Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rolex Big Boat Series Preview

J/125 Hamachi sailing San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)- Back in 1964, the Big Boat Series began as the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy Regatta hosting just nine boats, and now, 51 years later, the RBBS is one of the most prestigious regattas on the West Coast. Over the next four days, 90 world-class teams will sail a mix of buoy and stadium-style races on the ever-challenging waters of San Francisco Bay.

“In 2005, Rolex became the regatta’s title sponsor, launching the series to a new level,” said Event Co-Chair Susan Ruhne. “It has gone through many evolutions, but the Rolex Big Boat Series is an important part of our maritime heritage, helping St. Francis Yacht Club to secure its position as one of the world’s greatest yacht clubs.”

In the sense that the Rolex Big Boat Series is one of the few remaining four-day events in the region, it is something special and of great significance for its loyal following, which plans long and prepares intensely for the competition. Ruhne pointed to the many one-design classes that have strong showings every year, including the J/105s (the largest class in the event).

Specially engraved Rolex timepieces will go to winners of the regatta’s coveted perpetual trophies: the St. Francis (awarded in ORR A class), the City of San Francisco (ORR B), the Keefe-Kilborn (HPR), the Richard Rheem (J/111), the Atlantic (J/120) and the Commodore’s Cup (J/105).

In the HPR Class, the two J/125s sailing will be going head-to-head for class honors.  Both are extremely experienced teams.  Both have won numerous regattas over the course of several years.  No question, the platinum-level traveler has to be Greg Slyngstad’s HAMACHI from Seattle, Washington, having sailed in the Caribbean as well as West Coast races over the past year or so.  The local hotshots of San Francisco Bay are most certainly on board Peter Krueger’s DOUBLE TROUBLE, hoping to defend their title of class winner from RBBS’s in the past.

J111s sailing San Francisco waterfrontThe up and coming fleet in SF Bay happens to be the J/111s.  A strong half-dozen of them are assembled to do battle again and, as usual, it is just about impossible to predict the outcome of this cast of characters.  Seemingly, from one regatta to the next during their season-long battles on the Bay, one boat does better than others.  But, clearly that’s a result of crews, tacticians and how relaxed their owner/drivers are feeling for that weekend.  However, for the grand kahuna event of the year, it seems the RBBS brings out the most finely tuned of all the team’s crews.  So, the jury’s out on how Rob Theis’ AEOLUS, Dick Swanson’s BAD DOG, Gorkem Ozcelebi’s DOUBLE DIGIT, Dorian McKelvy’s MADMEN, Peter Wagner’s SKELETON KEY and Nessrin Basoz’s SWIFT NESS will fair after four very hard days of racing on the Bay.

Likewise for the J/120s. Many sailors on the Bay have passed through the half-dozen boats in this resilient, fun-loving fleet of boats.  J/120s have certainly seen their fair share of offshore success and, like their “SoCal brothers” in San Diego, this fleet has held together with many friends and family participating on the boats.  Perhaps that is the secret of their success.  The chess players may move around, but you can bet the veterans will still be there in the end on the podium.  This group is not an easy one to crack for class honors. So, do not be surprised that one boat either cleans everyone’s clocks (because they decided to really put on their “A” game), or it’s “rope-a-dope” between all six boats for the silverware between Barry Lewis’ CHANCE, Tom Grennan’s KOOKABURRA, Steve Madeira’s MR MAGOO, Dave Halliwill’s PEREGRINE, Ludovic Milin’s SAETTA or Timo Bruck’s TWIST.

The new PHRF Sportboat division promises to be full of surprises.  Not the least of which that two new J/88s are thrown into the ring with the legendary J/90 and a host of other 28 to 35 foot so-called “sportboats”.  Gary Panariello’s J/88 COURAGEOUS will be up against their sistership WHITE SHADOW sailed by Jim Hopp.  Together they will test their mettle against Trig Liljestrand’s J/90 RAGTIME (yes, designer Rod Johnstone’s old personal boat from Stonington, CT).  For more Rolex Big Boat Series sailing information