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GJW Direct 2020

All systems go for the 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series at St. Francis Yacht Club

by St. Francis Yacht Club 15 Sep 03:07 BST September 14-18, 2022
2022 Rolex Big Boat Series © Rolex / Daniel Forster

If luck is the confluence of preparation and opportunity, the 76 polished teams gathered at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, for the 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series, will forge their own racecourse fortunes when warning guns fire tomorrow morning. The Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by StFYC September 14-18, 2022, is the West Coast's most competitive and prestigious sailing event, with perpetual trophies and Rolex rewards for top skippers and crews. To win this world-class regatta, teams need the skills to conjure opportunity in fleets populated with many world-class sailors.

In short: Bring your A-game or prepare to get rolled.

"The Rolex Big Boat Series represents the best of what we do at St. Francis Yacht Club," says Peter Gilmore, StFYC's 2022 Commodore and the skipper of the Cal 40 Longboard. "For many StFYC members and West Coast sailors, Rolex Big Boat Series is far more than just a regatta—it's a major part of their racing season and our shared sailing culture."

The 2021 Rolex Big Boat Series featured competitive racing, but with strict Covid policies it was a quieter event than the regatta's previous 55 editions. Not this year: with nearly 1,000 racers converging on San Francisco Bay, and Covid restrictions greatly eased, the 2022 edition of this historic event represents a return to the regatta's pre-pandemic scale and splendor.

"We've got a fantastic fleet, with a lot of familiar names, plus some fresh blood, and we know there's a lot of pent-up excitement," says Susan Ruhne, Chair of the Rolex Big Boat Series. "Three years is a long time between restriction-free regattas, and we're working hard to ensure this year's Rolex Big Boat Series is more than worth the wait."

The race committee plans to score seven races, with two races per day for the first three days of racing, followed by a longer Bay Tour course on Sunday. The exception is the Classics class, which races once per day.

Competition will be stiff across all classes, but the 29-strong J/105 fleet is the regatta's biggest One Design fleet and intensity is high as the J/105 class will soon be holding their North American Championship (September 29-October 2, 2022), also on San Francisco Bay. Always highly competitive, it's anyone's game among the J/105 teams competing, including Ryan Simmons' Blackhawk and Tim Russell's Ne*Ne. Blackhawk won the J/105 class at RBBS in 2019 and 2021, but Ne*Ne holds national honors.

"Tim Russell and the Ne*Ne crew have been at the top of our fleet since bringing USA 003 to the Bay in 2018, and they have won the season championship every year, including winning the North American championships last year in Annapolis," says Simmons. "We have a lot of fun racing with and against Ne*Ne. They are phenomenal sailors and fierce competitors, and it's very difficult to beat them."

The skippers and crews are no strangers to sailing together. "We have a lot of history with Tim," continues Simmons, adding that, "he was a member of the Blackhawk crew for years and many of our crews have sailed with each other on different boats over the years."

While Blackhawk and Ne*Ne enjoy great camaraderie, things will turn serious once the starting guns sound. As the largest One Design fleet, the J/105s will be competing for StFYC's Commodore's Cup, one of five perpetual trophies presented at Sunday's awards ceremony. The top J/105 skipper will also receive a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece.

The St. Francis Perpetual Trophy, which was anonymously donated to StFYC in 1966 to encourage competition between large offshore racing yachts, will be presented to the winner of the ORC A class, who will also receive a coveted Rolex watch.

The Atlantic Perpetual Trophy, featuring a ship's bell from the Transatlantic-record-breaking schooner Atlantic (1905), will be awarded to the winner of the ORC B class, along with a Rolex timepiece.

The Keefe-Kilborn Trophy, established 1976, honors the memory of the late StFYC members Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn and will go to the winner of the Express 37 class.

The Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy, which honors the longtime StFYC club member and skipper of Morning Star—the yacht that proudly broke the Transpac course record in 1949 and 1953—will be presented to the winner of the J/88 class.

Finally, a new Yacht Club Trophy, established in 2022, will recognize the three boats from the same club that earn the best cumulative results. To qualify, one boat must be racing in one of the ORC classes, one must be entered in a One Design class and the third boat can be competing in any class.

Irrespective of which trophy or award each class is contending, and provided that Mother Nature cooperates, sailors can expect four days of world-class racing on the country's best natural sailing amphitheater.

"Every team that finishes all of their races at the Rolex Big Boat Series has done some serious sailing and has accomplished something hard," says Ruhne, noting that the event is often known for breeze-on conditions that can test the best. "But teams that win their class or an StFYC perpetual trophy can finish up their summer feeling especially proud."

Racing is set to begin tomorrow, September 15, at 1100 hours, local time.

View the entry list here...

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