After recovering from Friday's high-drama, the 101-boat fleet at the Big Boat Series Presented by Rolex settled into calm conditions of cool temperatures, 12- to 18-knot wind and overcast skies.
Today was a welcome relief that gave class leaders a chance to consolidate their lead or, as in some fleets, a chance to capitalize and gain in the standings. The 40th annual regatta, where six historic Perpetual Trophies will be awarded among the 101 boats competing in seven one-design and two IRC classes, continued today on San Francisco Bay.
Maintaining a consistent scoreline of all first- and second-place finishes Nicholas Lykiardopulo's (Athens, Greece) Kerr 55 AERA remains atop of the IRC A class. With a casual glance of the scoreline, the conclusion might be that AERA is outsailing its competition, but that isn't the case according to helmsman Jez Fanstone (Lymington, U.K.). "We've been sailing AERA for 18 months and we've gotten to know the boat pretty well," he said. "The boat was designed for last year's Admirals Cup. It's a stiff boat and it sails very well upwind, especially against a strong current like in San Francisco."
With Eddie Warden-Owen (Hamble, U.K.) calling tactics, a 16-member crew that includes Volvo Ocean Race veterans and Olympians, and Lykiardopulo navigating the unfamiliar and tricky waters of the Bay, AERA's skipper explained that the team's collective Bay knowledge is increasing with every race. "This is a new venue for us and it's very interesting sailing," he said. "Today we struggled with our speed, but the optimum condition for this boat is 12-18 knots and we had it in the second race. We're into our second generation of sails and fortunate to have our North sail maker Simon Fry on board to assist us."
Bob Barton's (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Andrews 56 Cipango won today's first race, 22 seconds ahead of AERA, with Zephyra, the class's second-place boat overall, finishing third.
Santa Cruz 52 class leader Winnetou, owned by Martin Brauns (Los Altos Hills, Calif.) almost forfeited its lead today after a close call with a cruise ship. The five-boat class split to either side, with little room to spare. Winnetou seemed to press its luck with the distance before tacking, but then slipped away after a short warning from the ship. Tom Sanborn's (Oakland, Calif.) City Lights won the last race of the day and with it took control of the class.
John Siegel's (San Francisco) Wylie 42, Scorpio retained its lead in the IRC B class by posting two second-place finishes. Norman Olson's (Wayne, Penn.) Farr/Beneteau Just In Time dropped down to fourth, to see Animal, the Sydney 38 owned by French & Lezin (Santa Cruz, Calif.) pass him into second overall. Jeff Pulford's (Corral de Tierra, Calif.) Bustin Loose, with around-the-world sailor Cam Lewis (Narragansett, R.I.) on board, won today's first race and is in third overall.
In the 31-boat J/105 class, Good Timin' owned by Chris, John and Phil Perkins moved into first place by winning the day's first race and finishing a close second in the second, and now has a good chance of winning the class overall. They will be challenged by Tim Russells's (Novato, Calif.) Aquavit, which suffered a ninth today, but rounded back with a third to second overall. Charade, owned by Tom Coates, continued with its consistent form and sits three points behind Aquavit.
Yesterday's preliminary results that showed Barking Mad, owned by Jim Richardson (Boston, Mass./Newport, R.I.), losing its lead in the Farr 40 class, were corrected when a scoring error was discovered. The Farr 40 World Champion remains in the lead, winning one race and scoring a fourth in the other. Slingshot, owned by Chuck Parish (Hillsborough, Calif.), remains in second overall, with a strong challenge by Fred & Steve Howe's (San Diego, Calif.) Warpath.
White Fang, owned by Mark Howe (Richmond, Calif.), shook things up in the six-boat Beneteau 40.7 class with a 3-2, and moved into the lead, despite Mike Garl's (San Carlos, Calif.) two bullets with his White Dove, which now is in second overall.
Golden Moon, owned by Kame Richards/Bill Bridge (Alameda, Calif.) held onto the lead in the Express 37 class, while in the J/120 class Stephen Madeira's (Menlo Park, Calif.) Mr. Magoo also held its lead.
Today's racing in the TP52 class appeared to be a repeat of yesterday, minus the heavy winds, with the top three remaining firmly in place. Esmeralda, owned by Makoto Uematsu (Tokyo, Japan) won both races, with Karl Kwok's (Hong Kong, China) Beau Geste in second and Rosebud, owned by Roger Sturgeon (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in third.
One final race is planned for Sunday. The Rolex Prizegiving Ceremony will follow the conclusion of racing where six historic Perpetual Trophies will be awarded, in addition to a Rolex timepiece to each trophy winner.
St. Francis Yacht Club's Big Boat Series presented by Rolex will be featured in the television program "The Spirit of Yachting," to be broadcast internationally beginning January of 2005. For sailors worldwide, the Rolex "Spirit of Yachting" films convey the exciting highlights of the racing season. Each year, from a host of locales that offer spectacular conditions and intense competition, Rolex produces a series of 30-minute films capturing the racing action.
The Big Boat Series presented by Rolex joins other prestigious Rolex-sponsored events in 2004 including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, Rolex Fastnet Race, Maxi Rolex Cup, Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Rolex Miami OCR and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club, within view of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a year-round host of over 40 regattas on San Francisco Bay. The club is renowned for its expertise in running world and national championships.
For results and additional information on the Big Boat Series presented by Rolex, go to the event website at the address below.