CAPRI, ITALY - One of the interesting storylines surrounding the Farr 40 competition at Rolex Capri Sailing Week involved Claudia Rossi. Claudia, daughter of class stalwart Alberto Rossi, was serving as guest driver of Pazza Idea at the request of owner Pierluigi Bresciani.
Claudia Rossi has proven far more than a novelty act, helping lift the performance off Pazza Idea to the point it is challenging for the regatta championship. With Claudia at the helm, Pazza Idea won Race 4 and placed second in Race 5 in heavy air conditions on Thursday.
Pazza Idea, a Corinthian entry in its second season on the International Circuit, moved into second in the overall standings with the strong outing and suddenly there is a budding father-daughter rivalry. Alberto Rossi and his veteran team on Enfant Terrible lead the regatta by tiebreaker over Pazza Idea with both Italian entries having totaled 12 points after two days of racing.
"To say we are super happy is not enough. We are just so happy about the boat, the tuning and the crew. Incredibly, incredibly happy with how we are doing so far," Bresciani said. "One year of experience has been a huge help for the crew. Everyone is doing their job so much better. I think the biggest difference is our helmswoman Claudia, who is doing a fantastic job.
Claudia Rossi was introduced to sailboat racing three years ago aboard a 7-meter then graduated to the highly-competitive J/70 class in 2016. She proved a quick learner, placing fifth at the J/70 World Championship aboard her boat Petite Terrible.
Stepping up to steering a Farr 40 is no easy feat, but Claudia is conquering that challenge as well. Pazza Idea was first to the windward mark in Race 1, which marked Claudia's debut in the class. She was phenomenal on the helm in Race 4 as Pazza Idea posted its first victory on the International Circuit
"Our start was very good and we had excellent speed both upwind and downwind. We tacked good and gybed good," Claudi Rossi said. "So very exciting and incredible to win a race in this historic class. Everyone on the crew is trying so hard to do their best. We made some mistakes, but we maintained our focus."
Rossi readily admits she did not expect to find such immediate success at the helm of a Farr 40, which is so much bigger and more powerful than a J/70.
"So very surprised. It's like a dream. This boat is really big for me and really hard. Thanks to my crew, I can do really well," she said. "When the wind is really high like it was today, it is really difficult to handle the boat downwind because of the spinnaker."
Matteo Ivaldi is calling tactics aboard Pazza Idea, which is looking to become the first Corinthian entry to ever win a Farr 40 class event. "We have a strong crew, the best sails and outstanding tuning. We think we can do it," Bresciani said.
And what does Claudia think about suddenly challenging her father, a past world champion in the Farr 40 class, for the overall victory at Rolex Capri Sailing Week?
"I don't know because he is so strong, but we will try our best," she said. "I have mixed feelings because I always hope that my father wins. It is his class, not mine."
Albert Rossi and the Enfant Terrible team opened the regatta with a fifth, but have been solid ever since - winning two races while also notching a second and third. Alberto is beating Claudia based off more bullets.
Racing got underway on Wednesday in Chamber of Commerce conditions - sunny skies and 12-14 knot southerly winds. Chicago owner-driver Helmut Jahn sailed Flash Gordon 6 to victory in the opening race, crossing the finish line less than a boat length ahead of Struntje Light.
Enfant Terrible led around every mark and got the gun by a wide margin in Race 2 while German skipper Wolfgang Schaefer and his mostly Italian team on Struntje Light showed outstanding speed and decision-making in winning Race 3.
"It was a magical day on the water," Farr 40 class representative Brady Stagg said of Wednesday's action. "It was absolutely spectacular in every respect. This is why sailors from all over the world come to Capri to go racing."
A front moved in overnight and the wind velocity was way up when the sun rose on Thursday. Principal race officer Peter "Luigi" Reggio had been worried it would be too rough to race, but felt the breeze was stable enough to send the fleet out on the water.
Alberto Rossi acknowledged being a bit out of rhythmn in the blow as the class has not seen such conditions since the 2014 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in San Francisco.
"We didn't sail the first race really well. I didn't feel like myself. It's been a long time since we sailed in such strong wind and we were all a little bit rusty," Rossi said.
Enfant Terrible made some rig changes in between races and was more in phase as the wind increased to 24 knots. After taking third in Race 4, the Italian boat found its speed on the first downwind leg and took the lead for good in Race 5.
"We had a really good start, but lost some ground and arrived at the top mark in third. We sailed very well on the run and caught Struntje and Flash. We did a really good job of gybing," Alberto Rossi said. "We crossed the line and it was fantastic to look back and see that the boat behind me was my daughter."
Rossi has been so impressed by Claudia's performance that he has already decided she will helm Enfant Terrible the next time he unavailable to do so.
"I'm really, really proud of Claudia. She is doing a very good job of steering Pazza Idea," Alberto said. "Yes, I'm really surprised because she has never sailed a boat this size in such strong wind."
Vasco Vascotto is serving as tactician aboard Enfant Terrible, which is planning to do every event on the 2017 International Circuit in hopes of being in top form for the 20th anniversary Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, being held out of Porto Cervo in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
"I want to win the worlds like all the other boats. This is the beginning of working toward that goal," Rossi said. "I really enjoyed today's racing for two reasons. First, I needed it because we have to be prepared to sail in strong wind. Also, sailing off Capri in such fantastic conditions is so beautiful. This is such a wonderful place."
Visit www.RolexCapriSailingWeek.com for more details on the regatta.