The best of the best in sailing will take to the rough waters of San Francisco Bay to compete in the 46th annual Rolex Big Boat Series, which begins today.
The regatta is hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club and involves four days of competition with seven races on two different courses, said Norman Davant, regatta chairman and also the tactician of the boat Vincitore.
“People come from all over the world to sail in this event because it’s one of the most challenging sailing venues on the planet,” Davant said. “It’s very technical and very windy, but that’s what makes it so cool and why the top people in our sport love to show up and race.”
In this year’s regatta, a strong group of 99 teams will be competing in either IRC (handicap racing) or One-Design groups, which are split into a total of nine classes. The 26 IRC entrants will be divided by rating into four classes and are scored much like a handicap system in golf; all boats start together and are timed to the finish, but based on the rating system, certain boats may owe others points in the final score, Davant said.
The 73 teams in the One-Design group are divided into five classes: Melges 32s, J/105, J/120s, Express 37s and One-Design 35s. According to Davant, the boats are identical aside from crews and sails, so winners are determined based on an overall, low-point scoring system.
This year, the Melges 32 class comprises the majority with
27 entrants. The large turnout is likely due to the class’ world championship scheduled to begin the day after the Rolex Big Boat Series.
Davant said he expects the competition to be very close, especially in the IRC class, but there are several boats to watch in this year’s regatta.
In the IRC Class A, the boat to beat is Davant’s own Vincitore, which won the 2009 Rolex US-IRC National Championship held in conjunction with last year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. Others expected to give the Vincitore a run for its money include the two entries from Mexico — Patches and Peligroso — and a strong set of TP52s, Mayhem, and Flash, which came in second last year.
Davant said that what makes the regatta so special is the venue because the public can view the races from anywhere along The City’s northern waterfront, from Crissy Field to Pier 39.
Boats to watch
- In the “ultra-competitive” J/120 class, defending champion Chance is expected to see strong challenges from Desdemona; Mister Magoo, which won in 2008; and Dayenu, last year’s third place finisher.
- In the J/105 class, the 2009 North American Champion Bruce Stone, steering Arbitrage, is expected to be a threat to fellow San Franciscan and defending champion Chris Perkins aboard Good Timin.
- In the Express 37 fleet, defending champions Kame Richards and Bill Bridge from Alameda will work to hold their title aboard the Golden Moon.”