Bliksem takes an early lead

Rolex Big Boat Series sets sail under a blanket of fog

Friday September 17th 2010, Author: Barby MacGowan, Location: United States

Though today’s two opening races at the 46th annual Rolex Big Boat Series were partly shrouded in fog, it did nothing to dampen the spirits - or dogged competition - among 98 teams competing on San Francisco Bay. Over 1000 sailors have converged on St Francis Yacht Club for the four-day event, and they include world champions, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans as well as California’s top names in sailing. The IRC divison - with 25 boats - is split into four classes, while the 73 teams in One Design division are divided into five classes: Melges 32s, J/105, J/120, Express 37 and One Design 35.

Pieter Taselaar’s Bliksem, the 2009 Melges 32 world champion, showed its winning ways when it posted a 1-2 today in what is serving as the 2010 Melges 32 Pre-Worlds. (27 of the 32 teams expected to compete next week at the World Championship are on the line.) “We had a really good fight back in the first race after a bad start,” said Bliksem’s pit man Mike Coxson. “In the second race, we hit the first couple shifts just right and then we had Alcatraz in the middle and had to decide ‘do we go left or right?’ We were happy to go right and when we saw some of the local boats do the same we knew that was a good sign.” Coxson said the fog made it difficult to find lay lines but the 12-17 knots balanced that difficulty with “good fun on the downwind legs,” of which they had two on twice-around windward leeward courses, each between 10 and 12 miles.

It was a tough day for Doug Douglass’s Goombay Smash which suffered damage during a T-bone incident with Stuart Simpson’s Team Barbarians at the weather mark in the first race. A simple port-starboard incident left the hot-to-trot 'Smashers' limping into the harbor with a nasty gash, but with repairs, the boat is expected back in circulation tomorrow.

In sharp contrast to the Melges 32s and illustrating the wide range of boat and sailor types here were the Express 37s, with eight boats competing. “Our annual budget is one-tenth that of a Melges 32,” chuckled today’s leader Kame Richards, skipper of Golden Moon, who posted a 2-1. “The Express 37s have lots of features that help keep our annual budget down; nobody onboard is a professional sailor, and we can’t put our boat on a trailer and drive cross-country,” he added, accounting for the all-California fleet. Richards, with co-owner Bill Bridge, is the defending champion in this class and has sailed in the Rolex Big Boat Series for 32 years, the last seven aboard Golden Moon.

In the 24-boat J 105 fleet, Bruce Stone’s Arbitrage leads but only by one point (after a 1-4 today) over Scooter Simmons' Blackhawk; Jeff Littfin/John Case’s Mojo and Don Wieneke’s Lulu, which are all tied on point scores behind it. “The fleet was incredibly tight after 10 miles,” said John Case, adding that the “strangest thing” was in the second race when they had only 150 feet of visibility. “You had to follow the shadows of the other classes,” he said jokingly.

Arbitrage’s tactician Stu Johnstone said that his team’s strategy for tomorrow is to continue to sail conservatively and stay out of trouble. “That’s hard in San Francisco Bay, because of the current and shifty winds,” he said. With two race circles used, IRC boats sailed the 'City Front Course' in morning, then switched out with the One-Design classes to sail the 'North Course' in the afternoon. “In the first race, the Race Committee tried to position us where there was as much sun as possible and crews would have to depend less on their GPS,” said Johnstone, adding that in the afternoon, on the North Course, it was pretty much all fog all the time.

In the J/120s, with eight boats, Donald Payan’s Davenu leads after posting a 3-1 today, while in One Design 35s, with six boats, Masakazu Toyama’s Ebb Tide from Japan leads with finishes of 2-1.

According to Race Chair Norman Devant, the IRC A fleet completed a total 40 miles of racing today. There are six boats in that class, with Jim Mitchell’s RP 52 Vincitore leading after winning the first race and finishing third in the second. In IRC B, Sy Kleinman’s Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II leads (1-3); IRC C finds Dale Williams’ Kernan 44 Wasabi leading (1-1); and IRC D is led by Frank Morrow’s IMX-38 Hawkeye.

Rolex Big Boat Series 2010 - Day 1 (after two races)

Melges 32 (One Design - 27 Boats)
1. Bliksem, Melges 32, Pieter Taselaar, Scarsdale, NY, USA - 2, 1, ; 3
2. B-lin sailing, Melges 32, Luca Lalli, Milano, ITA - 5, 3, ; 8
3. Viva, Melges 32, Donald Jesberg, Mill Valley, CA, USA - 4, 7, ; 11

J 120 (One Design - 8 Boats)
1. Dayenu, J 120, Donald Payan, Hillsborough, CA, USA - 3, 1, ; 4
2. Desdemona, J 120, John S. Wimer, Half Moon Bay, CA, USA - 1, 5, ; 6
3. Chance, J 120, Barry Lewis, Atherton, CA, USA - 4, 4, ; 8

Express 37 (One Design - 8 Boats)
1. Golden Moon, Express 37, Kame Richards/Bill Bridge, Alameda, CA, USA - 2, 1, ; 3
2. Eclipse, Express 37, Mark Dowdy, San Francisco, CA, USA - 1, 4, ; 5
3. Elan, Express 37, Bill Riess, Oakland, CA, USA - 4, 2, ; 6

J 105 (One Design - 24 Boats)
1. Arbitrage, J 105, Bruce J. Stone, San Francisco, CA, USA - 1, 4, ; 5
2. Blackhawk, J 105, Scooter Simmons, Belvedere, CA, USA - 5, 1, ; 6
3. Mojo, J 105, Jeff Littfin / John Case, San Mateo, CA, USA - 4, 2, ; 6

IRC A (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Vincitore, RP 52, James Mitchell, Zurich, Switzerland - 1, 3, ; 4
2. Patches, TP 52, Jorge Ripstein, Naucalpan, MEX - 2, 2, ; 4
3. Mayhem, TP 52, Ashley Wolfe, Calgary, Alberta, CAN - 4, 1, ; 5

IRC B (IRC - 7 Boats)
1. Swiftsure II, Schumacher custom 54, Sy Kleinman, Saratoga, CA, USA - 1, 3, ; 4
2. Soozal, King 40, Daniel Woolery, Alamo, CA, USA - 4, 1, ; 5
3. Flyer, Reichel-Pugh 47, Rob Sjostedt, Foothill Ranch, CA, USA - 2, 4, ; 6

IRC C (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Wasabi, Kernan 44, Dale Williams, San Francisco, CA, USA - 1, 1, ; 2
2. Double Trouble, J 125, Andy Costello / Peter Kreuger, Pt. Richmond, CA, USA - 2, 2, ; 4
3. August Ice, J 125, Richard Ferris, Tahoe City, CA, USA - 5, 3, ; 8

IRC D (IRC - 7 Boats)
1. Hawkeye, IMX-38, Frank Morrow, San Francisco, CA, USA - 3, 1, ; 4
2. Tupelo Honey, Elan 40, Gerard Sheridan, San Francisco, CA, USA - 1, 4, ; 5
3. Inspired Environments, Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7, Timothy Ballard, San Rafael, CA, USA - 2, 3, ; 5

One Design 35 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Ebb Tide, 1D35, Masakazu Toyama, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, JPN - 2, 1, ; 3
2. Dark and Stormy, 1D35, Jonathan Hunt, oakland, CA, USA - 1, 2, ; 3
3. Alpha Puppy, 1D35, Alex Farell, Mountain View, CA, USA - 3, 4, ; 7



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