San Francisco - Day 3 of the Rolex Big Boat Series began on a somber note for the Farr 40 class, which paid tribute to a fallen family member prior to racing. All 15 boats in the fleet flew a black flag from the backstay and before going into sequence for Race 5 circled sailed one-by-one past Flojito y Cooperando to show support for the team and pay respect to the memory of co-owner Bernardo Minkow, who died suddenly on Thursday night.
"It was a very touching ceremony, tremendously respectful and just beautiful to watch," said Geoff Stagg, manager of the Farr 40 class. "Flojito stopped in the middle of the start line and all the boats lined up to leeward then sailed past with the entire crew on the rail with their heads bowed or their hands over their hearts."
Co-owner Julian Fernandez chose not to race on Friday out of respect for his close friend and partner. However, the entire Flojito y Cooperando crew felt the boat should race on Saturday to honor the memory of Bernardo. The Mexican entry put forth a strong performance, posting results of seventh and eighth in strong winds on Saturday.
"We are all one big family in this class and what the fleet did today showed very strongly that Bernardo was an important part of that family," Fernandez said. "It was very, very emotional and we are so honored by show of support from our fellow sailors. Our team was very happy to go out there today and race on behalf of Bernardo. That is what he would have wanted."
Once racing got underway, skipper Alex Roepers and the Plenty team proceeded to tighten their grip on the overall lead by winning Race 5 and 6. Renowned professional Terry Hutchinson is calling tactics aboard the New York entry, which has been absolutely on fire in this regatta with four bullets in six races. In a talent-laden fleet featuring multiple past world champions, Plenty also counts a second and third for a remarkably low score of nine points.
"Just an absolutely incredible feeling," Roepers said of posting a pair of bullets in heavy air on Saturday. "It was a complete battle out there today. Enfant Terrible was determined to have a big day and they certainly did. We had to really work and work to keep ahead of them. All credit to my crew, which has done a fantastic job this entire regatta."
It has been a terrific season as a whole for Plenty, which has been nothing short of sensational during the 2014 International Circuit. Roepers steered his dark metallic gray boat to victory at the Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship and the California Cup while placing second at the Midwinter Championship.
Roepers is now on the verge of another huge win as the Rolex Big Boat Series is one of the most prestigious regattas in the world. A win here on San Francisco Bay would secure the 2014 International Circuit championship for the New York-based owner.
"Our long-term trajectory is the world championship and every day on the water we are working toward that," Roepers said. "Obviously, we would love to win this regatta since it's a classic. However, our ultimate focus is on the worlds."
For the third straight day, the Farr 40 class began the day with a windward-leeward race on Berkeley Circle and Plenty led at every mark rounding in getting the gun. Skipper Alberto Rossi and his team aboard the Italian entry Enfant Terrible pushed Plenty all the way around the course and came across in second.
Race 6 was a real doozy with principal race officer Anderson Reggio sending the fleet on a 16-nautical mile tour of San Francisco Bay. It was a grueling voyage with the boats doing two laps around the track and passing all the landmarks - city front, Alcatraz Island, host St. Francis Yacht Club - multiple times.
Sailors no doubt returned to the docks physically and mentally exhausted after doing so many tacks, gybes and mark roundings and it was Plenty and Enfant Terrible that came to the fore at the finish with the latter crossing about a hundred yards ahead after a terrific duel around the lengthy course in 22-26 knot winds.
"It was a great course and a great battle with Enfant. All in all, it was a long, tiring day but we come away extremely satisfied," Roepers said.
It was a real bounce-back day for Enfant Terrible, which posted results of eighth and 13th on Friday. Rossi said his crew kept their collective heads up and came out Saturday with intent to make amends, which they did in splendid fashion. Rossi was focused on the helm while tactician Vasco Vascotto made some great calls as Enfant Terrible put up a pair of seconds and moved into third place in the overall standings.
"Today was much better for us. The boat was going much better and we didn't make any mistakes," Rossi said. "Yesterday was very tough for us, but I am proud of our team for putting it behind. We sailed very, very well today and had two good results."
Enfant Terrible is now three points behind second place Groovederci, which skipper John Demourkas sailed to a 10th and a fifth on Saturday. Chicago skipper Helmut Jahn and his team on Flash Gordon 6 also had a strong day on Saturday with a fourth and a third and are tied with Nightshift (Kevin McNeil, Annapolis) for fourth in the overall standings with 35 points apiece.
"Groovederci is sailing really well and tomorrow will be a big fight for second," Rossi said.
The Farr 40 class would like to thank North Sails Graphics for its support with this regatta.