A one-hour postponement ashore, followed by another hour of waiting on San Francisco Bay, neither dashed spirits nor inhibited competition at the four-day Rolex Big Boat Series, which started on Friday for 107 sailors in ten classes.
In fact, just as it did yesterday, the wind faithfully filled in as a westerly-light at first but packing the same punch, at 18-20 knots, by the end of the day-to overpower the morning easterly and accommodate two races each in the four handicap classes (HPR, IRC A, B and D), a performance multihull class, and four one-design classes (J/105, J/120, Melges 24 and Express 37). In a fifth one-design class for J/70s, a second set of three races was added to three races from yesterday and began to tell a story of "consistency pays off."
"You've got to be in the right place with full speed and clear air," said St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Jim Cascino, who skippers the J/70 Eos, currently leading in that class. "If you do that, as we were fortunate enough to do over these two days, it makes a big difference."
Sailing on Cascino's four-person crew was Stu Johnstone, whose family developed the J/Boat line of boats (there are 40 total sailing here, the majority in one-design classes and the others in HPR and IRC) and this latest class, which has become wildly popular in the short year and a half since its launching. His description of the Eos team's "little scare" in today's second race, when the team rounded a mark the wrong way, captured the excitement and variety built into the design of multiple race courses used here.
"We started in front of Alcatraz Island and beat all the way up to the Sausalito side of the Bay towards the Golden Gate, and then took off on a screaming plane, reaching, then running all the way down to Treasure Island," said Johnstone, explaining an approximately eight-mile race that took about an hour and a half to complete. "That was where we rounded the mark first and saw the entire fleet round the other way on starboard, so we went around and corrected ourselves. We were last at the bottom mark."
The Eos team fought back to second by playing the famous "current cone" alongside Alcatraz and then screaming along the waterfront off of Crissy Field to catch boats. "We hung in there, and then we had this crazy jibing back and forth to the finish (off the race deck at St. Francis Yacht Club)."
As they have for over 20 years, J/105 class sailors have shown up en masse for the Rolex Big Boat Series, fielding 22 teams. Skippers and crew members were discussing light-air strategies on the dock this morning, but were hopeful the breeze would pick up, as it did.
"These boats are built for heavy breeze," said Scott Whitney, a co-owner of Risk (currently in third) with Jason Woodley, who says there are 65 J/105s that regularly sail in the San Francisco Bay area. "In light air we have to shift gears, but basically we're all in the same boat…literally."
Saturday's conditions benefitted Phillip Laby's J/105 Godot, which finished second in both races to replace yesterday's leader, Scooter Simmons's Blackhawk, at the top of the scoreboard.
"Yesterday we were in fifth at the end of the day," said Godot. "We went into today not wanting to make too many mistakes, make sure we had a game plan, and follow it the whole way through. We managed to get good starts and just stay in the game, and it turns out we made some good decisions."
Godot added that last year, his team was in an almost identical position on the second day, and on the last day, they had to beat several boats to win. In the end, they lost a tiebreaker for first. "This year we're back to avenge," he said.
The only class larger in numbers than the J/105 is the Melges 24, which is sailing its Pre-Worlds and, as would be expected, sports a truly international fleet, with 13 countries represented among the 38 entrants. In that class, Franco Rossini's Italian entry Blu Moon has a tight grip on the lead.
In the Performance Multihull class, Urs Rothacher's SL33 BridgeRunner holds a one point lead over Jerome Ternynck's Extreme 40 SmartRecruiters. The class has plenty of talent sailing within, including 24-year-old Kyle Langford, wing trimmer on the winning America's Cup (Oracle) team last week, sailing aboard Peter Stoneberg's ProSail 40 Shadow (currently fifth), and four-time Olympian and Olympic silver medalist in Tornado class (2004) Charlie Ogeltree, sailing aboard Tom Siebel's MOD 70 Orion (currently third).
Peter Krueger's J/125 Double Trouble, which has "three-peated" here as a class victor in the past, posted two bullets today in HPR, jumping from fourth to second place overall and tying on point score with Friday's leading team, Daniel Thielman's Tai Kuai, which remains at the top of the leaderboard due to tie-breaker rules. Donald Payan, skipper of the McConaghy 38 Whiplash, which slipped a notch to third, described Tai Kuai as the "scratch (fastest-rated) boat, which, in a nice breeze and a flood tide, can put the hammer down and go." Yesterday he recalled beating Double Trouble by only 10 seconds. "That's basically one tack - they are terrific sailors."
Double Trouble was named Boat of the Day, a new daily award instated this year. Six St. Francis Yacht Club Perpetual Trophies, which are coupled with the awarding of Rolex timepieces, have been designated to go this year to IRC A (St. Francis Perpetual Trophy), IRC B (City of San Francisco Trophy), HPR (Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy ), J/120 (Keefe-Kilborn Perpetual Trophy ), J/105 (Atlantic Perpetual), and Melges 24 (Commodore's Cup).
Rolex Big Boat Series Website