The 2016 Rolex Big Boat Series hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club is scheduled for Sept. 15-18 and, with three months to go, the early entrant list features several class champions from recent years.
Held on San Francisco Bay since 1964, the Rolex Big Boat Series has long been the West Coast’s premier multi-class regatta, consistently attracting some of the best sailors from the West Coast and beyond. The region’s conditions in September challenge crews with anything from light winds and calm waters to 25 knots against tidal currents. It all makes the Rolex Big Boat Series distinctive and a focal point of crews’ racing seasons.
“The Rolex Big Boat Series at the St. Francis is the event of the year that we look forward to,” says Michael O’Callaghan, helmsman for David Halliwall’s J/120 Peregrine. “We prep for it and look to be at our peak in terms of crew work, sail selection and boat preparedness.”
Peregrine, which finished first in the J/120 class at the regatta in both 2014 and 2015, is among those returning to defend its title. Others include Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, CA) 54-foot Swiftsure (first in ORR B, 2015) and Wayne Koide’s (San Anselmo, CA) Sydney 36 Encore (first in ORR C, 2015).
Other early entries include Andrew Rasdal’s (San Diego, CA) Bolt 37 Valkyrie, which claimed overall monohull corrected time honors in the 2016 Newport to Ensenada Race, and Tom Siebel’s (Redwood City, CA) Mod70 Orion, which in the past two years has set new records for both the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race and the Newport to Ensenada Race.
Siebel has some serious skin in the multihull game. In the past three Big Boat Series, Orion finished third in 2013, first in 2014 and second in 2015, when the crew lost a tiebreaker to the Randy Miller’s (Orinda, CA) Marstrom 32, Miller Racing. In 2016, Orion will be out for revenge.
“We’re confident that this year’s regatta is going to be super competitive,” says Rolex Big Boat Series chairperson Susan Ruhne of the St. Francis Yacht Club. “Our goal is for this to be an event that draws the top talent from around the world, and a regatta that folks talk about for years to come.”
Michael Moradzadeh, skipper of the Santa Cruz 50 Oaxaca says he is hoping for stiff competition. “Our goal for 2016 is to beat all of the Santa Cruz 50s, as well as any others in our class.” In 2015, Oaxaca finished fifth in ORR B, a challenging class whose podium finishers included Swiftsure, William Helvestine’s (Larkspur, CA) SC50 Deception and John Spadaro/Skip Ely’s (Honolulu) DK46 Boomerang.
“We were new to the boat, so we saw that regatta as a tune-up,” Moradzadeh says. “Racing on well-constructed courses against similar boats with focused crews allowed us to spotlight what we needed to do to build our performance. Since then, we have been able to climb up our improvement curve at a pretty steep rate.” As part of the crew’s warm-up to the Rolex Big Boat Series, Oaxaca has entered the Pacific Cup (San Francisco to Hawaii) in July.
In addition to the rated and multihull divisions, Ruhne expects a strong showing from a number of one-design classes. The J/70 Class World Championship follows the Rolex Big Boat Series by one week and many boats are expected to compete in both regattas. The burgeoning C&C 30 class already has seven boats registered for Rolex Big Boat Series, and the J/120s—the largest one-design boat in the regatta at 40 feet LOA—has three boats entered.
The deadline to register for Rolex Big Boat Series 2016 is August 1. After that date, late fees will apply.
more info. rolexbigboatseries.com
by Meredith Laitos