What Makes the Rolex Big Boat Series a Great Regatta?

What are the critical elements needed to transform a fine sailboat race into a world-class regatta? Great competition, dependable conditions and a beautiful setting certainly help, but to elevate a standard regatta into something bigger than starting lines and turning marks requires a different kind of gravity — one that is organic by nature, steeped in history and organized and conducted in a highly professional manner. Yet even this description misses some critical elements, especially when the regatta is St. Francis Yacht Club’s annual Rolex Big Boat Series (September 14-17, 2017), now preparing for its 52nd edition.

Rather than pontificating on which finer points inspire sailors to commit time, resources and sailing bandwidth to a given regatta, we reached out to some of the skippers, tacticians and industry professionals who are participating in this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series to get their pulse on what makes this storied regatta hum, and why it earned a spot on their busy 2017 calendars.


We love doing the Big Boat Series because it’s an intense racing experience in the premier West Coast sailing venue, and because it’s a friendly and festive event that brings together the sailing community from around the country.”

— Bill Helvestine, owner and skipper the Santa Cruz 50 Deception


St. Francis Yacht Club does the best organization of any club I have seen, and I have personally participated in multiple Rolex Big Boat Series and experienced it firsthand. The combination of organization, parties and venue makes it one of the best regattas the world has to offer any sailor.”

— Manouch Moshayedi, owner and skipper of the brand-new Pac52, Rio


This will be my fourth Rolex Big Boat Series. San Francisco Bay is one of the most challenging and scenic sailing venues, and we’re always rewarded with good weather, strong breezes and close racing.”

— Gordon Leon, owner and skipper of the Farr 40 Foil


It’s simple: Rolex Big Boat Series has the best venue in the world to race 52s. To win here, you have to put together a very strong four days of windy, high-speed sailing. Everything happens very fast when sailing these boats at over 20 knots with tide and other boats around. It’s just an amazing experience and the ultimate challenge for a sailor.”

— Gavin Brady, tactician aboard the brand-new Pac52 Beau Geste


The powerful, reliable winds, the distracting backdrop of the country’s arguably most beautiful city and the uber-high level of competition attracted to St. Francis Yacht Club’s Rolex Big Boat Series make it the ultimate conclusion to our summer sailing program. We practice all year to be ready for San Francisco Bay’s challenging conditions and the event’s interesting and diverse racecourses. The experience is enhanced by the professional management of St. Francis Yacht Club’s race committee, which is second to none.”

— Skip Ely, owner and skipper of the Santa Cruz 52, Elyxir


San Francisco is like home to me. I love photographing the regatta because of the conditions, wind, color and spectacular backdrop. In my early days of covering the regatta there were really big boats and lots of reaching legs. I loved the shots of the boats powered-up and reaching across the Bay. I would line the boats up with the Bridge in the background and as they passed by and then swing toward the boats as they reached towards the city.” 

— Sharon Green, official Rolex Big Boat Series professional photographer


I sail on a J/70, but in Japan there aren’t any fleets yet, so there isn’t any racing. I decided to enter the Rolex Big Boat Series because it’s a historic race. I visited St. Francis Yacht Club in February and was moved by its wonderfulness and location.”

— Akinori Takezawa, skipper of the chartered J/70 Petit Star, and a first-time Rolex Big Boat Series competitor


"I consider the Rolex Big Boat Series to be a traditional race with world-class sailors, challenging waters, wonderful atmosphere and the most welcoming yacht club for a Mexican boat, and I can't wait to race again. I have great memories like in our first Rolex Big Boat Series, in 2009, when a friend showed me the Peligroso model at St. Francis Yacht Club’s model room and mentioned that Peligroso was for sale. Coincidentally, that was my 50th birthday, and the rest is eight years of my best sailing and racing experiences."

— Lorenzo Berho, owner and skipper of the Kernan 70, Peligroso


Registration for the 2017 Rolex Big Boat Series is open through Tuesday, September 5th, and racing is set to begin on Thursday, September 14, so be sure to register early to ensure your spot on the starting line of this four-day, high-octane event. For more information, visit


About Rolex

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.


About St. Francis Yacht Club

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, StFYC 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 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.


Press Contact

Meredith Laitos
Communications Director
St. Francis Yacht Club