Rolex Big Boat Series: Strong Beginnings
Published on September 26th, 2013
San Francisco, CA (September 26, 2013) – The four-day Rolex Big Boat Series kicked off with two races today in light to moderate breezes and a strong flood tide that kept 107 sailing teams in 10 classes working hard to outwit each other.
The annual regatta, in its 49th running, has long been the benchmark for spectator-friendly racing on San Francisco Bay, and today there was plenty of action to catch on courses emanating from four strategically placed starting areas, including one directly in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club’s observation deck, which takes in grand views of the Golden Gate Bridge just to its west and Alcatraz Island to its east. In addition, the race deck serves as one end of the finish line for all classes in their second and final race of each day, making for downwind conclusions that are colorful and oftentimes dramatic in the Bay’s typically breezy conditions.
The two largest monohulls here – Isao Mita’s (Kanagawa, Japan) TP 52 Beecom and Jim Swartz’s (Park City, Utah) TP52 Vesper, a defending champion here – battled one-on-one today in IRC A. Vesper gave Beecom a caning in race one, handicapping out with more than a six-minute lead after nearly two hours of racing, and another victory played out for Vesper in race two.
In the six-boat IRC D class, for the smallest of the IRC entrants, the margins on finishes were much narrower, especially for David Halliwill’s J/120 Peregrine, which finished 2-1 to Tad Lacey’s 1-2 aboard the A35 Mirthmaker.
Lacey, commodore of the San Francisco Yacht Club, has the second longest record (38 years) racing in this event. “This is one of the greatest regattas…the breeze filled in quite quickly today, but I think lighter winds are expected this weekend,” said Lacey, explaining that light winds caused short postponements this morning but built in horsepower to reach mostly high teens by late afternoon.
In IRC B, Sy Kleinman’s Schumacer 54 Peregrine put two bullets on the scoreboard, making his early play for West Coast IRC champion, which will be determined at the end of this event.
Other teams to win their first two races of an anticipated seven-race series were Randy Miller’s Marstrom 32 Gradient Vee in the High Performance Catamaran Division and Daniel Thielman’s RP 44 Tai Kuai in HPR, which is contesting its North American Championship here.
“We’ve been at this for seven years but with different boats, and today was our first day that we got some actual victories on the course,” said Thielman. “We saw 20 knots (of wind) on this boat, and that means a lot of speed. We were hitting 16/17 knots going downwind, so San Francisco is great for the big wind and the fast boats. As the wind lightens up this weekend our competition is going to get a lot closer, so we really needed to maximize what we did today in the big breeze. “
On the HPR, which is a relatively new handicapping system, Thielman added, “I think this is where it’s growing right now. I think the 40 foot range is going to be really hot for sailboats, and instead of rules that favor slower boats, people want things that get them around the course with real speed and excitement.”
One-design classes for Melges 24, Express 37, J/120, J/105 and J/70 are also sailing. The J/120s are sailing their North American Championship, and the Melges 24s are sailing their Pre-Worlds.
New this year are first-place trophies for daily races and Boat of the Day awards. Six St. Francis Yacht Club Perpetual Trophies, which are coupled with the awarding of Rolex Watches, have been designated to go this year to IRC A (St. Francis Perpetual Trophy), IRC D (City of San Francisco Trophy), HPR (Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy ), J/120 (Keefe-Kilborn Perpetual Trophy ), J/105 (Atlantic Perpetual), and Melgest 24 (Commodore’s Cup).
Sailed since 1964, the St. Francis Yacht Club Big Boat Series added Rolex Watch U.S.A. as a title sponsor in 2005. Six specially engraved Rolex timepieces are traditionally awarded to winners of the St. Francis Yacht Club’s Perpetual Trophies: the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy; the City of San Francisco Trophy; the Richard Rheem Trophy; the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial Trophy; the Atlantic Trophy; and the Commodore’s Cup.
For the NOR and more information, go to www.rolexbigboatseries.com. Find us on facebook at St. Francis Yacht Club – Racing, and follow @bigboatseries. Competitor details and results can be found at http://www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=839.
For results, go to http://www.yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=839
Reporting: Barby MacGowan, Media Pro International