SAN FRANCISCO - Alex Roepers has been a Farr 40 owner for seven years and has yet to capture a world championship. The New York skipper certainly feels a lot more confident about his chances of achieving that elusive goal after his team's performance this week on San Francisco Bay.
Roepers had a hot hand on the tiller and got nearly flawless crew work in posting a wire-to-wire victory at the St. Francis Yacht Club's prestigious Rolex Big Boat Series, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
America's Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson called tactics for Roepers, who won five of eight races and finished no lower than third in the four-day regatta. In a fiercely competitive class that is famous for having its regattas come down to the last leg of the last race, Plenty pulled off a rare and remarkable feat. With an amazingly low score of 13 points, the New York entry finished 24 points ahead of runner-up Enfant Terrible, skippered by Alberto Rossi of Ancona, Italy.
"We are extremely happy with how well the event went and feel very fortunate to win one of the world's greatest regattas," Roepers said. "It was one heck of a score line and the crew deserves a lot of credit for that. Nobody knows better than I how hard it is to win a race in this class. To win five in one regatta is really something."
Headsail trimmer Morgan Trubovich, main trimmer Skip Baxter and bowman Greg Gendell were the other professionals aboard Plenty, which showed an ability to come back from poor or mediocre starts the entire regatta. Ted Hackney (offside trimmer), Scott Holmgren (grinder), Matt McDonough (mast), Nate Reynolds and Dimitri Simons (pit) completed the crew.
"We had great upwind speed and always made gains on the beats," Roepers said. "We've been chipping away at every little variable we can control and continue to take steps forward on all fronts. It's kind of been 'Steady Eddie' progress by the entire crew."
With the impressive victory, Plenty clinched the Farr 40 2014 International Circuit Championship - a first for Roepers. Plenty also won the Rolex North American Championship in May and the California Cup in June while placing second at the Midwinter Championship in March.
"It's definitely been a fantastic season for the boat. Obviously, I have a new crew this year and collectively they have done a fantastic job. It also helps that I've gotten better myself as a helmsman," Roepers said. "Our goal for the last seven years has been to win a world championship. That is what we've been building toward this entire season and I can say at this point that we feel well-prepped for the worlds."
The Big Boat Series provided invaluable preparation for the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, which will be held Oct. 15-18 on San Francisco Bay with St. Francis Yacht Club serving as host.
Enfant Terrible is the reigning world champion and Rossi must feel good about his ability to repeat after placing second at the Big Boat Series and second on the International Circuit as well. Vasco Vascotto served as tactician aboard the Italian entry, which placed second in four of eight races and also posted a pair of fourths. A difficult Friday that produced results of eight and 13th was the only negative for Enfant Terrible, which finished two points ahead of third place Groovederci (John Demourkas, Santa Barbara, California).
Skipper Helmut Jahn and his team on Flash Gordon 6 finished fourth at the Rolex Big Boat Series and secured third place in the International Circuit standings. Ian Williams called tactics while Evan Jahn drove at the starts and upwind for his father, who was unable to finish Race 2 due to a ripped mainsail.
"Well we survived. Hopefully, we got all our mistakes out of the way in this regatta. We had a collision, were over early and hit a mark - a lot of things we don't normally do," Jahn said. "We were forced to sail with a main that we don't really like and had been in storage for a year. We had pretty good speed, but I think we took too many chances. We will come back here next month more focused and ready to compete for a world championship."
There was cause for celebration among the crew of Foil, which captured the circuit championship for the Corinthian portion of the class. Skipper Gordon Leon led the way as Foil competed in all five events on the circuit and consistently finished among the top tier of Corinthian entries.
"It's very important to me to have a Corinthian team, to have a group of sailors that are like a family and are all learning together," said Leon, a resident of Rancho Palos Verdes. "We won this trophy based on participation and persistence. We were out on the water working hard and trying our very best in every race of every regatta."
Star class world champion George Szabo served as tactician aboard Foil for the Rolex Big Boat Series and will do so again at the world championships. Leon's crew includes five women - Samantha Herrin (bow), Jennifer Hylander (spinnaker), Kristy Lenehan (main), Sheri Sanders (mast) and Jennifer Pszybylski (pit).
It's been a good year for Foil, which also captured class honors in the prestigious Transpacific Yacht Race. It marked the first time a Farr 40 had competed in Transpac and Foil proved the design can do well offshore.
Leon said sailing one-design against the likes of Plenty, Enfant Terrible, Flash Gordon 6, Groovederci and the other boats that normally compete on the International Circuit has been a great learning experience.
"Having the international boats here on the West Coast has been huge for all of the Corinthian teams as far as being able to improve our skills as sailors," he said. "When you get into one-design you really hone your skills as to what makes the boat go faster."
The Farr 40 class would like to thank North Sails Graphics for its support with this regatta.