Gearing up for California fall classic

Published on September 10th, 2014

San Francisco, CA (September 10, 2014) – From the second-floor “race deck” at St. Francis Yacht Club, there is a commanding view of the Golden Gate Bridge to the west and Alcatraz Island to the east, but the iconic landmarks never look as grandly linked as when boats competing at the annual Rolex Big Boat Series are streaking by on San Francisco Bay.

Today’s such scene, born out of the practice-to-win desire of 101 teams registered, provided a visually arresting foreshadowing of things to come when the next four days of scheduled competition begin Thursday. The juxtaposed images of the ominous MOD 70 trimaran Orion and a smaller J/120, being buzzed by a foiling kite surfer no less, said it all: “Better get your game on, this ain’t no place for sissies.”

Orion, owned by Tom Seibel (Redwood, Calif.) has to be careful of monohulls at mark roundings, according to the boat’s tactician Charlie Ogletree, an Olympic Tornado silver medalist who recently transplanted from Texas to Sausalito. “We have to be heads-up with the slower traffic; they can be doing six knots and we’ll be doing 30 on the same track.”

And even though the 70 footer is the largest in its five-strong multihull class, it has plenty of threats to face from its own kind. It finished third last year to SL33 BridgeRunner (Urs Rothacher, Oakland) and the Extreme 40 SmartRecruiters (Jerome Ternynck, San Francisco). “Our ratings are condition-specific,” said Ogletree. “Last year we didn’t do well in light air but did well in heavy air races, so we want heavy air.”

The highest winds are forecast for Friday, and tomorrow through Saturday the fleet of three handicap-rated divisions (ORR and HPR for monohulls, BAMA for multihulls) and eight one-design classes (J/70, J/105, J/111, J/120, Melges 24, Farr 40, Express 37, Farr 40) will sail two races, with all but the Farr 40s rotating among three race circles with starting areas near Alcatraz, Treasure Island and Fort Mason. Then on Sunday, the traditional “Bay Tour” will send all but the Farr 40s on a long race around government marks.

The Farr 40s will stay on the Circle Course (Treasure Island) for an attempted eight-race round-the-buoy series that serves as a “dry run” for next month’s World Championship here.
Champion Tasmanian helmsman Andrew Hunn will take a step upwards in his long and distinguished yachting career when he races his new Farr 40, Voodoo Chile, here.

An eminent Hobart-based neuro-surgeon, Hunn, with his Voodoo Chile crew, has in the past 12 months finished second overall in the Farr 40 Australian Championship in Hobart and won Australian titles in two other one-design keelboat classes, the MC38 and the Melges 32. This will be his first overseas regatta in the prestigious Farr 40 one-design keelboat class, helming for the first time the boat previously raced by Prince Frederik of Denmark as Nanoq.

“We have developed a highly skilled, committed crew, each expert in their role,” said Hunn, who sails in the Corinthian division of the Farr 40s. According to Farr 40 Class Manager Geoff Stagg, Farr 40s are allowed four pros among their ten-person crews and nine new sails a year. To qualify for Corinthian division, only two pro sailors can be aboard and four new sails are allowed. The owner of every Farr 40 must be the driver and cannot qualify as a professional sailor under any circumstances.

“That drives the class,” said Stagg, “because the owners are steering their own boats. They are really talented helms people in their own right, now.”

One helmsman switching places here for fun is America’s Cup veteran and two-time Olympian Paul Cayard, who is crewing for friend Andy Costello, a fellow San Franciscan, in the J/70 class.

“I heard about the class when I was in Florida (sailing Stars with crew Phil Trinter who, interestingly, is in Newport, R.I. sailing in the J/70 Worlds), and it has grown really quickly,” said Cayard. “I’ve done a lot of Rolex Big Boat Series, and the irony of it all is that I’ve sailed maxi boats and big boats most of the time here. This is by far the smallest boat that’s ever been in the regatta, and I’m sailing it. We sailed it yesterday afternoon and it was planing wildly in 18-20 knots, and we even stuffed the bow in.”

Sailed since 1964, the St. Francis Yacht Club Big Boat Series added Rolex Watch U.S.A. as a title sponsor in 2005. The event has continued to grow in stature, and now sailors from around the world come to the Rolex Big Boat Series expecting some of the best racing offered in the U.S., if not the world. 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.

Full details on the 2014 Rolex Big Boat Series, including a link to entries can be found at

Report by Media Pro Intl.

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