Revitalising the Farr 30

Class President Deneen Demourkas tells all and of her 2010 Tour Voile plans

Thursday December 31st 2009, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

One of the surprise faces to see at the World Yacht Racing Forum in Monaco earlier this month was that of the bombshell of the Farr 30 (nee Mumm) Class, Deneen Demourkas. Heralding from Santa Barbara, CA, Demourkas and her husband John have been cutting a swath through the Farr 40 and 30 classes with their Groovederci campaigns since they bought their first Farr 40 almost a decade ago. More often and not these days John and Deneen sail apart, John continuing on the Farr 40 circuit while his wife’s preference is for the nimbler and more exciting 30 - although at the Farr 40 Worlds in Miami last year they competed against each other.

"I love sailing the boat," says Deneen of the 30. "It is just a lot of fun to sail: It is quick, it is exciting, it is scary, it is everything - an all-round solid boat. I like sailing the 40, but the difference is that what makes the 40 really I believe is the class. It is not the most exciting boat in the world to sail, but it has got a really solid group of owners, top talent, good competition – that is the attraction of the 40. The 30 is its own animal."

Sadly the Farr 30 Class has been on the wane and Deneen reckons this has been the case for the last five years or so. However recently some fundamental changes to the management of the Class have taken place, which she hopes will revitalise racing for her favourite boat.

"I’ve been pushing for change within the class for the last three years," she recounts. "What ended up happening was complete frustration and I decided to stop sailing. Then in the middle of the summer I got a call from Dave Irish saying ‘your class needs you! Run for President’. I didn’t really want the job! But if that was what it was going to take to initiate the changes that we needed to get this class up and going again, then fine. I am THAT passionate about the boat..."

So Deneen is now President of the International Farr 30 One Design Class and significantly its management has now been transferred from Stagg Yachts to the class itself with Carole Abbott down at the RORC Rating Office, a long time European Class Secretary taking the position of International Class Secretary, running the show on a day to day basis. In addition Nicolas Abiven has been appointed Vice President and Dr Harald Bruening, Treasurer.

From a class perspective Deneen sees one of her primary goals as being a reunification to the class. "France was separated from the international class with not much communication going on with the international class - North America and Europe were very separate," she says of how it has been for some years now. "And the Italians were coming to France [to race] but the French weren’t going to Italy: it was a mess.

"So I think this gives us an opportunity to get [everyone] back into the fold of the international class and this is where our future is. Unless we want our investment to be absolutely worthless, we’ve got to get it together and put on some good events and get participation back. I’ve got some encouraging emails from Turkey. There are six boats racing there. And the Baltic are interested in adding events to their calendar. So there is a lot of interest and now it is just a matter of organisation and getting everyone back into the fold and pushing to make things happen."

As a class they have contemplated turboing the Farr 30, but Deneen says they have opted not to go down this route. "I had a discussion with Bruce Farr recently - I told him this was the best boat he had ever designed! We were looking at what we might do to market the boat and garner interest in it again. Do we make modifications? Do we put a sprit on it? We went through a little think session about it and ultimately it was ‘no’. You don’t put a sprit on it and an A sail because it wasn’t designed to sail at those angles. We could put a flat head main on it and split the backstay. But then you have the problem of too much pressure at the top and you already need snorkels when the wind is blowing and the flat head would only make it worse. So we look at the possibilities and ultimately the conclusion was that the boat wasn’t broken - so, don’t change it."

At present France is the no1 country in the class, and the World Championship is likely to be there in 2010. This will also be the last year the Farr 30 will be used in the Tour de France a la Voile – an event that Deneen says has been both a blessing and curse for the class. Having competed in the Tour Voile in 2004, another reason for Deneen being in France earlier this month was that she intends to take part in the race again next year.

"I wanted to do the Tour Voile again, 2010 being the last year with the Farr 30. It is my favourite boat, it is a great event. I did it in 2004 and had intended to come back within two years and now six years has gone by and I’m getting old!" she says.

As warm-ups for this she intends to compete at Key West before shipping the boat to France and racing it at SPI Ouest over Easter. For the Tour she wants to re-assemble as many of her 2004 team as she can, although many have taken a hike in pay grade in the intervening years - Laurent Pages, Sean Couvreaux, Jonno Swain, Ben Beer, Bouwe Bekking, Stu Bannatyne, Jeremie Beyou with the capable Herve Quilliec (ex Club Med, Amer Sport, etc) running the shore side.

At the time of the Forum Deneen was keen, but not 100% committed to entering the Tour though: "I want to see who else is going to be entered in the event. The cost of entry has gone up considerably since we did it last and then also the cost of participation - sailing at a professional level as opposed to the student teams that make up a large part of the event. It is very costly for me to do it. It’s not to say they aren’t great sailors - the French in particular spend so much time in the boat they are probably the best in the world at sailing the 30. But from a professional standpoint, the level of competition needs to be there in order to make it worth my while."

Unlike her husband, livewire Deneen has been gripped by the offshore sailing bug. "I think my first offshore experience was the first year we had the 40 - I was like the boat captain and we did a crazy delivery to San Francisco - 57 hours of pounding, I don’t want to tell you what the conditions where... but I liked it. I liked the cyclical life and I loved all the offshores on the Tour de France. It seems an easy place to be at times." She admits that she has even contemplated entering her Farr 30 doublehanded in the Transpac.

While her focus at present is on the Farr 30, Deneen has higher aspirations and top of the list is the Volvo Ocean Race. "During the last edition we had the opportunity when the Russian team had ran out of money and stopped sailing and at a crew dinner in Key West, Cameron Appleton was saying ‘get me a million dollars and I’ll finish the race’. And it wasn’t so much of a joke... And I started to pursue that. It almost happened. It was good to go through the exercise of examining the budget, seriously looking at the logistics, the manpower. It was a good experience and I would love to do that."

And does her husband share her round the world aspirations? "No. He thinks I am insane and he won’t even discuss it!"

This may be a pipedream, but between the personnel who have sailed with the Demourkases there is no shortage of experience in the fully crewed round the world race, including two time Telefonica skipper, Bouwe Bekking. "In trying to put together the Russian project I had a lot of the guys who had sailed on ABN AMRO Two who I have also sailed with on the 30 and on the 40 – they wanted to do it. But they would have to carry me, but they were willing to do that and I love sailing with these guys."

And if she does go down this path she has no intention of being an ‘also ran’. So the option of taking a secondhand boat round is likely to be out. "I don’t think I’d want to do it that way. I’m not sure how competitive that is going to be. I am an extremely competitive person and I don’t go to do things, just to do them. I really do them just to win."

So watch this space - a much needed non-French entry in the Tour Voile, while in the snakes and ladders world that is the race boat secondhand market, now is probably a good time to buy Farr 30s.

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