Winter might still be exerting its chilly influence over most of the country, but an undeniable harbinger of the coming sailing season arrived on February 18 when St. Francis Yacht Club, in San Francisco, California, posted the Notice of Race and began accepting entries for its annual Rolex Big Boat Series.
The event, now in its 55thedition, is raced on the waters of San Francisco Bay from September 11-15, 2019 and is widely regarded as one of the world’s most competitive and prestigious keelboat regattas, thanks to the breeze-on sailing, world-class racecourse management, iconic venue and the chance to win a Swiss-made Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Chronometer and other take-home trophies.
Not surprisingly, Rolex Big Boat Series consistently attracts the West Coast’s best sailors and fastest boats since its inaugural event in 1964, and 2019 promises to be one of the most competitive regattas to date.
“Last year we saw 28 J/105s on their own starting line, and the J/88 class made their Rolex Big Boat Series debut,” says Susan Ruhne, Regatta Chair. “Plus, there was great Grand Prix action in the Pac52 class and super-close handicap racing in the three ORR classes. The Express 37 class, which has long been one of the backbones of this regatta, saw just a single point separating the first- and second-place finishers.”
Over the years, StFYC’s Rolex Big Boat Series has amassed a well-earned reputation for breeze-on sailing and long courses that test each team’s level of boat preparation, fitness and training. Racing takes place on two sections of the Baythe Treasure Island starting area and the Alcatraz starting areaand the Race Committee splits each class’ time between these two starting lines in order to test each teams’ speed and boat-handling skills in all tides, currents and wave patterns.
StFYC’s Rolex Big Boat Series is open to all One Design boats in the Pac52, J/125, J/105, J/88 and Express 37 classes. Any class with six entries by August 1, 2019, will receive their own One Design start. One Design classes that fail to reach this critical mass will be welcome to race in the regatta’s ORR classes, alongside mono-hulls greater than 35′ LOA with a current fully or partially measured ORR certificate.
J/70s are invited with a minimum of 15 boats registered by August 1, 2019. “We’re excited to bring back the J/70s as a One Design class,” says Ruhne. “In 2016 they were there largest One Design fleet to compete, qualifying for the Commodore’s Cup Perpetual Trophy. Since then, the West Coast J/70 fleet has been building in anticipation of their 2020 Worlds held in Southern California.” The top Corinthian and top professionally-crewed J/70 teams at the 2019 Rolex Big Boat Series will both win berths to the 2020 J/70 Worlds.
As any honest stockbroker will admit, “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” and this certainly applies to San Francisco’s world-famous wind machine. Seasoned Rolex Big Boat Series veterans know mid-September is a magical time of sunny, post-summer-fog racing typically defined by light morning winds building to 15-28 knots by afternoon. Irrespective of conditions, says Ruhne, StFYC has world-class racecourse-management skills, allowing them to conduct great racing in all conditions.
While handicap racing is a longstanding pursuit, it takes time for new rules to become well understood by the sailing community and the Offshore Rating Rule, or ORR, is no different. In an effort to help Rolex Big Boat Series competitors better understand this handicap system, StFYC is hosting an ORR Seminar with handicap guru Jim Teeters at the clubhouse on February 20, 7-9pm, for a presentation and to answer questions. “We’re the only club in Northern California that’s really using ORR, and there are a lot of misunderstandings about the rule,” says Ruhne. “We’re trying to be as open and helpful to our competitors as we can be.” The seminar is free and open to any sailors interested in attending.
Provided that Mother Nature cooperates, StFYC will conduct a total of seven races, with two races per day for the first three days of racing, followed by Sunday’s longer Bay Tour course, featuring a grand-finale finishing line just off of StFYC’s clubhouse.
Registration for this West Coast classic is now open, and teams that enter prior to June 1 will enjoy reduced pricing. Standard pricing applies to teams that enter between June 2-July 31.
For more information, please visit the Rolex Big Boat Series website.
by St. Francis Yacht Club