This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Big Boat Series. Day 1 served up pretty familiar conditions. Moderate winds from the southwest for the first race then 18-22 knots for the second race of the day. There are 10 fleets spread out over three race courses. Sail boats racing from a MOD 70 to a fleet of J70’s and everything in between are racing this year.
Over the years I have sailed everything from 82′ maxi boats to this J70 which is about 22′ feet long. My first Big Boat Series was in 1977 on a cold molded Farr yacht called “Sweet Okole”. In those days, the Big Boat Series was a week long event with racing on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday evening, Friday and Saturday. That was back when people didnﾒt have to work I guess. The Wednesday evening race was a classic with the balcony’s around the club filled with spectators, all enjoying libations. The sailors would hit the bar around 8:00pm to find a rowdy crowd awaiting them. Also, the evening race often featured a dying wind and sometimes evening anchoring to hold position against the current.
This year, I am sailing with my friend Andy Costello on his J70, Double Trouble. The J70’s like the Melges 20ﾒs are enjoying great popularity. There are 13 J70’s here this week notwithstanding the fact that the world championship is taking place in Newport RI at the same time. The one design aspect, a vary light and fast boat, relatively inexpensive, 4 person crew all combine for big bang and big fun for your buck.
Two races were held today. The J70’s raced on the Fort Mason race course for the first race. The wind was about 8 knots at the start and the current was “flooding” meaning coming into the bay. Because the first leg was against the current so the fleet headed toward the shore side of the course, for relief. We had a bad start getting trapped outside the heavily favored right hand end of the line. We chipped away and finished 8th.
For the second race, the J70 fleet moved out to the Alcatraz course and now the wind was pumping in at 18 knots. The race committee signaled for a longer race, up and down the city front 3 times. We were in 4th place at the first mark and third at the end of the first run. Up the second windward leg, we got involved in a tacking duel and lost a bit of ground and then fouled another boat. We did our penalty turn and fell back to 6th. Andy and my team mates Nick and James did a great job of overcoming a few difficult moments to come through for the win. Sailing these little boats in 20+ knows is a handful. They are overpowered up wind so the sails fall the whole time and its about finding a balance in trim that allows the mainsail to set without tipping the boat over. Downwind they rip! but they also can crash and burn and when that happens, you lose a lot of ground over the team who keep their boat upright and planing.
Racing continues tomorrow through Sunday with 5 more races scheduled.
For complete results for all the fleets go to: www.rolexbigboatseries.com