The Rolex Big Boat Series Sails Into San Francisco Bay

The West Coast’s most competitive regatta returned for its 55th year



The St. Francis Yacht Club presented its 55th annual Rolex Big Boat Series Sept. 11-15 on San Francisco Bay. Despite a slow start to the regatta — thanks to practically no wind and temperatures well into the 90s earlier in the week — the final day of racing welcomed cool onshore temperatures and a gathering sea breeze.


“The regatta’s culture has changed as the general culture has evolved,” said Steve Taft, who celebrated his 45th Rolex Big Boat Series this year by serving as tactician aboard Dave MacEwen’s Santa Cruz 52, Lucky Duck (USA 28729). “Back in the day, there was more tradition than now, but you had more tradition in society back then. It’s about keeping up with the times — it’s not like you’re going back in time 30 years when you come sail this regatta.”


The race was tight across all four classes, but it was the Classic class that commanded the most attention over the four-race days. “A great addition this year is the Classics,” said Paul Cayard, two-time Olympian and St. Francis Yacht Club board chairman. However, only four classes — ORR-A, ORR-B, ORR-C and the J/105s — had the honor of racing for the yacht club’s perpetual trophies and accompanying Rolex Submariner Date timepieces.


After five races, Skip Ely and his Santa Cruz 52 Elyxir (USA 28474), racing in the ORRA, won the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy, which was first awarded at the 1964 inaugural Rolex Big Boat Series, and its attending Rolex. ORR-B sailors raced for The City of San Francisco Trophy, which consists of one of the golden spades used during the 1933 groundbreaking ceremony for the Golden Gate Bridge. After a total of five races and zero drops, Daniel Thielman and his Melges 32 Kuai (USA 7676) earned a new Rolex timepiece for their skipper, plus their name on the trophy. In ORR-C, Thomas Furlong and his Swan 42 Elusive (USA 4216) successfully negotiated San Francisco Bay’s tide-riven waters to earn an engravement on this perpetual trophy, as well as its accompanying Rolex. The Commodore’s Cup — awarded to the regatta’s largest One Design fleet — went to Ryan Simmons and his Blackhawk (USA 40) crew along with an accompanying Rolex timepiece.

Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club has played host to many of the most prestigious national and international championships in sailing, with over 40 regattas on its calendar each year.



Feature image: A crew sails near the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE during this year’s ROLEX BIG BOAT SERIES. Photo by Sharon Green.


Sept. 17, 2019

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