From 11-14 September, the US 'granddaddy' of big boat racing - the St. Francis Yacht Club's Big Boat Series presented by Rolex - returns to San Francisco Bay.
Over 100 boats are expected to compete in 10 one-design and handicap classes for class honors as well as a chance to take home one of five historic perpetual trophies: the Richard Rheem, the St. Francis, the City of San Francisco, the Atlantic and the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial. Specially engraved Rolex timepieces also will be awarded to the perpetual trophy winners. Racing will take place 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.
Over its 39-year history, the Big Boat Series has attracted many world-class sailors and notable boats to the challenging courses set up along the San Francisco City Front.
This year's fleet looks to be one of the most impressive ever to assemble: Jim RICHARDSON and his Farr 40 Barking Mad, the 1998 world champion and 2002 defending Big Boat Series champion, will have as his tactician Terry Hutchinson who sailed with Stars & Stripes in 2003.
Fellow Stars & Stripes sailor Peter ISLER will sail on Revolution, owned by Brack DUKER. Stu BANNATYNE, who raced to a Volvo Ocean Race victory on illbruck will call tactics aboard Transpac winner Philippe KAHN'S Pegasus. Sailing with perennial San Francisco favourite, John KILROY'S Samba Pa Ti, will be Olympic Bronze Medallist Jeff MADRIGALI.
Current Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Massimo MEZZAROMA from Italy brings his boat Nerone to compete against a fleet known for its competitive owner/drivers and celebrated tacticians. "Coming to San Francisco was on our schedule from the beginning of this year,"
said Massimo BARTOLETTO, Nerone's boat captain and project manager. "We have never raced on the West Coat and with the World Championship in San Francisco next year, we wanted to start practicing in the area."
Fresh off a win at the J/105 North American Championship, Good Timin', owned by San Francisco brothers Chris and Phil PERKINS and Dave WILSON, returns to defend its overall fleet victory from 2003.
"We can't wait to sail in this year's Big Boat,"
said Chris PERKINS, who sat out the 2002 Big Boat Series while in New Zealand with Oracle BMW Racing. "I consider all that we do practice for this one event. It doesn't get better than sailing in great breeze right in front of our own club on the City Front."
In addition to the Farr 40 and J/105 classes, the Transpac 52, Santa Cruz 52, J/120, Express 37, and One Design 35 classes will each have a start.
In the Handicap fleet, entries will be divided based on overall ratings into Americap II fleets of approximately three divisions, including a Beneteau class made up of a mix of 40.7 and 36.7s. Six-time champion Sy KLEINMAN who has raced in the event 22 times, will be returning to the starting line aboard his Schumacher 53 Swiftsure II.
Skip ELY will sail his Santa Cruz 52 Elyxir. Crewing for Ely will be his wife Stacey, brother Glenn and his 15-year-old son Boris. Elyxir is a familiar sight on race courses all over California, having competed extensively in both Southern and Northern California as well as on the Chesapeake and at Key West Race Week.
"Last year's racing was intense and very competitive in the Santa Cruz 52 fleet,"
said Ely. "We managed to finish in second, which was not disappointing for us, considering it was my first Big Boat as helmsman. This year we would like to do better, however the fleet will be larger and more competitive. Flawless execution and intelligent tactics, plus a little luck will be required to place highly in this year's fleet."
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 2004.