Rolex Big Boat Series
Final exams are stern for a reason and the final day of racing at the 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, delivered stiff—if not downright nautical—conditions. Crews arrived at dock call to seldom-seen southerly airs, big puffs and scattered rain. While this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series had plenty of breeze-on racing, the hounds howled a rare tune today, with uncommon Cityfront-created lees, big swells, squalls and gusts that registered in the low-30 knot range.
Fortunately for boat-battered bodies, squally conditions moderated as the day progressed.
Heading into today’s racing the eight classes competing, six class wins—including five perpetual trophies and three Rolex Submariner timepieces—were still up for grabs. Only Scott Sellers, Geoff McDonald, and Harrison Turner’s J/70 1FA team and Don Jesberg’s Cal 40 Viva crew could rest ashore, thanks to sterling leaderboard results that, after six races, both read 1-1-1-1-1-1. 1FA remained dockside, while Viva hoisted sail in the sporty conditions.
Following longstanding StFYC tradition, some crews elected to drop flowers at Buoy A in remembrance of recently departed sailors and friends before the regatta’s three race committee teams sent their respective fleets on a single long-course Bay tour to cap off four days of world-class sailboat racing.
“Today’s weather was different. We don’t usually see southerly winds at Rolex Big Boat Series,” says Peter Gilmore, StFYC’s 2022 Commodore. “But our PROs and race committee teams did a great job of managing the courses, and our sailors benefitted from daily weather briefings courtesy of Quantum Sails. It was challenging out there, but people don’t come to San Francisco for easy sailing. Hats off to all the crews out there this week, and especially today.”
The ability to shift gears and sail fast at all angles and in varying breezes was evident across all eight classes that competed at the 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series.
“The Big Boat Series serves two different markets—a One Design market and a rating-based group—and both are very aware of the performance capabilities and look forward to a field of play that allows them to play the game,” says Jeff Johnson, International Race Officer of Rolex Big Boat Series. “Delivering that is a challenge, given the Bay’s currents, wind shifts and other distractions, but that’s part of what makes this venue so great.”
Every team that finished all their races can flake their sails knowing that they completed something challenging during summer’s final mile. Winners of these classes can go home feeling especially proud of their efforts given the conditions and the competition heading into today’s awards ceremony.
A class comprised of the biggest and fastest boats at a regatta that celebrates waterline and speed, this six-strong fleet competed for the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy and a Rolex timepiece. Paul Dorsey’s Carkeek-designed FAST 40 Adjudicator proved quick across all four days of racing, and their final score of 13 points was unassailable. They were joined at the top of their class by Andrew Picel’s J/125, Arsenal, and Daniel Thielman’s Melges 32, Kuai, who finished in second and third place, respectively.
Racecourse competition was equally robust in the ten-boat ORC B class, contesting the Atlantic Perpetual Trophy—featuring the ship’s bell from sailing yacht Atlantic, which held the Transatlantic record from 1905 to 2005—and a Rolex timepiece. After seven races, Scott Easom’s J/100, Eight Ball, took top honors and a place in StFYC’s proud history. David Halliwill’s J/120, Peregrine, was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Barry Lewis’ J/120, Chance.
The class of 35-foot keelboats again presented the largest One Design fleet at this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. As such, the 29-strong fleet competed for StFYC’s Commodore’s Cup, in addition to a Rolex timepiece. Randy Hecht’s Niuhi demonstrated their ability to negotiate crowded starting lines and command a talented fleet to win this historic perpetual trophy and its accompanying Rolex. Ryan Simmons’ Blackhawk finished in second place, while Tim Russell’s Ne Ne completed the top-of-class trifecta.
The Keefe-Kilborn Trophy was first awarded in 1976 and honors the memory of late StFYC members Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn. This year, it was awarded to Bart Hackworth sailing Andy Schwenk’s Spindrift V, who beat out Bartz Schneider’s Expeditious and Robert Lugliani’s pHat Jack, to win the five-boat Express 37 class.
Racecourse action was plenty hot in the seven-strong J/88 class at this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. Once the finishing guns fell silent, Mark Howe and Split Water will see their names engraved on the Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy, which honors the memory of Richard Rheem, a longtime StFYC member and skipper of Morning Star—the yacht that proudly held the Transpac course record in 1949 and 1953. Christos Karamanolis and Pelagia finished in second place, with Jim Hopp’s White Shadow finishing nine points astern to take third-place.
The regatta’s eight J/70s are the event’s smallest One Design class as measured by waterline, but the popular speedster is no stranger to the Bay. After four action-packed days of racing small boats in big waves, Scott Sellers, Geoff MacDonald and Harrison Turner in 1FA took first place, followed by Peter Cameron’s Kangaroo Jockey and Brian Mullen’s Orange You Glad.
Cal 40s class have a long history of racing on San Francisco Bay. At Rolex Big Boat Series these historic boats looked great and sailed well. Don Jesberg’s Viva won the class, followed by Rodney Pimentel’s Azure and Robert Walden’s Sea Star.
The five-strong Classics brought time-honored aesthetics and a generous serving of nautical history to the 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series, while also delivering great racing for all. Unlike the other seven classes, these stately yachts sailed a single Bay tour-style race for each of the four days. Ultimately, Beau and Stacey Vrolyk’s John Alden-designed transitional-rigged schooner, Mayan, earned class honors, followed by Michael Zolezzi’s 8 Meter, Yucca, and Mark Sanders’ Charles Nicholson-designed ketch, Hurrica V.
This year StFYC presented a new Yacht Club Team Trophy, recognizing the top three boats sailing from the same yacht club—one from an ORC class, one from a One Design class and the third from any class. The trio that earned the best cumulative results hails from San Francisco Yacht Club: David Halliwill’s Peregrine, Randy Hecht’s Niuhi and Don Jesberg’s Viva. Each sail home with commemorative vases.
“On behalf of StFYC, I’d like to congratulate all participants for completing seven hard-fought races over the last four days,” says Susan Ruhne, Chair of the Rolex Big Boat Series. “I’d also like to thank Rolex for their continued support for sailing, both here on the Bay and internationally. Their support allows us to put on this world-class regatta and our accompanying social events. And, finally, it wouldn’t be the Rolex Big Boat Series without Friday night’s Mount Gay Party. We look forward to hosting this wonderful regatta again next year!”
The 2023 edition of the StFYC’s Rolex Big Boat Series is set to take place from September 13-17 on San Francisco Bay’s iconic waters.