big boat? no. big competition? yes.

big boat? no. big competition? yes.

The St. Francis Yacht Club has done a pretty good job of keeping the Rolex Big Boat Series alive, and adjusting to the fact that 30-40′ one designs are the new ‘big’. In fact there are just two classes with anything like the plus sizes of yesteryear, and they’re IRC classes that no one pays much attention to anyway…This year, the numbers are nicely padded by the always-huge J/105 classes and the massive 27-boat Melges 32 Pre-Worlds fleet – the biggest in the event.  We’ll be focusing on the 32s for most of the next two weeks, with our West Coast Editor ‘Dixie’ on the ground and our favorite SF Bay photo/video star Sergei from Ultimate Yacht Shots on the water, as well as a bunch of anarchists giving us reports from inside the teams.  First, a report from Dixie:


“Where’s the mark?” was a fairly common question on the boats today in the Rolex Big Boat Series.  At least in the 24 strong J105 fleet – several boats overstood the mark simply because the fog was so darned thick.  It swooped in right about the scheduled start time and stayed locked on top of the bay for the entirety of the day.  Elvis, who’s coaching this week, said it was impossible to see any marks and the sailors never even saw Alcatraz.  This super foggy, light air is of course the kind of weather that ‘never happens here.’  Jeff Madrigalli said in his usual all encompassing way, “No one could see the marks – not any boat in any fleet.”  Sadly for the guys on the M32 Barbarians, they had a Smash with Goombay.  Some folks said it was the fog’s fault, but in fact it was a port-starboard at the windward mark, for which the Barbos retired and Smash got redress.  Always stinks to hear about that on the first day of racing, especially when there’s a hole involved. Here’s a shot of how the fog looked from the media center.

 And speaking of the M32 fleet, this is their warm up for Worlds next week, so most teams (there are 26 this week) are racing with their full Worlds crew.   I spoke with Pieter Taselaar who finished the day with a 2, 1.  In talking about finding the marks, Peter said he’s not using any sort of GPS, they were able to find the marks all but once where they overstood by a boat length.   In fact, they have stripped down all of the electronics down to compass and windspeed.  “I sail by feel,” Pieter said and today, in top breeze of 15 knots, it was working for him.   Peter has a great crew along with him that includes some serious anarchists and good friends of the site – the ‘Creature’ Willem Van Waay, Jeremy ‘Troll’ Wilmot, Pauly, Cocko, and of course our favorite shit-stirrer, owner Pieter Taselaar.  The excellent Argo girls are back, including Miss Molly and the ‘weppo’ Julie Howe, and SA video producer extraordinaire is pulling strings aboard ‘Star,’ and will chime in a well. 

Here’s something from the ever-luscious and accomplished past SCOTW Molly Baxter from a couple of days ago:
There is much anticipation for the upcoming Melges 32 World Championships – being held next week in San Francisco.  It’s an interesting perspective to be one of the three US boats returning for our 2nd Melges 32 Worlds … this year is going to be a very different event.  Last year was hosted by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Italy.  Out of 29 total boats, there were 3 US boats – Bliksem, Shakedown, and Argo.  This year we have 33 boats, 24 are US boats, 2 Italian boats, and the rest from France, Japan, England, and more containing 264 competitors.  The fleet has changed dramatically and one by one, we have seen powerhouse teams show up in their new Melges 32 with sailors more talented than the last boat.  This year it seems everyone is talking about the depth of this fleet, and rightfully so… we now have Russell Coutts, Morgan Reeser, Jonathan McKee, Andy Horton, Mark Ivey, Gavin Brady, John Baxter, Chris Larson, Anthony Kotoun, Paul Goodison, Hamish Pepper, Andrew Campbell and Morgan Larson…. and that’s only a handful of the tacticians.  Don’t forget about the talent on the coach boats either… Argo’s coach is Dave Ullman, Bliksem has Dee Smith, the list goes on and on.

Right now everyone has either weighed in or still starving depending on arrival times.  I am anxiously sitting in my office still finishing up advertising campaigns that need to be put to bed before I can leave my sales job in New York City.  This work seems so menial when all I can think about is that I am about to go race against some of the best sailors I’ve ever seen, much less competed against.  I can’t fly out until Friday night because I have zero days left off for the rest of the year and describing to my co-workers what I am about to compete in is almost impossible. 

Watching the class grow to what it is today has been exciting and I can’t wait to see how the cards fall at this event.  Samba Pa Ti has been very fast recently, as has our last year’s World Champs Bliksem.  Alex Jackson and Leenabarca crushed everyone at the East Coast Championship at American YC back in May.  Jeff Ecklund’s Star, roXanne and Q have always been at the top, as well as Full Throttle…and of course now we are seeing top talent out on Pegasus and Warpath which should mix things up.   My team on Argo feels very fast in our new boat, and have a fantastic coach so we are ready to get back on the water. Check the "who’s gonna win Worlds’ thread here.

Time to pack… new Velocitek – check!  Foot warmers – check!  Party favors for birthday party on Saturday night for Jason (Carroll) – check!  It is supposed to be windy and cold.  It is truly anyone’s regatta.  Buckle up! PS – Please check out Argo’s sponsor based in CT – Sound Boatworks … a great shop!

And finally, a little hot video work from Sergei Zavarin/Ultimate YachtShots from Bliksem’s deck today.  Look for more photos and videos from Sergei throughout the next ten days.