best in the west
Well, the 2010 Rolex Big Boat Series may well be remembered as the gentle regatta of the SF Bay
with moderate winds rarely above 15 knots. Only fog made the first couple of days a bit
The Big Boat Series is the annual premiere west coast regatta known for it’s 4 days of flogging
winds often in the 25 knot range. This years windy conditions failed to appear and only one
explanation now seems plausible: global warming (wtf? – Ed).
You can imagine the concern as the Melges 32 World Championship was scheduled to start just
three days later. With the who’s of pro level sailing joining the fleet for this world championship
including Russell Coutts, Jonathan McKee, Gavin Brady, Vince Brun, Morgan Larson and Lorenzo
Bressani ( winning tactition from the BBS ) among many of the very best sailors in the world, the
hope for an exciting windy series was on everyone’s mind . Thirty-two boats from all over the
world had arrived to take part. Would the Melges 32 Worlds be a repeat of the gentle regatta of
the previous week?
When today’s practice race gun fired at 1pm on the Olympic Circle, the breeze was definitely on.
Sunny skies, a building ebb and 15-18 knots of wind welcomed the 23 boats at the starting line
as only our San Francisco Bay can. (Can’t you already imagine 72 foot AC catamarans sprinting
toward Alcatraz? I certainly can!) Most of the fleet went right toward Angel Island before
banging the lay line for the final starboard tack to the windward mark. By now the wind was up
in the low 20’s and there were plenty of round-ups, shrimped kites and maybe some out of
towners asking themselves if they were ready for four more days of this. The leeward mark
roundings were equally thrilling displays of brilliant boat handling and spinnaker takedowns as
the Berkeley Circle chop grew in height and intensity highlighted with the occasional disaster.
The two times around 1.8 mile windward-leeward course was completed in less than an hour
with an upwind finish and then the long slog back to the protection of the St Francis Yacht Club
dock. Watching these skiff-like boats light up on their downwind runs in a crowded pack is a
pure adrenalin rush and I can’t wait until the real racing starts on Wednesday.
With the single practice of the day now behind us, it was time to pack up the cameras and video
gear and head for the barn. Rounding south of Alcatraz, we were met by a washing machine of
ebb tide, 30 knots of wind and 8 foot swells. At that moment, I must say that I was glad to be "inside" our Protector, spared the brunt of the elements and hoping my sailing brothers had
chosen the easier route home via Raccoon Straits.
If today is any indication, the 2010 Melges World Championship will be one you won’t want to
miss Not another gentle regatta, but one long to be remembered. Best of luck to all of you