A CELEBRATION OF WORLD-CLASS RACING
Widely regarded as the West Coast’s premier regatta, the Rolex Big Boat Series features four days of world-caliber competition for buoy and stadium-style racing at St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay. This year, the event celebrates its 52nd Anniversary, hosting racing for ORR, HPR and BAMA divisions as well as several prominent one-design classes, including the J/111, Farr 40, C&C 30 and J/70.
From its inception, the Rolex Big Boat Series has been the annual showcase of what is “big” in west coast sailing. As sailing trends evolve, so too does the regatta. It stays on the cutting edge of sailing by continually adding new classes and championships to its lineup. For instance, one of this year’s largest one-design classes will be the J/70 which is holding its World Championship at St. Francis Yacht Club just one week later. The J/70 launched in 2011 and already boasts a worldwide fleet of over 1,100.
A REWARDING HISTORY
Founded in 1964, the inaugural Big Boat Series regatta attracted nine yachts, with Jim Wilhite’s Sparkman & Stephens 63ft yawl Athene claiming the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy after a narrow victory over Jim Kilroy’s Kialoa II.
In 1972, another perpetual trophy—the Richard Rheem Trophy—was added to the competition and awarded to Bill Clute’s Ericson 39, Chiquita. The fourth perpetual, the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial Trophy, was added in 1976 and awarded to Lucian Taylor’s Peterson 40 Racy. In 1978 (with a then-record of 46 entries), the Atlantic Trophy was added and won by Bill Sullivan’s Peterson 43 Blue Norther. In 2004, the Commodore’s Cup was added and is now awarded to the winner of the largest one-design fleet in the series. Chris Perkins and Dave Wilson’s J/105, Good Timin’, won the inaugural trophy.
The Big Boat Series has always been representative of what is big in sailboat racing. It hosted the glory days of IOR and IMS racing; it accommodated Maxis, Sleds and America’s Cup Class boats as well as fiercely competitive one-design classes. The event survived the economic ups and downs of the 1980s, and soared in entries in the late 90s and early 2000s, reaching a record 115 entries in 2003. In 2004, St. Francis Yacht Club initiated the use of the IRC handicap formula for entries 35 feet or longer, and in 2005, after three years as presenting sponsor, Rolex Watch U.S.A. became the regatta’s title sponsor.
In 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, the regatta doubled as the Rolex US-IRC National Championship, the pre-worlds for the Melges 32 Class, and the Farr 30 Worlds. In 2012, the regatta hosted the US-IRC North American Championship and in 2013, it directly succeeded the 34th America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay, serving as the HPR National Championship, the J/120 North American Championship, the IRC West Coast Championship and the pre-worlds for the Melges 24 Class.
2014 was a marquee year for Rolex Big Boat Series: the 50th Anniversary. Ninety-nine teams competed in ten classes and the event showcased another year of incredible racing. Alex Ropers, recipient of the Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy remarked, “This is one of the most spectacular venues in the world. The breeze is so ‘on’, the vistas are incredible, and with the organization of the St. Francis Yacht Club, this is an absolutely outstanding event.” 2015 doubled as the J/105 North American Championship and also marked the 10th anniversary of Rolex Watch U.S.A. as the title sponsor.
ORGANIZER: ST. FRANCIS YACHT CLUB
Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club is steeped in nearly 90 years of yachting traditions. The original St. Francis clubhouse was finished in 1927 and has been rebuilt twice following a devastating fire and an earthquake. Through the years, the Club has always served the sport, and it anchored the international game of yachting on San Francisco Bay. In 1958, the Club initiated an annual cruise up the Delta that led to the purchase of Tinsley Island, the Club’s sole out-station.
From the beginning, the St. Francis Yacht Club’s membership roster has included many of the Bay Area’s most prominent citizens and greatest sailors. Early racers included such champions as L.A. Norris, Mark Fontana, Myron Spaulding, Arthur Rousseau, Painless Parker and Lester Stone. Today, it is names such as Paul Cayard, John Kostecki, John Bertrand, Stan Honey, Morgan Larson, Nicole Breault and Russ Silvestri who continue to keep the St. Francis in the forefront of sailing.
The annual regatta schedule is one of the most active in the world. Part of the attraction of racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club is the excellent and challenging year-round conditions unique to San Francisco Bay. Both physically beautiful and naturally demanding, the Bay provides a racer with the ultimate in wind, current and weather conditions for truly competitive, exciting sailing.
The clubhouse provides a boating and social venue for members and their guests featuring deep-water guest docks, outstanding dining and incredible vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The second floor Race Deck is the premier location to view yacht racing on the renowned City Front. With the skyline of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, St. Francis Yacht Club prides itself on providing visitors with every comfort and amenity while dazzling them with spectacular surroundings.
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva and enjoys an unrivalled 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.