calif., T-Jeffrey Grange
Ray Godwin, Huntington Beach, Calif., T-Scott Bimberg
Tony Pohl, San Francisco, Calif., T-Norman Davant
Viva La Vida 131
Jeff Shew & Bill Durant, Long Beach, Calif., T-Jeff Thorpe
White Knight 888
Zoltan Katinsky, San Pedro, Calif., T-Todd Downey
The Farr 40 Class maintains an extensive international schedule that revolves around regional fleets in the U.S., Australia, Southern Europe and the Nordic region, with the annual Rolex Farr 40 World Championship serving as the class's "crown jewel" of competition.
In addition to Rolex as title sponsor, the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship includes as supporting sponsors Gladstone's Restaurant, bioplastics manufacturer Cereplast, Inc., Hyatt Regency Long Beach and The City of Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation & Marine.
For recent results and more information about the Farr 40 class, the 2011 Farr 40 North Americans or the 2012 Farr 40 World Championship, please visit http://www.farr40.org. For more information on the West Coast Farr 40 fleet, please visit www.f40west.org
About Rolex Watch U.S.A.
Since Rolex Watch U.S.A. first presented timepieces to America's Cup defenders in 1958, the company has consistently recognized and encouraged excellence in every important arena of competitive sailing, including elite athlete preparation, US SAILING championships, disabled sailing, and offshore, one-design and women's events.
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