In life, timing is everything. And, after seven years in the Farr 40 class, the timing was right for New York financier Alex Roepers to achieve a long-held goal of winning the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.
For the last four days, 19 international teams have done battle on San Francisco Bay: two days of light breeze were followed by no sailing on the penultimate day of the competition – atypical conditions for this famed sailing arena. For the final day of racing, the fleet returned to Berkeley Circle and with time running out – no race could be started after 1530 – the southwesterly that the area is known for finally materialized and the last race of the series was underway at 1500 in a 10-12 knot breeze.
First around every mark, and across the finish line as well, was Wolfgang Schaefer’s German-flagged Struntje light. It was the second win of the series for Schaefer, whose wife, Angela, sails onboard, and it had the effect of moving them from sixth up to fourth in the overall standings with 41 points.
Second across the line was Martin Hill on Estate Master. The Australian team ended the series second overall with 34 points. Third to finish was the Mexican-flagged Flojito y Cooperando, driven by Julian Fernandez, which moved them up one spot in the overall standings to 11th, with 67 points. Italy’s defending Rolex Farr 40 World Champion, Alberto Rossi on Enfant Terrible, crossed the line sixth to retain third in the overall standings with 39 points.
Surprisingly, Roepers had his worst race of the championship series – a 10th-place finish – but the 18-point lead he had established in the first two days of racing proved unsurmountable by any other team. Roepers ended the series with 24 points, and a 10-point cushion over Martin Hill on Estate Master.
This was the first year that Roepers had Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Terry Hutchinson calling tactics on Plenty. Asked how the team developed such a successful collaboration – after finishing second at Cabrillo Beach, in March, the team went on to win the Rolex Farr 40 North Americans in May, the Cal Cup in June and the Rolex Big Boat Series in September – in such a seemingly short time, Roepers replied: “First of all we sailed together on the Farr 40 of a friend of mine in 1999, and I noticed Terry’s incredible capabilities. He was already quite famous at the time. And when I finally got through the Swan 45 into the Farr 40 class in ’07, he was well committed to Barking Mad, as he was for many years, and that was great. I did very well with the tacticians I had, Chris Larson and Tony Rey, whom I’m extremely thankful for because they helped me go up on the learning curve and we did well, we got fifth, sixth, here and there. But when Terry became available the friendship was already there. He actually helped me with my Swan 45 in ’04, he was my coach and he sailed the first regatta with me, so we’ve known each other for a long time and the opportunity had to come around to come together as a team on the Farr 40, and it’s been great. He brought Skip [Baxter] and Morgan [Trubovich] with him; I didn’t know them before. Greg Gendell sailed with me in the world championship that we won in the Swan 45 championship in ’07. It just clicked right away.”
“We were plenty nervous coming into the regatta. It is such a strong competition. My hat’s off to all of the other owners and the teams out there. It's a very close battle and it has been all season. We’ve been lucky to get on top through our process and determination. It was incredible to have the score line we had on the first two days which gave us such a leg up.”
“We’re going to stay at it,” Roepers answered when asked about his future goals. “We’re looking forward to a California season next year. I was very much in favor of, and I think it’s going to happen, a Sydney worlds in 2016 and then another worlds in Sardinia, hopefully, in 2017. I’d like to win all of them, actually, but of course others do too. And it’s very hard to repeat, but the goal is to have a great season next year.”
Roepers will have his chance to defend his title – a feat which has not been accomplished since 2006 when Vincenzo Onorato won again in ’07 and ‘08 aboard his Italian-flagged Mascalzone Latino – next September when the 2015 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship is held at Long Beach Yacht Club in Long Beach, California.