Rolex Big Boat Series gets underway
Traffic was heavy today on San Francisco Bay, with the usual suspects - cargo ships, kite surfers and AC45s - joined by 66 boats taking on their first day of competition at the Rolex Big Boat Series. The 48th edition of the annual four-day tradition kicked off in conditions that blended sunshine and 60°F temperatures with chilly winds of 16-20 knots, and as well blended its new class for catamaran racing with its traditional classes for monohulls.
“Everyone should be very happy with what they got,” said Event Chair Kevin Reeds about the two hour-and-a-half long races held for each of the event’s eight classes (four IRC, three one-design and one for the catamarans). “There was plenty for them to work with.” And for spectators, the sight of a half dozen catamarans slicing through the water was especially gratifying at the end of the day when all classes converged at a finish line within 50ft of the upper Race Deck at St. Francis Yacht Club.
Winning the cat class for the day with finishes of 1-2 was St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Peter Stoneberg’s ProSail 40 Shadow, while Tom Sieble’s Sig 45 Vamonos, with a crew made up of Tom Blackaller’s 1988 ProSail Series team, took second place with a 4-1.
“I just wanted to have a blast today, and our expectations were exceeded in every way,” said Sieble, explaining that Vamonos was launched this spring and the Rolex Big Boat Series is the first serious race that the catamaran has done.
Blackaller, who died in 1989 at the age of 49, was an America’s Cup helmsman and world champion in the Star and Six Metre classes. He influenced many sailors’ lives in the Bay Area and around the world, and for his former crew man Zan Drejes, it was special to be able to sail here in his memory.
“It was sort of a divine intervention that the crew was reassembled to race this boat with Tom Siebel,” said Drejes. “We haven’t seen this type of catamaran sailing since the ProSail Series and until Larry Ellison brought the America’s Cup to San Francisco.”
Posting victories in both races today were four teams: Jim Swartz’s TP52 Vesper in IRC A; Daniel Woolery’s King 40 Soozal in IRC B; Peter Krueger’s Double Trouble in J/125 class and John Wimer’s Desdemona in J/120 class.
Wimer, who has competed in the event for 20 years and last won it in 2003, considered the conditions “not too windy, since the J/120s like wind in the teens” and described a narrow lead of only a boat length or two at the finish line in his first race. “For the second race, two boats behind us - our longstanding rivals Chance and Mr Magoo - began fighting with each other and we widened the gap with a win by 10-12 boat lengths. It helps to start with two bullets, but it won’t be over until the last day. The fleet is very tight, with really good sailors; you have to really stay on your game.”
For Jason Woodley and Scott Whitney’s J/105 Risk, the 2-1 they posted in their one-design class was not easy to come by. It took some real manoeuvring, especially in his second race on the 'City Front' race course, where Alcatraz Island’s 'cone' came into play. “The island cuts the current like a rock in a river,” said Woodley, “so you get in behind the rock to hide from the current. Then at the west face there is actually an ebb tide pushing you out, so you hook it and basically ride it as far as you can. We were in fifth or sixth at Alcatraz, so it was challenging, especially in the flood tide.”
Woodley says he faces tough competition from “a lot of great boats,” but if he had to put money on a couple, they would be Blackhawk and Arbitrage.
“What makes this regatta special is that everyone brings their A-game,” says Woodley, who counts a second as his best finish here in the five years he has competed. “This is the season playoffs; this is the regatta everyone puts their new sails up for, the one you want to win out of every other regatta on the calendar.”
The Rolex Big Boat Series is doubling as the IRC North American Championship, and six boats referred to as 'Fast Forties' in IRC C are being dual-scored with the new HPR rule. Other classes sailing are IRC D and Express 37.
Sailed since 1964, the St. Francis Yacht Club Big Boat Series added Rolex Watch USA as a title sponsor in 2005. A specially engraved Rolex timepiece will be awarded to winners in the four IRC classes, the J/105 class and the Express 37 class.
Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points
IRC A (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Vesper, TP 52, Jim Swartz, Park City, Utah, 1, 1 (2)
2. Rio, TP 52, Manouch Moshayedi, Corona del Mar, Calif., 2, 2 (4)
3. Meanie, Southern Cross 52, Thomas Akin, Sausalito, Calif., 4, 3 (7)
IRC B (IRC - 5 Boats)
1. Soozal, King 40, Daniel Woolery, Alamo, Calif., 1, 1 (2)
2. TNT, Custom Tripp 43, Brad Copper, Pt. Richmond, Calif., 2, 2 (4)
3. Swazik, Swan 45, Sebastien de Halleux , San Francisco, Calif., 3, 3 (6)
IRC C (IRC - 6 Boats)
1. Double Trouble, J/125, Peter Krueger, Reno, Nev., 1, 1 (2)
2. Resolute, J/125, Tim Fuller, Murrieta, Calif., 2,2 (4)
3. August Ice, J/125, Richard Ferris, Tahoe City, Calif., 3, 3 (6)
IRC D (IRC - 7 Boats)
1. Tupelo Honey, Elan 40, Gerard Sheridan, San Francisco, Calif., 1, 1 (2)
2. Hawkeye, IMX 38 37.1, Frank Morrow, San Francisco, Calif., 2, 2 (4)
3. Encore, Sydney 36 CR 36, Wayne Koide, San Anselmo, Calif., 3, 3 (6)
Catamarans (PHRF_ToT - 7 Boats)
1. Shadow, ProSail 40 Cat, Peter Stoneberg, Tiburon, Calif., 1, 2 (3)
2. Vamonos, Sig 45, Tom Siebel, Felton, Calif., 4, 1 (5)
3. BridgeRunner, SL33 35, Urs Rothacher, Oakland, Calif., 2, 4 (6)
HPR (Exhibition Class) (ToT - 6 Boats)
1. Double Trouble (HPR), J 125 41, Peter Krueger, Reno, Nev., 1, 1 (2)
2. Resolute (HPR), J 125 41, Tim Fuller, Murrieta, Calif., 3, 2 (5)
3. Rock & Roll (HPR), Farr 400 39, Bernard Girod, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2, 4 (6)
J/105 (One Design - 21 Boats)
1. Risk, J 105, Jason Woodley / Scott Whitney, Greenbrae, Calif., 2, 1 (3)
2. Blackhawk, J 105, Scooter Simmons, Belvedere, Calif., 1, 6 (7)
3. Mojo, J 105, Jeff Littfin/John Case, San Mateo, Calif., 8, 2 (10)
J/120 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Desdemona, J 120, John Wimer, Half Moon Bay, Calif., 1, 1 (2)
2. Mr. Magoo, J 120, Stephen Madeira, Menlo Park, Calif., 2, 2 (4)
3. Chance, J 120, Barry Lewis, Atherton, Calif., 3, 3 (6)
Express 37 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Golden Moon, Express 37, Kame Richards, Alameda, Calif., 2, 2 (4)
2. Blade Runner, Express 37, Michael Shlens, Palos Verdes Est., Calif., 4, 1 (5)
3. Bullet, Express 37, Michael Maloney, Alameda, Calif., 1, 5 (6)