In the lead up to the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds, reigning World and European champion Nerone (ITA) has eaten the rest of the competition alive to take out the Rolex Trophy One Design Series that wound up off Sydney after another day of waiting around for fickle light winds to breathe a bit of life into sails.
From two days ago, when the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia hosted series started, there was no doubt that that Massimo Mezzaroma and Antonio Sodo Migliori’s boat was the one to beat, but nobody, including themselves, expected the Italians to win six of the eight races to leave the rest of the fleet reeling with their 25 point victory over nearest competitor, Brett Neill with White Cloud from New Zealand.
Excitement has been in the voice of Nerone tactician Vasco Vascotto every day as his team ticked off win after win. “Of course we are very happy. It was the most difficult day, so we have to congratulate Transfusion on their second place and win today. They sailed very well,” he said of the third placegetter.
“We will go to the World’s now with a great buzz, but we know we are starting all over again. We are confident, but the sailors and boats in the Farr 40s are the best in the world, so we cannot take for granted that we will win. And I know we cannot possibly win so many races – this is very unusual. We still cannot believe it,” Vascotto added.
Vascotto affirmed it was a hard day for the tacticians: “We expected the wind to go right, but it was everywhere and we had to play between the shifts. Antonio did a beautiful job on the starts again and drove well.
Sodo Migliori was circumspect. “Maybe we did too well – this has never happened before. These are very strong sailors we sailed against here, so it is hard to see how we won all these races,” he said.
“Every day things came good for us. I just tried to drive the boat fast. Now the boat is 100 percent good and the crew is very good. The only improvement to make for the Worlds is some new sails and we will have those next week.”
Nerone won Race 7 today, but dropped to third in the final Race 8, their worst score for the series, sailed in unusual Mediterranean style conditions. However, as Sodo Migliori pointed out, “We are very good in all conditions and would have been happy to see some stronger winds.”
The 11 yachts in the Rolex Trophy were left like ducks bobbing on a pond as they waited and waited in light breezes unfit for racing that kept going around the dial in dizzying fashion. Finally at 1.32pm, the penultimate race of the series was underway.
Forced to cut short the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia nine-race series by one race, Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson described the day. “We had to go two and a half miles out to see and wait for the nor’ easter to fill in,” he said.
Instead it was an easterly breeze, but it flicked all over the place forcing Thompson to abandon the first start after a general recall because of a major wind shift. These conditions meant cutting the series short by one race.
“The sea was very flat. It’s not often you get to see that, and we had a strong flowing north current, making it hard to lay the course. The day would have kept tacticians very busy and put them to the test,” Thompson said.
Brett Neill, the owner/driver of White Cloud agreed. “We had a good local tactician, Steve McConaghy, who was very useful to us, especially with the north current. It was weird. He got us out of trouble a couple of times when we were buried deep in the fleet too.”
Neill and his crew jumped straight off the boat after racing and headed for the airport, as all have to work tomorrow.
On their second place overall, Neill commented: “We are nicely surprised. A couple of factors helped us; Steve McConaghy and a bigger fleet changing the usual start procedures. It took a while for the Aussies to settle into that and it’s reflected in the results towards the end.”
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (AUS) pulled a rabbit out of the hat to move into third overall. The World’s runner-up, he and his Transfusion crew seemed to struggle this week and did not look good to even make the top five going into today.
One should never write off a class act. Transfusion moved up a gear to score second in Race 7 and went on to win Race 8. “We made a few silly changes and we realised and went back to how we normally sail. We were fast, had good height and good crew work today. I especially have to thank Mike Leigh (a Canadian Olympic sailor) for the tough job he did as tactician.
Belgiorno-Nettis continued: “I congratulate Nerone on the awesome job they did. We had difficult conditions, but they sailed better than anybody else. They are well polished and that’s how the rest of us have to be, is the lesson I take away from this.”
The big losers were Martin and Lisa Hill on Estate Master (AUS). This morning they were sitting second overall, but an uncharacteristic 10th in Race 7 changed the landscape.
“I am sorry for Estate Master. We took third place from them. One race and us changed their fortunes,” Belgiorno-Nettis acknowledged.
Pragmatic as ever, Hill said, “We thought the wind would go right – it went left – then we thought it would be left – and guess what! It was like that all through the race. It happens sometimes.
Hill remains enthusiastic as ever. “The good to come out of this great series is that Neville Crichton has said he’ll buy a boat and join the fleet and Marcus Blackmore’s going to get back into it and charter a yacht.”
Behind Nerone, the scores were so compacted it could have gone to any of the next four yachts in what looked like the luck of the draw in the conditions faced by the fleet.
Disappointment for Voodoo Chile, which had been having an excellent series, but her chances were diminished in the protest room last evening when Tasmanian Andrew Hunn and his crew were disqualified from Races 3 and 4 in port and starboard incidents.
If there was a disappointment to the Rolex Trophy One-Design Series, it was that we did not get see Nerone perform in strong conditions.