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Rolex Big Boat Series 2015: Heat, Beauty, Excellen...

Rolex Big Boat Series 2015: Heat, Beauty, Excellence

by Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture

The Rolex Big Boat Series is more than the West Coast’s premiere sailing event. It’s on the water magic with exceptional boats, sailors and experiences. Like the city itself, it attracts the best and the brightest.

mod 70 orion by the golden gate bridge, rolex big boat series

Tom Siebel’s Mod 70 Orion races by the iconic Golden Gate bridge, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

“San Francisco’s adventurous, innovative and risk-taking spirit is reflected in the sailing scene at the Rolex regatta,” said Tom Siebel, chairman and CEO of C3 Energy and owner of the amazing Mod 70 trimaran, Orion.

ORION, Sail Number: USA 02, Owner/Skipper: Tom Siebel, Class: Multihull, Yacht Type: MOD70, Homeport: Redwood City, CA, USA

Mod 70 Orion skipper Tom Siebel calls San Francisco the ‘Black Diamond Run’ of sailing venues, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

“The Bay is a very exciting place and could be described as the ‘Black Diamond Run’ of sailing venues; it’s challenging with high winds and tricky currents and tides.”

kialoa III at alcatraz, rolex big boat series

The famous Kialoa III racing by Alcatraz, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

It’s this challenge that attracts boats from around the world, including one of the most famous of all big boats, the 78’ Sparkman and Stephens designed Kialoa III. The yacht accumulated more sailing trophies than just about any other campaign, including an elapsed time record in a downwind Sydney Hobart Race that was held for 21 years.

Kialoa III, Rolex Big Boat Series 2015

Kialoa III, owner/skipper: Jorge Madden, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Kialoa III was recently bought by the K3 Foundation, a syndicate of enthusiasts in Monaco that restored her to revisit many of the races that made the boat so legendary.

tp52 BUD in the rolex big boat series 2015

Victor Wild’s TP 52 BUD races by Alcatraz, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

rolex big boat series 2015, tp52 bud

TP 52 BUD in the lead, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

TP 52 BUD and Patches, of San Diego and Mexico respectively, and DK 46 Boomerang of Hawaii among others, answered the call this year.

j/105s at the start, rolex big boat series 2015

J/105s at the start, day one of the Rolex Big Boat Series, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

j105s race along the san francisco cityfront, rolex big boat series 2015

J/105s race along the San Francisco cityfront on day two, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

This, the 51st edition of the Rolex Big Boat Series, also played host to the J/105 North American Championship. Teams came from as far as New York, Texas and even Santiago, Chile, 27 boats in all.

Heading to the golden gate bridge, rolex big boat series 2015

Heading out the Golden Gate, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

duel on the bay, rolex big boat series 2015

J/105s Nirvana and Yunona duel by the Golden Gate, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Along with great sailing action there were also moments of sheer beauty. The sport of sailing a perfect match for San Francisco’s natural beauty and iconic landmarks.

The first day of racing was uncharacteristically warm for San Francisco and looked a little ominous with clouds and rainy drizzle but gave way to a lovely afternoon of big breeze and world-class racing.

after racing beer, rolex big boat series

Kara Martinez of the St. Francis YC membership Department readying beer for the racers, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

rolex party, rolex big boat series 2015

The start of the Rolex party, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

rolex party collage

The Rolex party, left to right are: J/105 Juju bowgirl Deb Fehr, ProSail 40 Catamaran Shadow crew and J/111 Madmen skipper Dorian McKelvy, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

There was beer après racing and then the Rolex party with yummy nibbles and later a dance band.

j/111 bad dog skipper dick swanson

J/111 Bad Dog skipper Dick Swanson sporting a Bad Dog temp tattoo! photo: Kara Hugglesetone / Sail Couture

team bad dog, jeff harter and matt buffleben

Left to right: Jeff Harter, foredeck, and Matt Buffleben, tactician of J/120 Bad Dog, photo Kara Hugglestone /Sail Couture

Team spirit abounded; the crew from J/111 Bad Dog sported temporary tattoos.

rolex big boat series 2015 j/105s jam session and melilani

J/105 Melilani and Jam Session taking up the starboard side of the course, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

Day two brought more heat and an immense flood tide and fortunately later in the day, a steady a nice 15 knot breeze.

rolex big boat series 2015

San Francisco offered many great vantage points for the series, including the Golden Gate, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

As everyone learned during the 34th America’s Cup here, San Francisco is a natural amphitheatre for sailing. It did not disappoint when viewed from the water, shore, bridge or even Pacific Heights roof deck.

mount gay rum party, rolex big boat series 2015

The Mount Gay Rum party featured gourmet food trucks and Mount Gay Rum Punch, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

Mount Gay Rum famous party followed, with their equally famous rum punch and yummy gourmet food truck fare, everything from Bacon Bacon to Kara’s Cupcakes.

The wind filled in the afternoon after a long delay on Day 3, Saturday. Three-fourths through the day racers were rewarded with big wind.

swiftsure II with the alma and transamerica as backdrop

Swiftsure ready to round the mark with the Alma and Transamerica as backdrop, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

prosail 40 catamaran, rolex big boat series

Peter Stoneberg’s ProSail 40 Shadow on a glistening bay, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

phat jack, rolex big boat series 2015

Phat Jack’s ‘warning sign’ spinnaker, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

madmen and elusive, rolex big boat series 2015

Madmen and Elusive rounding the mark and raising their kites, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

madmen's iconic spinnaker, rolex big boat series

Madmen’s iconic Martini kite, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

It was great to see some of San Francisco’s more iconic boats, sporting some beautiful ‘spinnaker couture.’ The majestic St. Francis Yacht Club is such a perfect location, with boats often finishing on a kite run in front of the club.

rolex big boat series 2015

The race finishes with a kite run to the club, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

j/105 donkey jack on the way to the finish, rolex big boat series 2015

J/105 on the way to the finish, photo: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture

shannon ryan, in helly hansen, rolex big boat series 2015

Shannon Ryan, J/105 fleet captain and co-skipper of Donkey Jack modeling an official Rolex Big Boat Series Jacket by Helly Hansen, photo: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture

There was lots of cool Rolex Big Boat Series gear this year, from Gill and Helly Hansen. Shannon Ryan who is J/105 fleet captain and co-owner/skipper of Donkey Jack modeled several of the selections for us, which can still be ordered through the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel site.

waiting for wind, rolex big boat series 2015

Waiting for wind… photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

j/105 perseverence making the best of no wind... rolex big boat series 2015

The flags tell the tale… The J/105 Perseverance crew catching some rays while waiting for wind, left to right: Clark Goodman, Orhan Gazelle, Greg Kent and Matt Nestor.

melges 24 looper, rolex big boat series 2015

Brian Gravenstine, left and Colin Lough, right, doing a little boat prep on Melges 24 Looper, photo: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture

Day 4 proved challenging, with little to no wind. While most hit the bar for the football game or enjoyed an al fresco lunch, the marina was particularly quiet, except for a few. Namely the Melges 24 Looper that did some boat prep and J/105 Perseverance crew who decided to catch some rays.

team phat jack, patrick perigaud and skipper robert lugliani, rolex big boat series

Express 37 bowman Patrick Perigaud, left, and skipper Robert Lugliani, right, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

As the postponement wore on I chatted with the charming Patrick Perigaud, bowman on Express 37 Phat Jack. Patrick said he views the series as a staycation, but a bit of a challenging one this year. It wasn’t just for lack of wind.

“We’re sailing one person short as the mast trimmer twisted his knee the first day and are now 300 lbs. lighter than the limit. It’s frustrating as the boat has new sails and bottom and will never go faster.” But it’s been fun, yes? He laughed, smiled and joked as any serious racer would, “Who cares about fun?”

Since no wind materialized, racing was abandoned and it was time to award the St. Francis Yacht Club’s six historically significant perpetual trophies – and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepieces awarded with them.

Victor Wild and Norman Davant, TP 52 Bud, Rolex Big Boat Sereis

TP 52 BUD’s owner Victor Wild, left, and strategist Norman Davant, right with trophies, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Victor Wild of San Diego won the ORR A class and the St. Francis Trophy with his TP 52 BUD. Graciously he said, “I never expected to do this well… This is a place of excellence. The best of the best: venue, club, racers.”

He continued, “Excellence is the rarest thing in the world; we came up here to find it and we did.”

tp52 bud, rolex big boat series 2015

TP 52 BUD in action, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Victor credited the crew with the win, “Most of the crew are amateurs, but loyal and they have gotten better and better. There was a lot of practice – 39 days of practice – and we put together an amazing team and we were very lucky.” The crew enjoyed their RBBS experience.

tp52 bud bowman david george, rolex big boat series 2015

TP 52 BUD bowman David Geroge, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

“San Francisco is an amazing venue. We had the length of the course to have the boat get up and go. It really showed the first day. The TP 62 gets up on a plane and really separates herself from the other boats,” said BUD bowman David George.

Swiftsure II, Rolex Big Boat Series 2015

Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II, winner of the City of San Francisco trophy, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Sy Kleinman’s Schumacher 54 Swiftsure, sailing in ORR B lived up to her name besting challenges by the iconic Kialoa III and DK 46 Boomerang. A spry 94-year-old Sy joked that he was in a wheel chair because his doctor had insisted he stop kicking his crew with his foot as he accepted the City of San Francisco Trophy.

Sy Kleinman accepting the City of San Francisco Perpetual Trophy and his specially engraved Rolex timepiece for his ORR B win with SWIFTSURE

Sy Kleinman accepting the City of San Francisco Perpetual Trophy and his specially engraved Rolex timepiece for his ORR B win with Swiftsure, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Although Sy no longer races aboard Swiftsure II, his passion for the sport and RBBS was obvious. He shared how much he enjoyed watching his “old friend” Kioloa III this year and recalled the days when 80′ and 90′ boats raced the series. Sy said he may bring out the ‘old lady’ next year, ‘Big Blue’ – the original Swiftsure.

peter krueger models his prizes

J/125 Double Trouble owner/skipper Peter Krueger won the HPR Division – and another Rolex, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

j/125 double trouble skipper peter krueger models his rolex collection,

What’s better than two Rolexes? Three of course. Peter Krueger shows off his collection, photo: Kara Hugglestone / Sail Couture

Peter Krueger’s J/125 Double Trouble won Atlantic Perpetual Trophy in the HPR Division –  thus his third Rolex. Peter modeled his new watch along with it’s new siblings.

peter krueger's j/125 double trouble wins the hpr division, rolex big boat series 2015

Peter Krueger’s J/125 Double Trouble wins the HPR Division, left to right: St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Sean E. Svendsen, Eric Ochs (mid-bow), Noah Weisich (grinder), James Clappier (bow), Chris Hackett (pit) Greg Felton (sewer/floater), Peter Krueger (owner/skipper), Rolex USA’s Elizabeth Grant, Andy McCormack (boat captain), Jim Coburn (main trimmer), Tim Cordrey, (jib, spinnaker trim), Jeff Madrigali (tactician/ strategist) photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

“I’m lucky enough to be able to drive this boat with this crew,” Peter said. Indeed, boat captain Andy McCormick and crew prepared well and it showed.

Jib and spin trimmer Tim Cordrey said, “We took it pretty seriously, training multiple weekends with a coach leading up to the series. Our tactician Jeff Madrigali did great starts and tactics. It’s a good group and it’s always good to win!”

j/125 double trouble, farr 400 rock and roll, rolex big boat series

J/125 Double Trouble leading Farr 400 Rock & Roll, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Pleased with the outcome, team Double Trouble is looking forward to an exciting new challenge, the Conch Republic Cup. It’s actually the eighth edition of Quantum Key West Race Week– Cuba Race Week, now including a 90 nautical mile race to Cuba.

The Richard Rheem Pepetual Trophy for the J/120 class went to David Halliwell’s Peregrine for the second year in a row. It was a hard-fought victory though as they won over J/120 Chance by just one point.

“Racing against Chance, my heart was in my throat at every tack,” David said. “They were always right there, and there was never a moment when we weren’t thinking this wasn’t going to happen our way.”

Rolex Big Boat Series 2015

J/120 Chance crew, left to right: Seamus Wilmot (tactician), Anne Alward (pit), David Kraus (bow), Scott Kozinchik (main trim), Aaron Elder (mast), Bryan Murdock (mid-bow), Michael Redmond (trim), Barry Lewis (owner/driver) and St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Sean E. Svendsen, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Chance is formidable, recently winning the J/Fest J/120 class here.

Like Peregrine, Rob Theis’ J/111 Aelous also won her second consecutive RBBS and thus the Keefe Kilborne Trophy.

j/111 aeolus wins the big boat series

J/111 Aelous Racing Team, left to right: Seadon Wijsen (tactician), Ryan Kern (downwind trimmer), Chris Watts (main trimmer) , Orlando Montalvan (upwind trimmer), JB Cianciarulo (mid bow/mast), Bryan Edwards (pit), St. Francis Yacht Club Commodore Sean E. Svendsen, Rob Theis (skipper), Chris Smith (bowman) and Rolex USA’s Elizabeth Grant, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

“It’s twice as hard to win twice in a row, it was a tough race out there.” Rob Theis said. “The competition was fierce, we were fortunate to have a good team, that’s what it’s all about… the team, not the individual,” he said.

aeolus in the lead, rolex big boat series 2015

Back-to-back Rolex Big Boat Series winning J/111 Aeolus leading Skeleton Key, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

“It was a light one, beautiful weather, but not what you would expect for San Francisco,” said Ryan Kern, spinnaker trimmer on Aelous. “We knew there was a chance of not getting any races in on Sunday and that we had to make sure that we made every race count.  We wanted to make sure every effort was made to stay consistent.”

Rolex Big Boat Series 2015 winning skippers, left to right: From left to right: David Halliwill, Victor Wild, Rob Theis, Peter Krueger, Shawn Bennett, Sy Kleinman

The winners for the St. Francis Yacht Club’s six historically significant perpetual trophies – and the Rolexes, left to right: David Halliwill, Victor Wild, Rob Theis, Peter Krueger, Shawn Bennett, seated Sy Kleinman, photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Shawn Bennett’s Jose Cuervo won the Commodore’s Cup for the largest one design series, also doubling as the J/105 North Americans this year.

“Winning means a lot to us, because we’ve tried a few times at the North Americans and have fallen short of winning a few times at the Rolex Big Boat Series,” Shawn said. “It’s two things in one: checking boxes that weren’t we successful in checked in the past.” As for winning the Rolex watch for his efforts, “Hands down, it’s the nicest trophy I’ve ever won.”

Five additional victors were named in classes for Melges 24 (Doug Wilhelm, Wilco), Express 37 (Mark Dowdy, Eclipse), PHRF Sportboat (Gary Redelberger, Racer X), Multihull (Randy Miller, Miller Racing) and ORR C (Wayne Koide, Encore).

Kara Hugglestone is a San Francisco-based branding professional, accessory designer, sailor and traveler. When time permits, she also indulges in her passion for things classic: cars, movies, wine and fashion. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @gallerykara.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Rolex Big Boat Series: A Regatta 50 Years in the Making and What It’s Like to Sail One of the World’s Fastest Yachts: Aboard Super Maxi Lending Club 2.


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