Roepers and his top-notch team on Plenty will make their season debut in the Gaeta Open, being held June 8-10 off the coast of this ancient city. Tactician Terry Hutchinson drilled the crew for several days in advance of the regatta, which features a solid five-boat fleet that includes another past world champion in Enfant Terrible.
"This regatta helps us set the baseline for the worlds. Hopefully, after five days of practice and three days of racing, we'll be back up to speed," Roepers said. "We have a competitive fleet here and I think it's a good way to get dialed in for the worlds."
Roepers, one of the longest-tenured owners in the class, captured his first Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in 2014 off San Francisco. Plenty was back on top of the pack when it won the 2016 title that was held out of Sydney, Australia.
Now Roepers is seeking to join exclusive company as a three-time champ. Italian legend Vincenzo Onorato is the only owner-driver to capture three straight world championships, doing so from 2006 through 2008 (Newport, Copenhagen, Miami Beach). Boston-based skipper Jim Richardson joined Onorato as a three-time Rolex recipient in 2009 - adding Porto Cervo to the titles he secured in Miami Beach (1998) and San Francisco (2004).
Hutchinson, an Annapolis-based professional, called tactics for Richardson during two of his world championship runs. The Quantum Sail Design executive held the same role aboard Plenty for its two titles.
"We have pretty much the same crew as the last three years so we're very familiar with each other," Roepers said. "Terry always does a good job of getting things organized and we are confident we have a very strong team."
Roepers is back at the helm of his boat for the first time since winning the D-Marin Zadar Regatta in September, 2016. Trimmers Morgan Trubovich (headails) and Skip Baxter (main) along with Greg Gendell (foredeck) are the other professionals on Plenty, which is gearing up for the 2017 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, being held July 10-13 in Porto Cervo, Italy.
"We certainly want to win this regatta, but that is not the ultimate goal. We want to work on our boat speed, crew work and chemistry," Roepers said. "I haven't sailed since Zadar so it's been quite a hiatus for me. This is purely about getting back into the swing of things. Hopefully, we'll arrive in Porto Cervo a well-oiled machine as a crew again."
Skipper Alberto Rossi and the Enfant Terrible team opened the 2017 International Circuit by winning Rolex Capri Sailing Week. Rossi, the 2013 world champion, has worked hard to improve his program with an eye toward dethroning Plenty. Roepers remembers from the 2015 season what it's like to be the boat to beat.
"We all take turns in that role. Enfant was pretty unbeatable in 2013 and that forced other teams to raise their game. Now we've become accustomed to being the hunted," he said.
Gaeta, located 75 miles from Rome and 50 miles from Naples, sits on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. This city has played a prominent role in military history as its fortifications date back to Roman times.
"We are thrilled to bring the Farr 40 class to Gaeta, a beautiful place with very reliable winds," said Geoff Stagg, manager of the Farr 40 Class Association.
This regatta is being hosted by the Yacht Club Gaeta and will have John Busch as principal race officer. Busch will set courses on the Gulf of Gaeta, which delivers a consistent afternoon sea breeze that ranges 12 to 18 knots.
"We are very happy and excited to host the Farr 40 class. Everyone is very impressed by the technical level of the boats here," said Luca Simeone, vice president of the Yacht Club Gaeta and owner of the Base Nautica Flavio Gioia Spa marina that is berthing the boats. "We're looking forward to a great regatta and hope the weather cooperates."
After spending nearly a week practicing on the Gulf of Gaeta, Hutchinson was impressed by the sailing conditions. "This venue is very good for racing: Extremely flat water and a real reliable sea breeze," he said.
The Gaeta Open has become a crucial step in the development of the Struntje Light program, which suffered a setback at Rolex Capri Sailing Week. Skipper Wolfgang Schaefer saw his regatta cut short after two days of racing when the German entry withdrew due to rig damage.
Schaefer's shore crew has worked hard to repair the crane at the top of the mast along with a section of the tube. The rig was stepped this past Monday and the Struntje Light team has been working hard to get the boat back into race mode.
"We were in leading position after the first day of racing in Capri, so that was one positive we took from that regatta," Schaefer said. "Gaeta is now very important to our team as this is the last opportunity to trim the boat and train the crew before the worlds. We also must tune the rig after the repair and recalibrate our electronics."
Schaefer has sailed off Gaeta in the past and is looking forward to competing in a Farr 40 regatta there. "I know Gaeta from many years ago. It is a great area for racing with excellent sea breeze. We like these conditions and they are in line with our class philosophy. Also, the Yacht Club Gaeta is a beautiful facility and the members are very friendly," Schaefer said.
Skipper Luca Pierdomenico and his MP30+10 crew are looking to build upon a strong showing at Rolex Capri Sailing Week. Pierdomenico steered the Italian entry to a pair of second place finishes while placing third in three other races.
"Our team showed a lot of growth compared to last season. I feel there is more awareness on the boat because of last year's experience," Pierdomenico said. "During the winter, we had some training sessions to improve the feeling of the boat and the schemes. Moreover, we have a few new sails and worked a lot on boat tuning. Of course the result we had in Capri is very positive and gave us confidence from the beginning of this Farr 40 class adventure."
MP30+10 is a family-based program with Pierdomenico sailing with older brother Armando (spinnaker trimmer) and younger brother Francesco (mainsail trimmer).
"This project was born from our passion and love for the sea. Having my two brothers onboard the boat is wonderful, but the whole family, including our wives, parents and children, are not only supporters but also actually key parts of the program," Pierdomenico. "We consider the entire crew a big family being made up of very close friends."
Pierdomenico has Michele Regolo, a boyhood friend, aboard as tactician. They have been sailing together since their Optimist and Laser class days and are both members of the Yacht Club Vela Portocivitanova.
"Me and Michele have a very positive rapport and together we feel we are raising the performance level of the crew with each regatta we do," Pierdomenico said.
Visit yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=4154 for more details on the regatta.