Rolex Big Boat Series

Rolex Big Boat Series: Where Stadium Sailing Began


San Francisco, a city well versed in the excitement of fast-action sailing, will not have to sit idle waiting for its next America’s Cup World Series event to take place. That’s because the 48th edition of the Rolex Big Boat Series, one of San Francisco Bay’s most revered sailing traditions, begins tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 6) and continues through Sunday (Sept. 9), hosting 66 boats in four IRC classes, three one-design classes and a new catamaran class.

Spectator friendliness has long flowed through this regatta’s veins, as a “North Course” race area offers a start off Berkeley Pier and runs close to Point Blunt on Angel Island and a “City Front” race area brings the action close to shore, just as its name implies, after a start off Treasure Island. Sailors set out each morning to one or the other course, depending on which class they are in, and then alternate to the other course for the afternoon’s racing, which features the bonus spectacle of all boats finishing within 50 feet of the Race Deck at host St. Francis Yacht Club. Because of that choreography, spectators at Crissy Field get an eyeful, too.

“It’s big-breeze, short-course racing in the greatest place you can possibly imagine sailing,” said Norman Davant, the local-knowledge strategist aboard Manouch Moshayedi’s (Corona del Mar) southern California IRC 52 Rio, which is sailing in IRC-A. “It’s unique here because we are surrounded by land, and whether it’s a flood or an ebb current, you’re going to have boats sailing close to shore.” Davant did warn that the first two days of this year’s event could show winds with less punch than normal, but he expects a “return to normal thermal conditions” for the weekend.

The regatta is doubling as the IRC North American Championship and six boats referred to as “Fast Forties” in IRC-C will be dual-scored with the new HPR rule. They will include Peter Kruegers’ (Reno, NV) defender, the J/125 Double Trouble, with a different crew this year.

The catamaran class is expected to mirror the excitement of the speedy catamarans seen competing in the America’s Cup World Series events held here on the Bay. St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Peter Stoneberg will be racing in the event aboard his ProSail 40 catamaran Shadow with no less than three Olympic medalists as crew: Randy Smyth, Keith Notary and Chris Steinfeld. Sailing against him will be a familiar name in monohull sailing here and around the world, Philippe Kahn (Santa Cruz), with his Lightspeed 32 Pegasus-MotionX.

The J/105 class, with 21 boats, is the largest class here and includes Theresa Brandner-Allen’s (San Francisco, Calif.) J/105 Walloping Swede.

"This is my fifth or sixth Rolex Big Boat Series driving, and I've been sailing in the event for over ten years," said Brandner-Allen. "I think the America's Cup World Series has gotten everyone really hyped up about sailing. I remember watching it from the yacht club and thinking 'I race on those waters too.' I have a great crew again this year, and every year we try to step up our game a little bit. We're optimistic, hopeful, and again, I'm really amped up based on the fact that sailing has really moved up to a different level around the world and especially in San Francisco."

Other one-design classes sailing are J/120 and Express 37.

Sailed since 1964, the St. Francis Yacht Club Big Boat Series added Rolex Watch U.S.A. as a title sponsor in 2005. Six specially engraved Rolex timepieces are traditionally awarded to winners of the St. Francis Yacht Club’s Perpetual Trophies: the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy; the City of San Francisco Trophy; the Richard Rheem Trophy; the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial Trophy; the Atlantic Trophy; and the Commodore’s Cup.

Racing begins at 11 a.m. each day, with two races planned for Thursday through Saturday and one for Sunday.

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About Rolex

Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its OYSTER watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the OYSTER, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the PERPETUAL rotor self-winding mechanism, introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic and patronage programs.

About the St. Francis Yacht Club

The St. Francis Yacht Club was founded in 1927 and has been host to many of the most prestigious national and international championships in sailing. With over 40 regattas on its calendar annually, the club is widely regarded as having one of the top racing and race management programs in the country. In 1964, the St. Francis Yacht Club’s Big Boat Series was established to take place annually on San Francisco Bay. In 2005, Rolex Watch U.S.A. became the regatta’s title sponsor (after three years as presenting sponsor), and since, the Rolex Big Boat Series has become one of the most important sailing events in the U.S.