FARR 40 – Chicago architect Helmut Jahn has won the 2012 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship after nine races across four days of competition on Lake Michigan. A stalwart of the grand-prix class, Jahn’s previous best result was a fourth place at last year’s Rolex Farr 40 World Championship which was contested in Sydney, Australia. After more than a dozen times racing in the world championship, it seems fitting that Jahn claims the 2012 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship title while racing from his home club, Chicago Yacht Club, against a backdrop of the city that is graced by some of his work.
With the race committee hoping to run three races for the final day of the series, the first race of the day got underway in a westerly breeze of 13 knots with gusts to 24. John Demourkas, on Groovederci (USA), led the fleet around the first two marks of the 6.4 nautical mile course, only to be overtaken by Hasip Gencer on Asterisk Uno (TUR) who cruised on to cross the finish just four hundredths of a second ahead of him. Enfant Terrible (ITA) was third across the line, followed by Charisma (USA) and Barking Mad (USA). Standings leader Helmut Jahn, on Flash Gordon 6 (USA), was sixth which was enough to both keep him in the lead and also increase his points cushion from 10 to 13.
After a wait for the wind to stabilize and then two general recalls, the second race got underway in approximately 12 knots with gusts to 17. Enfant Terrible won and was followed 10 seconds later by Nightshift and Heartbreaker, with Struntje light and Transfusion rounding out the top-five finishers. With a seventh place finish, their worst of the series, Flash Gordon 6 secured the championship crown. With the time limit for starting another race running out, the championship was determined with nine races.
“We knew we had 10 points [margin] this morning, and Transfusion was clearly our competitor,” said Bill Hardesty, Helmut Jahn’s tactician on Flash Gordon 6. “We were able to stay close to them in the first race. They took a little bit of risk and ended dropping back and getting a couple extra points so that made things a little bit more comfortable for us. But the race committee kept talking about doing two more races so we didn’t feel quite out of the woods yet. When the wind was so weird out there it just whittled away at the time and they could only get one more race in. It came down to us needing a top-12 finish. It was just a surreal feeling. It’s an amazing event to win.”
Driving Flash Gordon 6 on the start and first beat of each race was Evan Jahn, Helmut’s son. “It’s something we’ve been after for a really long time,” he said of the win. “For many years it didn’t feel like we were getting any closer. To just achieve it is pretty tremendous for us. To sail and win with Dad, I’ve thought about that actually for the last few days. We’ve been doing this for so long. Our relationship has gotten so much stronger just by sailing together. This is a crowning achievement for a very long tenure in this class and to be able to share it with my Dad is pretty special.”
The senior Jahn took up sailing because, as he explained, he needed something else in life to balance a very demanding profession. “I take it very seriously,” said Helmut Jahn. “I never sailed because I thought ‘I’ll win the world championship.’ That wasn’t something I thought I had to do. But doing it [winning] is just incredible. It makes me feel that maybe I’m not a better sailor, but I’m a better architect.” He went on to explain that he didn’t think the team had an advantage because they were sailing in home waters. “You saw that we had different conditions every day. This is actually the great thing about sailing, its unpredictable and it’s not something you can actually prepare yourself for. Sailing at home we had somehow had a sense we were on a mission. Like so many teams, they do better at home, I think it was the belief … the concentration, the preparation that we did in the last three weeks which got us in.
“The one requisite was that we had to have the right amount of speed. Bill Hardesty, our tactician, kept us out of trouble. We didn’t make mistakes. We didn’t think we needed to win the races. We just didn’t want a bad race. I set, on Sunday night, the goal – never any double digits. So a lot of things fell in place. We set our goals at a level where we could win. We achieved those goals. Retire? I want to celebrate now.”
The winner of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship was crowned based on the sum of all races for each yacht (i.e. no discards). Helmut Jahn on Flash Gordon 6 won the series with 41 points. The win of the last race by Alberto Rossi on Enfant Terrible (ITA) moved them up two spots in the overall standings to take second with 51 points. The defending champion, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis on Transfusion (AUS), took the remaining spot on the podium with 52 points. Wolfgang Schaefer on Struntje light was fourth overall with 62 points, followed by John Demourkas on Groovederci (USA) with 66 points.