Groovederci Takes Over Lead in Farr 40 East Coast Championship

Top six boat separated by just seven points as regatta comes down to last day

Three days, three different leaders in the Farr 40 East Coast Championship. California skipper John Demourkas jumped to the top of the standings with a strong Saturday on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Demourkas steered Groovederci to second and third place results in three races to seize the lead with 33 points, one better than Annapolis entry Ramrod. Just seven points separate the top six boats in the fleet so the championship will come down to the final day of the regatta.

“Contrary to forecasts, the breeze has been great and Annapolis has turned on a blinding regatta so far and I’m looking forward to a ridiculously close finish tomorrow,” said class manager Geoff Stagg. “With six boats still in contention, it’s going to make for spectacular racing. It’s the usual Farr 40 down-to-the-wire, dramatic last day of racing.”

It was Chamber of Commerce conditions off Annapolis with south-southeasterly breeze blowing steady between nine and 13 knots. While almost a knot of current played a factor, the expected pleasure boat traffic of Memorial Day weekend did not and principal race officer Dick Neville was able to get in three windward-leeward races that left the sailors satisfied and exhausted after a long day on the water.

“This is about as good as it gets on the Chesapeake at this time of the year,” said Neville, whose Storm Trysail Club race committee is on schedule to complete a 10-race series as planned. “We’re hoping the weather tomorrow will be a repeat of what it was today.”

Groovederci has won two races and finished fifth or better in four others. Cameron Appleton is calling tactics for Demourkas, a Santa Barbara resident who is a veteran of the class.

“I didn’t do anything right today, but for some reason it all come out okay,” Demourkas said. “I give credit to the crew for its consistency. We’ve been consistent on speed in terms of hitting our targets, been consistent with changing sails and getting around the corners.”

Groovederci placed seventh in Race 7 and Demourkas said that was actually a victory as the boat with the bright red kissing lips for a logo was last on the first leg. “Cameron pulled a rabbit out of the hat in that second race. We got back half the fleet and I’m not sure how,” he said.

Demourkas joked that perhaps the key to overall victory was to start poorly in Sunday’s two races and fight back to the front of the 11-boat fleet. “For some reason, good starts have brought bad results for us while bad starts have brought good results,” he said. “Leading is not necessarily a good thing until the last leg. It’s Farr 40 racing… the competitive level of this fleet is incredible.”

Barking Mad, skippered by Jim Richardson of Newport, R.I., found its stride on Saturday after struggling during the first two days of the regatta. Marty Kullman called tactics as Richardson steered Barking Mad to victory in Race 6 and 7.

“Our biggest problem has been starting. Today, we got off the line in pretty good shape and gave ourselves a chance,” Kullman said.

Barking Mad trailed Struntje Light at the first windward mark, but took the lead on the downwind leg and held it the rest of the way in winning Race 6. After getting flushed right in Race 7, Kullman decided to go deep to that side of the course and picked up a favorable wind shift that enabled Barking Mad to pass about five boats and reach the windward mark in first place.

“It’s really tough sailing here on the Chesapeake Bay and we’ve had our issues, but remarkably we still have a chance to win this thing,” Kullman said.

Struntje Light, the German entry skippered by Wolfgang Schaefer, overtook Groovederci on the first spinnaker run and led the rest of the way in winning Race 8. Barking Mad and Struntje Light stand fifth and sixth, respectively, and are tied with 41 points.

Skipper Alberto Rossi and his Italian team aboard Enfant Terrible holds third place overall with 37 points while Asterisk Uno (Hasip Gencer, Turkey) is also in contention with 40 points. Sitting on the stern of his boat and sipping a drink at the docks of Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard, Demourkas said the key to maintaining the lead for two more races was for the Groovederci crew to approach Sunday the way it did Saturday.

“As a team, we’re coming together and starting to sail pretty well. The feeling onboard is very positive,” he said. “We’ve been to Annapolis before and it’s always a challenge. From my experience on the Chesapeake, you don’t worry about the tactical as much as the strategical. I think the wind pressure and current are more important. Picking the right side of the course is absolutely crucial here.”

Also at stake on Sunday is the overall lead on the United States Farr 40 Circuit, which Enfant Terrible leads after two events by tiebreaker over Barking Mad. Rossi and tactician Giovanni Cassinari need to decide whether to battle Groovederci and Ramrod for the East Coast crown or match race Barking Mad and Struntje Light in order to protect their tenuous lead on the circuit.

“What’s going on Sunday is that we have two competitions going on. There’s one for the East Coast title and one for the circuit leader,” Stagg said. “It will make for an incredible last day of racing.”

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