Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste is now on a two-event winning streak after taking the inaugural Pac52 Cup with six bullets in seven races.
When legendary skipper Karl Kwok learned there could be up to seven yachts racing in the inaugural Pac52 Cup, he put Beau Geste on a ship bound for San Francisco. Although new to the class, it’s not too surprising that Beau Geste won both the Pac52 Cup and Rolex Big Boat Series held just before.
Beau Geste was one of the first Pac52s built in 2016. Earlier this year, the boat won the 2017 Australian Yachting Championship, the team’s fourth win in a row at the event. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
“San Francisco Bay is a very dynamic venue. It’s like Snakes and Ladders—there is a lot happening all the time. You can really confuse yourself quickly if you over analyze things. It’s like, ‘Hey they gained on us because they’re in better current.’ It’s not because they have better mainsail design or a better mode or whatever. So this is a very interesting place to sail these types of boats,” said tactician Gavin Brady who has been instrumental in putting together the Beau Geste Pac52 program.
“For some reason or another there’s been a lack of big boat sailing on the West Coast and it’s great to have this class slowly developing,” said John Kostecki, tactician on Gladiator. “They are some of the most amazing modern and innovative racing machines in the world—and they are fun to sail! I think the owners are having a great time.”
On the water
Big winds welcomed the Pac52 racers to the Bay, the sustained breeze was in the mid-20s with gusts up to 30. Beau Geste made it look easy on a rough-and-tumble day one scoring three wins while the rest of the fleet suffered various hardware failures or kite explosions.
After a calm morning, the wind filled in to the low teens for race four on the second day of racing. Beau Geste once again won the day, but the competition was a little closer. Rio played local knowledge and currents courtesy of tactician Morgan Larson managing a second.
A single long race under the Golden Gate Bridge to Point Diablo and back in past Alcatraz on day three spread the fleet out heading upwind but downwind the boats were much more closely grouped. Invisible Hand got their first and only bullet of the regatta in race six.
The big regatta winner, of course, was Beau Geste, with Badpack and Invisible Hand fighting for second, a fight Badpak ultimately won by only one point. Gladiator, Rio, and Fox made up the bottom half of the scoreboard.
“We were sailing the TP52 on the East Coast and all of the sudden the class came out of nowhere. We decided to come out to have a look,” said Gladiator skipper Tony Langley, and he liked what he saw. “San Francisco Bay was awesome! 25 knots with really flat water? What’s not to love?” Indeed, there was as much love of the venue as the yacht.
“This is the best place in the world to sail these Pac52s. That’s why we brought the boat here. If you own a 52-footer like this, not experiencing San Francisco Bay is like having a Ferrari and never taking it to the racetrack. SF Bay is the best race track in the world for a 52,” said Brady.
Invisible Hand skipper Frank Slootman said the appeal of the boat is not only the speeds it can achieve, but also the quality sailors it attracts. “The boat is a thoroughbred racing machine, and it’s a delight to sail in all conditions and breeze angles. It’s Grand Prix sailboat racing at its best. It’s a demanding boat to sail and requires a crew experienced on this platform to be competitive as well as safe. You’re off on a few variables, the boat will quickly drop off the performance curve, it’s unforgiving that way.”
Off the water
Class Manager Julie Servais made sure there was just as much fun off the water as on with festive après parties. The Welcome New Teams Party on the St. Francis Yacht Club Race Deck was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the day’s action while sipping a cocktail and watching the sunset—the St. Francis has arguably the best sunset views on the Bay!
The “Gladiator Girls”—Amanda Langley (wife of skipper Tony), Carol Povey (wife of grinder Geoff), and Sue Dabson (wife of runner Simon)—were looking chic in Corinthian (the Langleys’ 40-meter Feadship yacht based in Newport) jackets and Sue in a beautiful pink jacket to match the rose in her hand. All styled so beautifully with scarves.
Julie was a vision of nautical chic in a J.Crew shirt and jacket and cute little Tory Burch flats. “I’m always in J.Crew, it’s my uniform—except Tory and my Maui Jims,” she laughed.
The Regatta Party on day two had to be moved indoors due to a chill in the air. Crews enjoyed beer, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and good company in front of a big screen TV brought in to watch the All Blacks take on Argentina.
The British yacht had the “Gladiator Girls” support team, but San Diego’s Badpak had the “Badpak Boy.” Skipper Tom Holthus’s 12-year-old son Kelly was an active member of the crew. He’d also raced with his father on Badpak in the Yachting Cup and Transpac. “It’s always exciting!” he said. Holthus, always the proud father, shared that his daughters are sailors, too. Piper is an accomplished Sabot sailor, and Daisy is on the Cornell University Sailing Team. The name Badpak is created from the first initials of his children.
Beau Geste might have won the regatta, but Badpak won the series. Holthus had summed it up in one word: “Awesome! We won, and that was our goal, now we can’t wait until next year.” Next on the agenda is the Puerto Vallarta Race, which Holthus indicated Invisible Hand might join as well.
Owning one of these elite racing machines offers more than a thrill ride; they are special memory makers for a lucky few.
“We were going 24 knots past Alcatraz with the spinnaker up, the waves were coming over the boat, there was water all over the deck, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh $#!t, we’re going to break something!’ and I look up, and [Beau Geste sponsor] Patrick Kong is just cracking up laughing,” recalled Brady. “I was so wrapped up in the race that I wasn’t enjoying the moment, but Pat was—he was enjoying every minute of it. Being on board at that priceless moment, it’s once in a lifetime. It’s not all about winning races, that’s nice too, obviously, but of the two regattas in San Francisco, the most memorable thing for me was seeing the joy on Pat’s face at that moment.”
And all this can be yours, too. Beau Geste is for sale. They are leaving the boat here to be sold to an American owner. Kwok is going to focus on campaigning the new Mod 70 catamaran he just bought, Lloyd Thornburg’s PHAEDO3. So the question is, who will ride this undefeated thoroughbred next?