Big Boat regatta keeps sails blowing on San Francisco Bay 

click to enlarge he Rolex Big Boat series brings several design classes, including the majestic J 105s, to race on the Bay waters. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images file photo
  • he Rolex Big Boat series brings several design classes, including the majestic J 105s, to race on the Bay waters.

Did the recent America’s Cup World Series leave you thirsty for more world-class yacht racing? If so, you can quench it this week when the West Coast’s premier sailing regatta invades San Francisco Bay.

The St. Francis Yacht Club’s 48th annual Rolex Big Boat series is bringing some of the world’s best sailors — former Olympians and America’s Cup competitors — to the Bay to compete for one of six coveted trophies starting Thursday.

“Since the beginning, the regatta has attracted some of the best sailors from all over the world to sail in what are some of the most challenging and demanding conditions on the planet,” St. Francis Yacht Club Director Kevin Reeds said.

This year’s event will feature at least 65 boats (registration is open through Wednesday) competing in seven races over four days (Thursday to Sunday).

The regatta attracts a variety of boats that race in either the handicap or the one-design divisions. The handicap races use a rating system (the IRC) that allows boats of different sizes, shapes and designs to compete against one another in the same race. Each boat is given an IRC rating prior to the race and the winner is the competitor with the best finishing time after adjustments are made using the handicap formula.

The handicap races are divided into four divisions, so that somewhat similar boats are grouped together.
The event also features four one-design divisions, where boats of identical classes race head-to-head and the competitor with the best time wins. The four design classes are J 120s, J 105s, Express 37s and 33- to 40-foot catamarans.  

The races will be held on two courses: the north course and the cityfront course. The cityfront course starts at Treasure Island and runs west along the San Francisco waterfront and back, while the north course starts near the end of the Berkeley pier and heads north between Alcatraz and Angel Island before looping around.

The regatta will hold two races per day (one on Sunday) on each course with the first contest getting under way at 11 a.m. The fleets will then swap courses and race again between 1:30 and 2 p.m. The afternoon races have a twist; both will pass Crissy Fields and finish downwind at the Yacht Club.

“They’ll actually get closer to shore than the America’s Cup boats were,” Reeds said. “It’s going to be a beautiful week.”

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Paul Gackle

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