World’s top Amateurs, Pros and Olympians sail for victory on the Toronto Waterfront
By Linda Montgomery
It was “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” for an Australian skipper on a boat named Foreign Affair at the Bell Mumm 30 World Championship. Richard Perini carted his boat, his team, and high hopes all the way from Down Under to the Toronto Waterfront to compete in the four-day event hosted by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in September. Yes, that’s “Mumm” the champagne company — they sponsor the annual regatta, as well as this fleet of high-performance sailboats.
Usually held in a European or United States venue, this race — and this class of sailboat racing — is about as high-profile and “America’s Cup-ish” as it gets for a Toronto yacht racing event. Some of the world’s best amateur and professional sailors, current and past Olympians, one female skipper, a few multi-millionaires and one possible billionaire and his teenaged son made up the fleet of 21 teams. In addition to the Aussies, three teams from Canada, and teams from the U.S. and Italy came to local waters to vie for the world champion title.
The Mumm 30 is a state-of-the-art, high-performance sailboat for one-design and fleet racing. Designed by Bruce Farr specifically for the Mumm series, the 30-footer was meant to be a fast championship racing yacht that’s uncomplicated, economical and easy to disassemble to ship to the next race location. Since 1995, only 210 of them have been built for international competition. With a budget of a few hundred thousand dollars, the time to travel, and a handful of hired crew, you too can own one and race it for a season.
This year the world championship brought lots of drama and excitement, and at times, a frustrating lack of wind. After the first day, it was Philippe Kahn, the California and Hawaii-based software developer, on Pegasus 591 who was in the lead. After two days of racing, the sailing world was shocked to find Philippe’s 15-year-old son Samuel (nicknamed “Shark”) had sailed past the fleet of veterans to take the lead. Shark had a secret weapon on board — local sailor and Olympian Richard Clarke as tactician.
Day Three saw more great drama — and it almost didn’t happen. The first and only race got underway after 5:30 p.m. when the wind finally picked up. Crews spent most of the day getting introduced to lawn bowling at the RCYC while waiting ashore for wind. In a fatal move once the racing got under way, “Shark” fouled his father’s boat, father begrudgingly had to protest son, and the prodigy’s leading streak was over. It was all good news for Toronto yacht Steadfast — owned by radio executive Fred Sheratt and skippered by local Andy Roy. After steadfastly holding onto second spot, they were heading into the last day of racing in the lead.
The fourth and final day of racing was awesome for the Aussies. After hovering around fifth place for most of the regatta, Richard Perini made it a Foreign Affair by winning everything. His team, including one Canadian, bowman Curtis Florence, was elated. Perini, a businessman from Sydney, had won the Mumm 30 class in two previous Key West Race Weeks. He had been vying for a victory in the Mumm 30 World for five years.
“We do a lot of regattas around the world, and there’s nothing quite like this,” Perini said at the awards ceremony, referring to the historic yacht club setting and Toronto Island location as the sun was setting over the city. He called the win “very special” and commended Steadfast, the hometown favourite that he often races against. “They are good friends and fantastic competitors. We wanted them to win if we didn’t”. A rousing spontaneous rendition of Waltzing Matilda, sung with Aussie accents tainted by magnums of Mumm’s champagne, could be heard on the RCYC launch back to the city as the jubilant team celebrated their world championship.