Rolex Big Boat Series

With one week until the start of the 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series, St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) Race Office is busy coordinating the many logistical details that accompany running one of the world’s most-loved regattas. Racing this year is scheduled for September 10-13, and includes racing in seven one-design classes – 1D35, Beneteau 36.7, Express 37, J/105, J/120, Melges 32 and, for the first time, the Cal 40 class, as well as divisions for IRC-rated entries. At the conclusion of the four-day regatta, specially engraved Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the St. Francis Yacht Club’s six Perpetual Trophy winners and to the overall IRC winner as the Rolex US-IRC National Champion. Although the Rolex Big Boat Series will be celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, another occurrence will take center stage, the StFYC’s tribute to the late Tom Blackaller.

As is tradition for Rolex Big Boat Series, the classes that will compete for each of the StFYC’s Perpetual Trophies will be kept a secret until they are announced at the Rolex Commodore’s Reception on Wednesday, September 9. At the reception, hosted by StFYC Commodore John McNeill, the club will pay homage to Blackaller, a member of the StFYC who passed away in 1989, with a special presentation lead by Paul Cayard. “It just seemed logical to do something special to remember such a great personality and great sailor,” said Cayard, a StFYC member who refers to Blackaller as his “sailing father, someone who had a huge effect on my sailing career”.

As Cayard described Blackaller – known as much for his sailing accomplishments as his larger-than-life personality – he was an ambassador of sailing wherever he went. “Tom was the king of sailing on San Francisco Bay” continued Cayard. “He was a two-time Star world champion and America’s Cup skipper, yet he still found time to race locally and to write forBay and Delta Yachtsman every month. I know we have stars in sailing today, but I don’t think we have ever had someone with as much star power as Thomas David Blackaller. He was ahead of his time and, unfortunately for us, he departed too soon.”

Cayard plans to team up with Tom Akin, who has chartered the TP52 Flash, and compete in IRC. They will face serious competition from John Kilory’s TP52 Samba Pa Ti, the two-time defending champion in the IRC division.

Kilroy, who recently won the Barn Door Trophy in the Transpacific Yacht Race, has his eye on Flash plus the other TP52s competing, Charles Burnett’s Braveheart and Ashley Wolfe’sMayhem, as well as Vincitore, the Reichel/Pugh 52, owned by Jim Mitchell (SUI), with Norman Davant calling tactics and America’s Cup legend Chris Dickson driving.

“People always ask us ‘what is your expectation?’ I always say our goal is to do well,” said Kilroy. “We will prepare the boat, the crew and the sails as best as we can to have a good shot. The competition this year is likely to be very strong. It looks like everyone has optimized their crew and sails, and IRC configuration. Vincitore was built for IRC, whereSamba and the other 52s were not. Instead they were built for the TP52 rule. We beatVincitore last year. It came down to last race. We’ve obviously done well under the IRC configuration, but I make that distinction. We have some disadvantages in our hull form. The Samba hull factor as calculated under IRC is not as kind as it is for an IRC-specific designed boat, from what I understand. We’ve demonstrated that we can be powerful and have won the past few years. I’d expect we will continue to be competitive.”

Reflecting on his history with Rolex Big Boat Series, over the past 45 years, Kilroy said. “I consider the Rolex Big Boat Series one of the preeminent regattas in the world. San Francisco is one of the great venues, recognized by anyone who has raced there. There is always great wind, a lot of challenges with the current, and all the variables that make sailing superb. I think it is the best yacht club and with Rolex, the preeminent sponsor, and the magic of San Francisco and the Bay, it brings out the best sailors. Everybody loves being in San Francisco.”

Kilroy will have at this side a few Volvo Ocean Race veterans, tactician Stu Bannatyne, fresh from Ericcson Racing, and headsail trimmer Justin Ferris, from Puma Racing. Local knowledge will come from Russ Silvestri, a US Olympian (’98/’00).

Principal Race Officer John Craig and the StFYC Race Committee have mapped out a variety of courses on San Francisco Bay – from 8- 32 nautical miles – which will be run on two different areas, the City Front Course and North Course. Competitors race within view of the stunning San Francisco city front, Crissy Field, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. Racing finishes each day in front of the StFYC, set upon the rocky shores of the Bay.

The St. Francis Yacht Club will officially welcome competitors on Wednesday, September 9 at the Rolex Commodore’s Reception where the fleets competing for each of the six St. Francis Perpetual Trophies – Richard Rheem, St. Francis, City of San Francisco, Atlantic, Keefe-Kilborn Memorial and the Commodore’s Cup – will be announced.

At the end of each race day, the St. Francis Yacht Club along with title sponsor Rolex will host a variety of social events including the Rolex Crew Reception on Wednesday and the Rolex Party on Thursday. Sonnen BMW will sponsor a reception on Friday in addition to the Mount Gay Crew Party. The regatta ends with Sunday’s final Rolex Trophy Ceremony where specially engraved Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the St. Francis Yacht Club’s six Perpetual Trophy winners, and to the winning skipper of the Rolex US-IRC National Championship.

Rolex Big Boat Series is part of the Rolex Yachting Portfolio that includes over 20 world-class sailing events that take place around the globe including the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Farr 40 World Championship and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. For more information visit the online press portal for Rolex yachting events.

For more information about the Rolex Big Boat Series, including entry lists and results, please visit

About St. Francis Yacht Club
Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club, within view of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a year-round host of over 40 regattas on San Francisco Bay. The club is renowned for its expertise in running world and national championships.

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Racing is scheduled for daily September 10-13, with the prize giving on Sunday serving as the culmination of an intense week of big boat racing.

Press Officer and North American Media Contact:
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Dana Paxton
Mobile: +1 401-369-0490 (on-site in San Francisco)

International Press Information:
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Karen Cooper
Mobile: +1 310-293-7840 (on-site in San Francisco)
Mobile: +41 79 267 2300