San Francisco Bay serves up classic conditions for veteran racers
By Sean McNeill
Photo © Rolex / Daniel Forster
SAN FRANCISCO — Consistency has been the name of the game in nearly every class after the first two days of racing at the 52nd Rolex Big Boat Series.
After yesterday’s opening day in grey conditions, today saw the marine layer over San Francisco Bay burn off early and that enabled the westerly breeze to increase into the 20s by the end of racing. With an ebb tide running in the afternoon, a short chop kicked up that made the downwind leg to the finish off the St. Francis Yacht Club a wild ride with broaches aplenty.
All class leaders, however, continued the consistent form that propelled them to the top of their class yesterday. The only crew to continue to post all firsts is Kame Richards’s (Alameda, Calif.) Golden Moon in the Express 37 Class. Golden Moon has 4 points, good for a 9-point lead over Bartz Schneider’s (Crystal Bay, Nev.) Expeditious.
After winning both of yesterday’s races, David Halliwill’s (New York, N.Y.) Peregrine finished 2nd in today’s first race followed by a 1st in the second race and leads the J/120 Class by 3 points over Barry Lewis’s (Atherton, Calif.) Chance, which has a 3-2-1-2 scoreline.
In the Sportboat division, Daniel Thielman’s (San Francisco, Calif.) Kuai (Melges 32) finished 1-2 today and now holds a 1-point lead over Paul Dorsey’s (San Francisco, Calif.) Gentoo (Soto 30), which has a 2-1-3-1 scoreline. Thielman has competed in the Rolex Big Boat Series for eight years with a variety of boats, from a Melges 20 to a Reichel/Pugh 44. He says Kuai, which he notes means “fast” in Chinese, is a fantastic all-around boat.
“The Melges 32 has a big rig and is super light. We crush it in light air,” said Thielman. “When the breeze is on the competition is closer. We’ve just been working every puff and keeping upright. We saw a few boats on their side today in the strong wind.”
Tony Pohl’s (Alamo, Calif.) Twisted leads the California 40 Class with 8 points on finishes of 2-3-1-2, good for a 2-point lead over Michael Shlens’ (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.) Blade II. Shlens’ crew finished 1-1 on the water yesterday, but had to take a scoring penalty in Race 2, which dropped it to 2nd for the race.
Victor Wild’s (San Diego, Calif.) Fox leads ORR A with 5 points on a scoreline of 1-1-2-1. The Pac 52 design is similar to a TP52, only faster, said tactician Gavin Brady. “We’re lighter, have more sail area and a higher righting moment than the TP52s,” said Brady. “We hope to have four of these designs racing on the West Coast next year.”
The only crew to upend Wild so far has been Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, Calif.) Swiftsure II (Schumacher 54), which won today’s first race. Kleinman, who has participated in the Rolex Big Boat Series since 1980, is in his 90s and hasn’t raced yet this year, but is expected aboard tomorrow. Filling his place at the helm this week is Steve Taft, who is racing in his 42nd Rolex Big Boat Series.
“I’ve done everything from bow to back of the bus,” said Taft. “We’re having an OK week. There’s no way we’ll be able to catch the Pac 52—on a windy reach they can make up all their time on us—but we’re winning the battle for 2nd.”
The J/70 Class continues to be a battle between Julian Fernandez Neckelmann’s (Valle de Bravo, Mexico) Flojito y Cooperando and Joel Ronning’s (Excelsior, Minn.) Catapult. Led by world champion tacticians Bill Hardesty and John Kostecki, respectively, the two crews are tied with 9 points, each with three 1sts and three 2nds. Flojito y Cooperando, however, won the final race and therefore holds the tiebreak advantage.
© Rolex / Daniel Forster
These two crews have connections that run deeper than San Francisco Bay, and the thread is Hardesty. Hardesty sailed with Catapult for two years, including the inaugural J/70 Worlds three years ago. He also was tactician for Neckelmann last year when he won the J/70 Worlds. Additionally, Hardesty raced Lasers against Neckelmann 20 years ago, when both were training for the Olympics.
Hardesty said that whoever gets to the right side of the racecourse on the Berkeley Circle and rounds the windward mark in the lead is able to extend. “I think there’s a shaft of wind coming off of Angel Island that makes the right favorable,” he said.
Besides watching the wind, Hardesty has been keeping a close eye on Kostecki. “He’s sailed here all his life. He knows this place like no one else,” said Hardesty. “So if I see he’s tacking one way or the other, we’re going to tack soon after.”
Flojito won the day’s final race in such fashion. “We lined up to start at the boat end but had a general recall,” said Hardesty. “We saw that Kostecki was starting at the pin end. So in the second start we were at the pin end. We had a long beat all the way across the Bay to the city front. Because we started at the pin we were able to nose into the ebb tide first and then just got swept out the Bay. Good thing we had a general recall.”
In the J/105 Class, Rick Goebel’s (San Diego, Calif.) Sanity overtook the lead from Ryan Simmons’s (Sausalito, Calif.) Blackhawk. Simmons won both races yesterday but placed 12th in today’s first race and 3rd in the second while Goebel finished 3-5. Although Goebel is the only class leader to not win a race, he leads with 12 points to Simmons’s 17.
Goebel is another veteran racer at the Rolex Big Boat Series, but hasn’t competed here since 2011. In fact, his history on San Francisco Bay stretches back to the mid-1980s when he was a crewman for the Canada II syndicate for the America’s Cup and they were in town training against Tom Blackaller’s USA syndicate.
Goebel trailered his boat to San Francisco from San Diego because they’re ultimately headed to the East Coast for the J/105 Nationals later next month and needed practice. As he noted, eight of the 26 entrants are past class winners.
© Rolex / Daniel Forster
“It’s a ton of fun to travel to San Francisco and race in the big breeze,” said Goebel, who’s originally from Edmonton, Canada. “It’s a different world here from San Diego, with the waves and chop. You always have to be conscious of the current. There are some areas that are hard to handle under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s like a washing machine.”
Racing resumes tomorrow beginning at 11 am PST.
For photos from Day 2 of racing, by ROLEX/Daniel Forster go HERE. For video coverage by Degan Media, check out Rolex Big Boat Series on Facebook. Today’s videos featured a live interview on board Orion with Genny Tulloch, Peter Isler and Tom Siebel and a feature on the ins and outs of Race Committee.
For more information please visit the Rolex Big Boat Series website, and go here for complete results.