SAN FRANCISCO — The waters of San Francisco Bay will be churned by more than strong winds and tidal currents next month when a record-size fleet of 112 boats lines up for the 52nd Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted September 15-18 by the St. Francis Yacht Club.
This year’s fleet eclipses by eight boats the previous record of 104 that was set in 2013 during the 50th anniversary regatta. Throughout its storied history the Rolex Big Boat Series has showcased the top end of the sport and this year’s fleet features everything from a 70-foot multihull down to a multitude of trailerable sportboats. The fleet epitomizes the variety of shapes and sizes that grand-prix racing offers these days.
“The new-looking Rolex Big Boat Series—a rose by any other name—continues the tradition of serving the best of a sport that is ever-changing, ever-evolving,” said St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Kimball Livingston, who has competed in many Rolex Big Boat Series. “Every generation makes its own legends, and we’ll have a full spectrum fleet this year.”
The largest class by numbers is the J/70, with more than 30 boats entered. The class is using the regatta as a tune-up for the J/70 World Championship, which the St. Francis Yacht Club will host one week after the Rolex Big Boat Series. Among the entrants are boats hailing from Australia, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Chile and Mexico, giving the regatta an international flair.
To accommodate this massive one-design fleet race officials have made the decision to host a third racing area on the Berkeley Circle, an area in eastern San Francisco Bay, in addition to the two traditional areas west of Alcatraz Island. The J/70s will sail two days of windward/leeward races on the circle to become familiar with the area where the worlds will be held. The rest of the fleet will sail a combination of windward/leeward and buoy races around San Francisco Bay, in which the J/70s will also partake for two days. The buoy races are expected to take the fleet past landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands, with the traditional finish line placed off the St. Francis yacht Club.
“The Rolex Big Boat Series is an awesome event,” said Chris Howell, the executive director of the J/70 Class Association. “With our Worlds just a week later this gives people a chance to sail in the same venue, and everyone’s excited about it because the boat is built to go off the wind. With the asymmetrical setup it loves a big breeze. Most of the sailors in the San Francisco Bay area who have the boat love the way it performs.”
The second-largest class in the regatta is the 34-foot J/105, which currently has 21 boats entered. Other one-design classes that will have their own start include the C&C 30 (6 boats), Express 37 (6 boats) and Farr 40 (7 boats).
One of the more interesting classes to watch is the Sportboat Class, which will feature an eclectic mix of nine boats including the 29-foot J/88, the 30-foot Soto 30, 32-foot Melges 32, 33-foot Flying Tiger 10M and 36-foot Farr 36 OD. Ratings for these boats have yet to be announced, but each has unique performance characteristics that could shine through in different wind conditions.
The largest boat in the fleet is Tom Siebel’s (Redwood City, CA) MOD70 Orion, a 70-foot trimaran. Siebel placed first (2014), second (2015) and third (2013) in the past three Rolex Big Boat Series and is out for revenge from Randy Miller’s (Orinda, CA) Marstrom 32 Miller Racing, which defeated Orion in a tiebreaker to win the multihull class last year.
One of the largest monohulls in the fleet is another past champion, Greg Mullins’ (Boulder Creek, CA) Zamazaan, a custom 52-footer from noted designer Bruce Farr. Zamazaan won her class in 1980 and will be up against at least one Santa Cruz 52 and three Santa Cruz 50s, including past champion Michael Moradzadeh’s (Belvedere, CA) Oaxaca, which won her class in 1983.
With so many boats registered and three racing circles to organize, the St. Francis Yacht Club is calling on all club members to help make the regatta a success.
“We’re excited to be hosting a record number of entries at this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series,” said Lynn Lynch, race director at St. Francis Yacht Club. “In preparation, we’ve compiled a world-class Race Committee who’ll ensure that racing runs smoothly and is as fair and competitive as possible. In addition to our race professionals, we are organizing more than 100 volunteers who will help out on the race course. It’s incredible to think that more than 110 boats will be racing on the Bay. It’s a massive logistical challenge, but we’ll be ready for it.”
Entries for the 52nd Rolex Big Boat Series will be accepted until September 6. For more information please visit the Rolex Big Boat Series website.
For more information contact:
Meredith Laitos, Communications Director, St. Francis Yacht Club, 415-820-3706
Carla Uzel, Public Relations Manager, Rolex U.S.A., 212-758-7700
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and enjoys an unrivaled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, the brand pioneered the development of the wristwatch and 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 invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces all the essential components of its watches in-house, 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, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic 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, St. Francis Yacht Club is widely regarded as having one of the top racing and race management programs in the country. In addition to enjoying a worldwide reputation for on-water excellence, Platinum Clubs of the World named the St. Francis Yacht Club the Number One Yacht Club in the United States in 2012, 2014 and 2016; and Boardroom Magazine recognized it as the first yacht club to be a Distinguished Emerald Club of the World.