Since the launch of the first Farr 40 in 1997, this high-octane grand-prix class has grown to 160 boats sailed in 20 countries. The well-organized class is run like a business, and the ensuing international competition has led the fleet around the globe to race in many of the sailing world's most iconic venues: San Francisco, Miami, Porto Cervo, Newport and Sydney. From September 17-20, 2012, the 40' high-performance one-design yachts will contest the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in Chicago, notable as an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, telecommunications and transportation. The 20 yachts, representing eight nations (Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Turkey and the U.S.A.), will compete on fast-paced and technically demanding courses, with the first starting signal scheduled to be given daily at 11:00 a.m.
This marriage of business and sport extends from the class organization to the collaboration between the amateur owners and their semi-professional crew that more often than not includes a world-renowned tactician who brings his particular expertise to the contest. The tacticians competing in Chicago boast impressive credentials: no less than seven are Olympians, while at least that many are world champions in other classes.
Bill Hardesty (San Diego, Calif.), the 2011 Etchells World Champion and winner of the 2011 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award, is the tactician aboard Flash Gordon 6 whose owner, Chicago architect Helmut Jahn, was the primary force behind the 15th edition of the world championships being held for the first time on Lake Michigan.
"The Farr 40 is one of the best one design classes in the world," said Hardesty who explained that sailing on Lake Michigan will be different than at other venues. "In fresh water, believe it or not, the boat actually feels a little bit different and we've made a few small changes with the instruments. But even bigger, way more weather patterns come through and the wind is all dependent on what the weather system is at the time. Here, anything can happen on any day and so you have to be prepared for whatever you get thrown."
Hardesty also detailed the dynamic with an amateur helmsman and primarily amateur crew which create a situation where the racing needs to be fun for everybody. "We really have to, as tacticians, anticipate what the situation is going to bring. It takes a while to get used to what the particular helmsman has...everybody has habits, and as the professional on these boats that's our job to know the moves, anticipate what's going to happen and make the best of it.
"One of the best strategies at these regattas is to come out aggressive in the beginning and taper it as the regatta goes along. Teams are less apt to go for the pin - a high risk start - in the beginning. As the regatta starts getting going, teams that are in the back of the fleet they'll go for it at all costs and it'll be life or death. And you sometimes don't want to take that chance; if you need to, and it's a must-win, you roll the dice and see what you can do."