Proud History, Iconic Competition

Published on May 24th, 2017

When it comes to determining the fastest guns in the west, Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by the venerable St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC), has long served as the left coast’s pivotal proving ground.

Of the 40 regattas StFYC hosts each year, Rolex Big Boat Series is the signature event and enjoys a proud 52-year history of testing competitors’ skills in the demanding, rewarding conditions of San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco Bay historically sees its stiffest winds from early September to mid-November, placing Rolex Big Boat Series on September 14-17 in the sweetest spot for high-adrenaline sailing. Racing is anticipated to take place in nine classes that include monohull and multihull vessels ranging in length from 23 to 70 feet LOA.

The Race Committee will be scoring results using ORR, PHRF and BAMA (multihulls) handicap-rating rules. Additionally, the event will attract some of the hottest One Design sailors and classes, including robust fleets of J/70s, J/105s, J/111s, J/120s, C&C 30s, Express 37s and Farr 40s.

“While the fleets vary in size, the competition in every fleet is fierce,” said Dennis George, Rolex Big Boat Series regatta co-chair. “Rolex Big Boat Series draws the top skippers and crews from around the U.S. and abroad, who should be prepared for four days of racing in challenging conditions.”

All told, this year’s fleet will be competing for six perpetual trophies, accompanied by a Swiss-made Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date Timepiece, as well as additional take-home trophies, the details of which will be announced at the Rolex Commodore’s Reception on Wednesday, September 13 in StFYC’s Golden Gate Room.

Given the regatta’s long history of offering world-class sailing conditions and enviable trophies, this late-summer regatta is known for attracting hardware exotica, and 2017 will be no different.

“The Big Boat Series is the high point of the year for Orion,” said Tom Siebel, owner and skipper of the well-sailed MOD70 trimaran, Orion. “The people at St. Francis Yacht Club do a remarkable job of organization. The Race Committee does a superlative job. We will be in the Big Boat Series as long as they allow us to play.”

While Orion will likely be the sharpest knife on the Bay come September, this year’s event will also highlight the debut of some of the world’s most competitive monohulls.

“I’m excited to see the new Pac 52s race,” said Susan Ruhne, regatta co-chair. “Our 50-foot entrants will hopefully consist of two classes—Pac52s and the classic ‘fast-is-fun’ boats like the Santa Cruz 50s and 52s and a Schumacher 54 that’s already entered. All told, we are hoping for double-digit entries amongst the 50-footers, many of whom have previously won their Rolex Big Boat Series class.”

Sailors love to spin yarns about the Bay’s ability to blow dogs off their chains, but the truth is that this body of water offers a wide-variety of conditions, testing each crew’s ability to fluidly shift gears.

“You can expect sunny or foggy mornings, a strong afternoon sea breeze, tricky ebb and flood tides…but then of course there’s always the chance of getting something completely different!” said George. “As the local saying goes, ‘it’s never like this here!’”

While weather is a wildcard at any regatta, StFYC leaves nothing to chance when it comes to event management, both on and off the water. “We can’t guarantee breeze, but we can guarantee a world-class Race Committee that will keep the racing smooth and tight,” said Ruhne.

Online registration for the 2017 Rolex Big Boat Series is open until Tuesday, September 6, 2017. Teams are encouraged to register before August 1, after which an additional fee will apply. And while there is no official entry cap, Rolex and StFYC are gunning to see 100 boats on several starting lines come mid-September.

Details at


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