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15 September 2006, 09:53 am
Great Opening Day
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Rolex Big Boat Series 2006
San Francisco, California, USA

The Rolex Big Boat Series is known by sailors around the world for two things: superlative race management by host St. Francis Yacht Club and the consistent double digit wind speeds on San Francisco Bay, USA. Yesterday's racing did not disappoint the 900 plus sailors who have come to experience the traditionally exceptional racing.
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Wind speeds ranged from ten knots on the lighter areas of the course to 22-28 knots in the gustier areas, close to shore and the city front. Eight classes - three IRC and five one design - raced two races each.

Five skippers out of the 90 competing have the distinction of winning both races in each of their respective fleets: Andy COSTELLO and Jim BARTON (USA) on Double Trouble in the 1D35 class; Chris CHAMBERLIN (USA) on Stewball in the Express 37 class; John SIEGEL (USA) on his Wylie 42 Scorpio in IRC B class; Gerald SHERIDAN (USA) on Tupelo Honey in IRC C class; and Barry LEWIS (USA) on Chance in the J/120 class.

Crew Work Key

'Crew work is the answer to doing well in both races,' said LEWIS of the ten boat J/120 competition. 'Particularly when it's blowing hard. It's a very competitive fleet, and three or four boats are consistent at the weather mark; there really was no separation until the end, at the finish.'

Solid crew work continued to pay off for LEWIS and his crew, giving them a buffer when the wind picked up. 'When we got to the first windward mark, we were seeing 24-28 knot gusts,' he said. 'We didn't want to go with the small kite, which we use on the 120, as we knew it would be lighter at Treasure Island. We went with the big kite and it worked for us. By the time we rounded the gate down there we were seeing twelve knots.'

Another team that benefited from sailing together was Robert YOUNGJOHN's (USA) crew aboard his DK46 Zephyra. As the defending champion in the fleet, Zephyra is first overall in IRC A, tied on points with Sy KLEINEMAN's (USA) Schumacher 45 Swiftsure II, in second. Zephyra's designer Mark MILLS (USA), who is crewing on board this week, explained the boat's continued success in varying conditions, 'The boat is designed to the IRC rule which promotes all-around designs. When you get to a place like this in big breeze, the boat goes very well uphill and downhill; it's a really good all around rule. It gives Robert the freedom to go down to Southern California and do well in a light breeze regatta.'

Zephyra finished the day 2,1. 'In the second race, there was a decision on the first beat about which way to go around Alcatraz,' said MILLS who is based in Ireland, but grew up in San Francisco across the street from the St. Francis YC. 'We went south toward the city front side and it was just us and Swiftsure. Everyone else went around the other side. It was a choice of 'do you want to go around in better tide, but take a longer trip to get there by going around Alcatraz or do you want to get into worse tide, but have a more direct line?' We took the more direct line, and it paid off. We weren't entirely convinced about the decision until we were well up the beat.'

SELLERS Starts Well

The 36 boat J/105 class is the largest competing and it is currently led by defending champion Scott SELLERS (USA) on Donkey Jack. However, his boat is tied with 2004 champion Chris PERKINS (USA) on Good Timin'. The key in that fleet is to get a good start off the line, tough to do as witnessed by the three lane deep pack in yesterday's races.

Racing continues today at 1100 on San Francisco Bay within viewing range of Pier 39 and the Marina District, between Treasure Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, with the finish line set off the St. Francis Yacht Club Race Deck.

Coveted prizes for the fleet are six perpetual trophies - Richard Rheem (Sydney 38 class), St. Francis (IRC A), City of San Francisco (IRC B), Atlantic (IRC C), Keefe-Kilborn Memorial (J/120) and the Commodore's Cup (J/105). The fleets competing for each will be announced at this evening's Rolex Commodore's Reception.

Regarded by sailors as one of the world's premier sailboat racing events, the Rolex Big Boat Series joins the list of other prestigious Rolex sponsored events in 2006: the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Dana PAXTON (As Amended by ISAF). Image, The fleet with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background:© Daniel FORSTER/Rolex
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