Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rolex Big Boat Series Preview

J/70 sailing downwind (San Francisco, CA)- Since it began in 1964, the Big Boat Series has been widely recognized as the premier West Coast regatta. Never content to rest on its laurels, it’s no surprise that—in its 52nd edition—this will be the largest Big Boat Series ever, with a record-setting 127 entries. 2016 also marks the regatta’s 12th year of sponsorship by Rolex, a company that continually brings the Big Boat Series to the next level with world-class socials.

This year’s fleet will showcase the variety of boats that grand-prix racing offers these days. In addition to several sizable one-design classes, there will sportboats, and ORR-rated boats; included in the fleet are thirty-eight J/70s and twenty-six J/105s- fully 61.0% of the overall entry field!!

For many J/70 sailors, Rolex Big Boat Series will be a Pre-Worlds event, as the ALCATEL J/70 Worlds begins on San Francisco Bay on September 24. The J/105s will be hotly contested as they have been duking it out all summer, most recently at the Aldo Alessio Regatta where 19 J/105s raced in a challenging flood tide.

To accommodate this massive fleet, the Race Committee will set courses in three areas: Berkeley Circle, Alcatraz and Cityfront. Races will be a combination of round-the-buoys and Bay tours and the majority of finishes will occur just off the club’s Race Deck, in true Big Boat Series style.

“The Big Boat Series is here to give the sailors what they want,” said St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore, Kimball Livingston. “The first time out, 52 years ago, wooden boats fit that description. We’ve been through aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Today, boats are twice as fast and getting faster. Any way you go at it, San Francisco Bay tastes nasty, and there’s no better place to sail.”

J/70s sailing off starting lineWith the upcoming Worlds, the J/70 class is loaded with talent.  Returning from their fleet in Valle de Bravo, Mexico is the current World Champion, Julian Fernandez Neckelmann on FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO, joining him is part of his 2015 championship crew- Bill Hardesty and Willem van Waay from San Diego, CA.  An equally talented crew that just won the most recent San Francisco J/70 event is Joel Ronning’s CATAPULT from Lake Minnetonka, MN, featuring America’s Cup tactician and past J/24 World Champion John Kostecki from San Francisco, CA.  Many other top teams will be looking forward to sparring with these two teams, including Jud Smith’s AFRICA from Marblehead, MA (Etchells 22 World Champion); Per Von Appen’s Chilean National Champion team on BLACK SAILS; Mauricio Santa Cruz’s crew on BRUSCHETTA from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (4x J/24 World Champion); Bob Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER team from Ada, MI (Farr 40 Great Lakes & North American Champion); Bennett Greenwald’s San Diego crew on PERSEVERANCE; Dan & Gannon Troutman, the father/son team on PIED PIPER from Gloucester, VA; Peter Vessella’s local St Francis YC team on RUNNING WILD (Star World Champion); Brian Keane’s SAVASANA team from Boston, MA (J/105 Midwinter & J/80 World Champion); and Shawn Bennett’s local team from San Francisco on USA 32.  Top Corinthians teams include Joe Bardenheier and Heather Gregg’s MUSE from Boston, MA and Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED from San Francisco.

J/105s sailing San Francisco BayAs usual, the 26-boat strong J/105 fleet will also feature spirited competition on the Bay with a total of EIGHT Rolex Submariner watch winners from past Big Boat Series sprinkled throughout the fleet!  Top crews include Bruce Stone & Nicole Breault’s ARBITRAGE, Ryan Simmons’ BLACKHAWK, Shannon Ryan & Rolf Kaiser’s DONKEY JACK, Phil Laby’s GODOT, Adam Spiegel’s JAM SESSION, Jeff Litfin’s MOJO and Jason Woodley & Scott Whitney’s RISK.

A small but highly competitive fleet of J/120s will be going at it “hammer & tong” in the close quarters of the Bay.  Which crew will have it going on this year?  Who knows, it all boils down to tacticians, main trim and superior crew work!  Hoping to have that magic combination are Tom Grennan’s KOOKABURRA, Steve Madeira’s green machine- MR MAGOO, Timo Bruck’s TWIST, Barry Lewis’ CHANCE or Dave Halliwill’s PEREGRINE.

Sailing PHRF Sportboat division will be a trio of J/88s taking on a Soto 30, M32s and Farr36s.  Those teams are Gary Panariello’s COURAGEOUS, Marc McMorris’ M-SQUARED, and Jim Hopp’s WHITE SHADOW.

In the ORR B class, it is going to be a complete shoot-out between the fast J/sprit machines- two J/125s and four J/111s!  Top West Coast J/125 teams on the starting line are Tim Fuller’s RESOLUTE from San Diego YC and Viggo Torbensen’s TIMESHAVER from Dana Point YC.  The J/111s include Gorkem Ozcelebi’s DOUBLE DIGIT, Dick Swanson’s BAD DOG, Peter Wagner’s TOPZY TURVY (recently 2nd at the J/111 Worlds in Cowes, England), and Nesrin Basoz’s SWIFT NESS.  For more Rolex Big Boat Series sailing information