Staying breezy at Big Boat Series
Published on September 17th, 2021
San Francisco, CA (September 17, 2021) – San Francisco Bay served up another round of ideal racing conditions for sailors on the second day of Rolex Big Boat Series at St. Francis Yacht Club. Winds were in the steady teens for the start of Race 3, and held around 20 knots all afternoon, making for quick, dramatic runs for the finish line.
Windward/leeward courses were the order of the day with shorter legs in the morning followed by an afternoon of long stretches across San Francisco Bay to test these competitive fleets. Race Committee flipped the script from Day One, running the three ORR divisions and the Express 37s on the North Course and the three J/boat classes on the Treasure Island Course.
Crews and skippers that did well on Day One were naturally aiming for a repeat performance. Bernard Girod was “hoping to do the same thing as we did yesterday.” He and his crew on J/111 Rock & Roll did exactly that, scoring their third and fourth bullets in ORR A.
“These are big winds for us, and unfamiliar territory, so it’s a bit of a struggle, but we’re managing pretty well,” said the Santa Barbara-based Girod. “We’re still experimenting with our sail inventory in these conditions and managing the currents and chop. But we love it. It’s my favorite place to sail in the whole world.”
Having previously raced Rolex Big Boat Series in a Farr 400 of the same name, Girod’s back with “a more conservative boat with a better rating,” said Kevin Wilson, main trimmer. “A lot of preparation went into this,” he added, including rating and weight studies, with optimization for winds stronger than what they typically see in their home port.
“We’ve been up here practicing since Sunday. Our tactician, Seadon Wijsen, did a great job and made a couple of nice calls yesterday.”
In the J/105 class, Ryan Simmons and Blackhawk had a good day, scoring 1-1 and now sitting in first for their class. Shawn Ivie’s Express 37 Limitless also added two bullets to their scorecard, setting them up well as they’re concurrently racing in that class’s Pacific Coast Championships.
In ORR B, Sandra Askew’s Flying Jenny was first across the finish line on corrected time with two wins today while John Brigden’s Cool Story, Bro. nabbed their third and fourth bullets in the J/70 fleet.
The Bill Lee-designed Merlin was forced off the race course early with a steering issue during Race 4. Before that unfortunate event, owner Chip Merlin, who is based in Tampa, Florida, said, “It was a lot of fun yesterday. It’s certainly different on San Francisco Bay compared to the south. And the boat just goes.”
His intention is to keep racing Merlin on the West Coast, and though she’s built for ocean racing, to keep rounding buoys inshore. He said, “It’s good for us to get out where the wind is good and go around the buoys. It makes us better sailors.”
Looking at the brighter side of things, Merlin’s program manager, Brian Malone, was pleased to have been able to attend the event this year after missing it when the team raced in 2019. “It’s really cool racing, epic scenery. I’m a tourist, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, zipping past Alcatraz at arm’s length, and seeing these places you see on TV.”
The scenery and sailing still bring a wow-factor for veteran competitor and local resident Dave MacEwen. “I’m a St. Francis member so I love that Big Boat is here. It’s such a fabulous sailing destination.”
Though he’s raced in several Rolex Big Boat Series with his Santa Cruz 52 Lucky Duck, this year that name is painted on the hull of his Rogers 46, racing in the ORR A division. “I wanted a boat that could do both inshore and offshore, and finding a boat that can do both is hard. We decided to go faster, wetter and less comfortable,” he said.
Built in 2007 and purchased in Australia, the Rogers needed a bit of work before racing in this year’s Transpac and California Offshore Week. After that, Lucky Duck did some local OYRA tune-up races to prepare to shake it up at Rolex Big Boat Series with sister ship and newcomer Bretwalda 3.
And shake it they did during Race 4 when, just moments from the finish line Lucky Duck’s spinnaker tore in two. Without enough time to hoist another, Bretwalda 3 swept in from behind, closing the gap and then squeezing between Lucky Duck and the mark, photo-finish style.
“There was room, that was my choice. I’m not sure he was happy about it,” said Bretwalda 3’s owner Bob Pethick, who is racing here for the first time and is loving the scene, on and off the water.
MacEwen took it well. “It was anti-climactic for us,” he said. “It was close, but what a great day of racing.” In spite of the dramatic finish, on corrected time, Lucky Duck finished fifth and Bretwalda 3 seventh in Race 4, ending the day with Lucky Duck in third for ORR B, behind Daniel Thielman’s Melges 32 Kuai and Sandra Askew’s IC37 Flying Jenny.
Racing for the 56th edition is on September 16-19 for eight classes – ORR A, ORR B, ORR C, J/105, J/88, J/70, Express 37 and Classics. Additionally, the event concurrently serves as the J/88 North American Championship and the Pacific Coast Championship for Express 37s.
Commentators Genny Tulloch and Kimball Livingston will be providing daily livestream finish line reporting on Facebook.