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Rolex Big Boat Series at St. Francis Yacht Club - Overall

by Meredith Laitos on 18 Sep 14-17 September 2016

Racing concluded today at the 53rd edition of the Rolex Big Boat Series (September 13-17), hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club on the wind and tide-torn waters of San Francisco Bay.

After seven races spread across four days of on-water action, winners were crowned in eleven classes, including six perpetual trophies. En route to determining this year's winners, the 89 entries experienced a wide range of San Francisco Bay conditions, with an emphasis on each team's heavy-air sail inventory. While the first three days of this Grand Prix regatta featured long-course windward-leeward racing, the final day of racing sent competitors on "Bay Tour" courses with a finishing line directly in front of the StFYC clubhouse, providing onshore spectators a fine view of this year's warhorses as they paraded past the Club's stunning Race Deck.

"After four great days of racing on San Francisco Bay in a variety of conditions, we've determined the winners of 11 classes, including six perpetual and five class winners," said Susan Rhune, the regatta co-chair. "Along the way we got to see the Pac52 class hoist their sails for the first time in the Rolex Big Boat Series, while also getting to see classes that normally sail in displacement mode up on a full plane. A great time was had by all!"

While there's no question that respect from one's competitors is the greatest racecourse prize any sailor can earn, the fact remains that six classes—Farr 40s; J/105s; ORR-A, ORR-B, and ORR-C Classes; and the red-hot Pac 52s—were racing for the StFYC's perpetual trophies, while the other five classes—J/70s, J/120s, Express 37s, PHRF Sportboats, and Multihulls—were competing for take-home trophies and class honours.

And while any racecourse hardware is to be celebrated, the Rolex Big Boat Series perpetual trophies, which reside at the StFYC, are especially desirable, as each is engraved with the names of the winning team whose skippers also receive an engraved Swiss-made Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner chronometer.

In ORR-B Class, Jeff Pulford's Sydney 38 BustinLoose (USA 38044) won the Atlantic Perpetual Trophy, the ship's bell from the Transatlantic-record-breaking schooner Atlantic (1905). Doug and Jack Jorgensen's J/111 Picosa (USA 120) and Thomas Furlong's Club Swan 42 Elusive (USA 4216) took second and third places, respectively.

The City of San Francisco Trophy, which consists of one of the two golden spades used to break ground on the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933, was won by Karl Kwok and crew on the Pac 52 Team Beau Geste (IVB 1997). Impressively, Team Beau Geste finished the series with a perfect picket fence (read: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1) on their scorecard, despite trailing Tom Holthus's Bad Pak (USA 60052) for the first half of today's Bay tour. A brilliant tactical maneuver at the Harding Rock mark, near the Golden Gate Bridge's north tower, allowed Team Beau Geste to rocket ahead of the competition, ultimately locking in Kwok's first regatta-won Rolex. Bad Pak and Manouch Moshayedi's Rio (USA 3545) rounded out the winner's podium in this Grand Prix class.

One-design sailing has always been a core component of the StFYC's Rolex Big Boat Series, and this year the Commodore's Cup—awarded to the winner of the regatta's largest one-design class—went to brothers Chris and Phil Perkins and their J/105 Good Timin' (NZL 35), followed by Adam Spiegel's Jam Session (USA 434) and Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault's Arbitrage (USA 116).

The Keefe-Kilborn Trophy, which was established in 1976 and honours the memory of the late StFYC members Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn, was awarded to Wayne Koide and his crew aboard his Sydney 36 CR Encore (USA 3632), which decisively won the ORR-C class with seven straight firsts, while Gerard Sheridan's Elan 40 Tupelo Honey (USA 28908) and Bob Novy's Frers 40 Jeannette (USA 40646) earned the second and third highest rungs on the leaderboard. Impressively, Koide also won the ORR-C Class at the Rolex Big Boat Series in 2015.

The Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy honours the memory of longtime StFYC club member and former skipper of Morning Star, the yacht that proudly broke the Transpac course record twice (1949 and 1953). This year, it was presented to Michael Shlens and his Blade 2 (USA 37), who took top honours in the Farr 40 class. The Blade 2 crew was joined on the Farr 40 winner's podium by James Bradford's Bright Hour (USA 50092) and M. Tony Pohl's Twisted (USA 446), who claimed second and third place, respectively. This is Blade 2's second consecutive podium win at this regatta.

Finally, the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy, which was first awarded at the 1964 inaugural Big Boat Series, was presented to the late Sy Kleinman and his crew aboard his Schumacher 54 Swiftsure (USA 16), which won the tightly contested ORR-A Class. Lorenzo Berho's Kernan 70 Peligroso (MEX 55555) and Skip Ely's Santa Cruz 52 Elyxir (USA 28474) rounded out ORR-A's top three finishers.

In addition to the highly coveted perpetual trophies, the J/70s, J/120s, Express 37s, PHRF Sportboats and Multihulls raced for take-home trophies and class honours. These awards went to:

  • Scott Sellers and his 1FA (USA 534) crew, who won the 11-boat J/70 class, followed by Chris Snow and John Brigden's Cool Story, Bro. (USA 369) and Pat Toole's 3 Big Dogs (USA 58).

  • David Halliwill and his Peregrine (USA 25487) crew put in a strong showing to win the J/120 class, followed by Barry Lewis's Chance (USA 28484) in second and Stephen Madeira's Mister Magoo (USA 28289) in third. Impressively, this was Halliwill's fourth straight J/120 class win at the Rolex Big Boat Series.

  • The Express 37s have always been a core component of the StFYC's Rolex Big Boat Series and this year was no exception, with Sandy Andersen Wertanen and her Eclipse (USA 18495) crew taking first place, followed by Jack Peurach's Elan (USA 87700) and Mark and Heidi Chaffey's Loca Motion (USA 18410).

  • Daniel Thielman and his KUAI (USA 7676) crew, racing aboard Thielman's Melges 32, won the PHRF sportboat class with seven straight bullets, followed by Julian Mann's Don't Panic (USA 30026) and Marc McMorris's M Squared (USA 75).

  • While Tom Siebel's MOD70 trimaran Orion (USA 02) didn't have any racecourse competition after Peter Stoneberg's Extreme 40 catamaran Shadow X (USA 49) was dismasted in big breeze on day one of racing, this didn't stop the Orion crew from putting in a fine showing that regularly included flying hulls and outpacing RIBs en route to winning this class.

The smiles still haven't faded from the salt- and sun-kissed faces of this year's competitors, and the St Francis Yacht Club's 2018 Rolex Big Boat Series is set to unfurl on the waters of San Francisco Bay from September 12-16.

Please visit for more information about the Rolex Big Boat Series, including the complete 2017 results list.

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