Oman Sail Masirah has won the iShares Cup 2009, but it came down to the last leg of the last race on the last day of the last regatta at the iShares Cup Almeria in Spain, with Gitana Extreme-LCF Rothschild pushing Oman Sail Masirah right to the very last minute with a superb final performance. Pete Cumming and his crew held their nerve despite the strong comeback of Yann Guichard and the Gitana Extreme crew who took 2nd overall with Loick Peyron’s Oman Sail Renaissance completing the 2009 podium. Tens of thousands of spectators, the biggest stadium audience of the year, packed the port of Almeria to witness the heart-stopping tension of the final race of the season. No hull flying today, but heart stopping it still was!
Masirah completed a six-month trail of glory with a double victory in Almeria as thousands watched. All crew members put in a performance which overshadowed all efforts from other teams to not only take the victory in the Almeria leg of the iShares Cup but the title of 2009 iShares Cup champions!
Renaissance also battled hard until the last minute to take an admirable fourth overall in the Almeria leg ensuring a double Oman victory as they took third place in the 2009 iShares Cup series.
The culmination of six venues and 118 races all boiled down to the last race on the last day of the last venue as ten boats all lined up, but only three were in contention for the 2009 iShares Cup title. The electricity in the air from the 40,000 spectators, including Her Excellency Dr. Rajiha Bint Abdulameer Bin Ali, Oman’s Minister of Tourism, His Excellency Eng. Sultan Hamdoon al Harthi, Head of Muscat Municipality and the Municipal Council as well as His Excellency Oman’s Ambassador to Spain was flowing as the start gun went for the first race. Masirah got off to a near-perfect start and led all the way and maintained their lead throughout the day. In the final race Masirah had a marginal lead, but not enough to rest on their laurels. In the last race Masirah wisely opted to keep the only other contender for the top podium position at this stage, Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild, in their sights to ensure their overall win.
As the finishing horn was sounded for Masirah’s finish a huge cheer went up from the crowded waterfront as the new heroes were given a standing ovation and applause.
Renaissance sailed on the edge all day to score an equally credible third overall to bookmark the podium with the proud colours of the Oman flag. To have not one, but two teams, on the podium in such a high profile international event is testament to the support in Oman given to the teams and the aspirations of reigniting the maritime heritage of Oman. Her Excellency Dr, Rajiha Bint Abdulameer Bin Ali, was incredibly proud of both teams, “I am so proud to have been able to watch Oman Sail’s Masirah winning the series in front of thousands of spectators in Spain. I dedicate this victory to the wise leadership of His Majesty and his vision in bringing this project into fruition. I want to thank all the team in Oman sail and in particular the team on Masirah for reaching first place – it was not an easy victory. I didn’t realise how difficult this was until I came to Spain and watch Oman racing myself. My congratulations to the team.” His Excellency Eng. Sultan Hamdoon al Harthi was just as impressed by the victory that unfolded in front of him, “It is a matter of pride for Oman that Masirah and Renaissance dominated the iShares Cup, not just in Spain but also the entire series. To win first and third overall is a result of unprecedented performance.”
Two Omani trainees have supported the teams during the summer, both of whom will now be sailing for Oman Sail in the next series themselves. Masirah team member Khamis Al Anbouri summed up the mood of the team “Winning the iShares Cup is just one of Oman Sail’s steps in encouraging young Omanis to start sailing and showing them the hard work required to achieve success. I am very proud to be part of this team and I look forward to competing now in the next series as a full crewmember. I would also like to thank my wife for all her support and encouragement as I strive to become the very best and to make Oman a household name. Congratulations also to Ahmad Al Harthy for his result this weekend- a truly proud weekend for Oman!”
Oman Sail Masirah has won the iShares Cup 2009, but it came down to the last leg of the last race on the last day of the last regatta at the iShares Cup Almeria in Spain, with Gitana Extreme – LCF Rothschild pushing Oman Sail Masirah right to the very last minute with a superb final performance.
Almeria’s usually strong winds never materialized, with light winds adding to the nerves of the 10 teams challenging for the Andulician final event of this benchmark season for the Extreme 40 Sailing Series.
Tens of thousands of spectators, the biggest stadium audience of the year, packed the port of Almeria to witness the heart-stopping tension of the double points final race of the season. No hull flying today, heart stopping it still was!
iShares Cup Almeria:
1. Oman Sail Masirah 132 points
2. Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 129 points
3. Groupama Extreme 112 points
4. Oman Sail Renaissance 96 points
5. LUNA 96 points
6. Team iShares 83 points
7. Holmatro 82 points
8. BT 79 points
9. Rumbo Almeria 73 points
10. Ecover 89 points
iShares Cup 2009 overall:
1. Oman Sail Masirah 53 points
2. Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 52 points
3. Oman Sail Renaissance 42 points
4. Groupama Extreme 41 points
5. Team iShares 27 points
6. BT 26 points
7. LUNA 26 points
8. Holmatro 24 points
9. Ecover 10 points
The best breeze of the day filled in for the final three races today producing some extreme racing – close calls, collisions, penalties and a nail-biting, final double-points race – entertaining the 10,000 strong crowd lining the IJ-Haven. There were seven different race winners in this penultimate event, that was more about tactics than boat handling. Gitana Extreme sailed brilliantly under pressure to win the penultimate iShares Cup Amsterdam event ahead of Oman Sail Renaissance, whilst Groupama fought back to win the final race and fill the last spot on the podium in third. Overall series leaders, Oman Sail Masirah, put their day 1 disaster behind them, finishing 5th in Amsterdam to retain their overall lead, ahead of Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild and Oman Sail Renaissance, going into the final iShares Cup event in Almeria only two weeks away…
The nine-boat Extreme 40 fleet saved the best till last at the iShares Cup Amsterdam event today to produce a thrilling three-lap finale that had the 10,000-strong crowd of spectators cheering the boats home all the way. The penultimate round of the six-stage European iShares Cup series, held on the confined IJ-Haven canal in Amsterdam, saw predominantly light airs but finally this afternoon, a good 8 knot breeze filled in to see the 40-foot catamarans lifting their hulls. It was perfect catamaran sailing – the excitement levels going into fifth gear for both sailors and spectators. As the breeze increased the size of the IJ-Haven racecourse seemed to decrease! The boats accelerating faster round the tiny racecourse and, not surprisingly, a number of collisions ensued.
For Oman Sail Masirah skipper, Pete Cumming, the team did the job they needed to do to keep the overall series lead, despite the unsettling experience of being seriously holed on the first day:
“That was a good day for us, we won the first and the fourth race and had average results in the three others. We have been up and down during the all events but I have to say that it’s hard to keep positive and motivated after the big crash we had on Friday. Our shore team did an amazing job to fix the boat. Tonight we are on equal points with Gitana in the overall series which keeps the pressure on for the last event in Almeria. The conditions will be very different to here, more like Cowes or Kiel and it’s what we like. It’s going to be a fantastic battle for the overall iShares Cup!”
The stage was set for the showdown between Gitana Extreme skipper, Yann Guichard, and Oman Sail Renaissance supremo, Loick Peyron, with Guichard coming out on top. “Since the first start today we were in the game and we sailed well despite the pressure of those last races. Once again, our teamwork was key to our success. That final race was under a lot of pressure, we knew that we could not let Loïck put more than two boats between us, and we finished right behind him! It was an ideal scenario, and we’re really happy with that new victory. As we foresaw, everything will unfold in Almeria. We really wanted to win in Amsterdam not to regret anything, and to fight for victory, The top three boats are now one point apart, and the fight between Masirah, Renaissance and ourselves will be amazing. I also wanted to congratulate the Oman Sail Masirah team, who came back strong despite their incident.”
Erik Maris’ crew on LUNA showed flashes of brilliance during round 5 scoring a race win and a second place that left them in 7th place; whilst Nick Moloney’s BT team struggled with boat speed and had to settle for 8th. Britain’s Mike Golding, who is gaining confidence in this extremely aggressive class, thrilled his supporters with a second place in the final race – Fraser Brown leaping to his feet rousing the crowd to cheer more! It was a great finish for this team who had such a traumatic time in round 4 in Kiel suffering an aggressive capsize that left their regular crew Bruno Dubois with a serious head injury.
The final round of the 2009 iShares Cup is only two weeks away, taking place in the Andalucian city of Almeria over the 10th-12th October. The finale promises to be best yet – read the story online.
Oman Sail Masirah and Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild are on equal points (43), Masirah in pole position based on winning three of the rounds so far compared to Gitana Extreme’s two victories, but Oman Sail Renaissance are just 1 point behind them and Groupama 10 points behind the leader. And there will be a big fight over the middle-ground with less than 3 points separating BT, Team iShares, Holmatro and LUNA. Don’t miss it!
Today, Groupama won the last race hands down, enabling the skipper from Aix en Provence to regain his smile as he snatched third place behind Yann Guichard and Loïck Peyron, who take first and second place respectively. As was the case in Kiel, the French sailors are at the front of the pack with a French triple in the top spots once again!
If we look in detail at the points separating the top five competitors in the final ranking, it is easy to understand the tension which was palpable throughout the day! With the wind still a little undecided as to whether it was going to fill their sails, today’s five races were rather convoluted to say the least and rather reminiscent of the four race yesterday. Franck Cammas: “One thing for sure after these three days racing in Amsterdam, is that with Groupama 40, we still haven’t worked out how to deal with light conditions. In light wind we’re not so at ease. We aren’t able to follow the others. This was my first participation in the light stuff on such a narrow race zone. We unquestionably need to make progress! The minute the wind kicked in, things went better. In fact on Friday, thanks to the breeze, it was a good day for us!”
The famous quote by competitors that says that “anything can happen in a race prior to crossing the finish line” is something that certainly applies to Franck’s crew this weekend: “With Groupama 40, we won the lottery in the last race. Our rivals weren’t as strong which enabled us to overtake two of them and make it to a podium finish, which certainly wasn’t something we could have envisaged at the end of the previous race!”
The skipper from Aix en Provence clearly already has his mind geared towards the last event of the season: “In Alméria, it’s likely to be windy and it will be a whole different ball game! Roll on Spain!”
Finally, it is important to salute the performance by Yann Guichard and his men, outright winner in this Dutch stage. Bagging three victories of the 17 races contested, Gitana Extreme- LCF Rothschild Group climbs to the highest step of the podium and above all is tied on points with Masirah in the general championship ranking.
Suffice to say that the next meeting for the Extremes 40s will take place in Alméria, Spain, on 10th, 11th and 12th October and it is going to have a decisive role in this championship! This sixth event will round off the iShares Cup 2009.
In race 4 of the first day of the iShares Cup Amsterdam, a collision between Oman Sail Masirah and BT on the first windward leg has put Masirah out of action. A port/starboard incident, saw BT trying to duck Masirah but to no avail. Oman Sail Masirah are waiting anxiously for the crane to haul them out. A big blow for Pete Cumming and his crew who are the overall iShares Cup series leader going into this penultimate round, and they will be looking for redress for the races they miss today. In the strongest breeze of the day so far, gusting over 10 knots, there was plenty of action from the start with LUNA, over the line at the start searching to go back made contact with BT, who had been forced to tack on top of them as Holmatro called starboard. On this tight racecourse here in Amsterdam the building breeze makes the racing even more fraught. Race 4 was won by Gitana Extreme with Franck Cammas on Guichard’s heels but this win puts them at the top of the iShares Cup Amsterdam leaderboard, halfway through today’s racing.
Pete Cumming takes up the story: “It was the first beat of race 4 and it was a clear case of port and starboard. BT were coming in on port and we could see from about 10 seconds out they were going to hit us. The wind had got up and we knew as they accelerated, the bows dug in and holed us under the waterline and the crack goes right underneath. The damage is about 2-foot forward of the back beam on the port hull and it compressed the whole side of the boat in – it’s quite a big job to rebuild that. We didn’t have our best races in the first couple today so we’ll get average points from those races – we’ll just have to see how it goes. It’s an unfortunate situation and we’ve ended up sitting on the shore with our boat full of water.”
A total of 8 races were staged today on the tiny IJ-Haven – the racecourse just 750-meters long and 250-meters wide – on the start line you could literally step from one boat to the next and then on to the canal wall! There is only just enough room for the nine-boat fleet to line up and as soon as they cross the line, the boats, just a few feet from the concrete walls, are yelling for water causing a domino effect across the fleet. The conditions were generally light but on a fairly regular basis the breeze built up to over 10 knots making the IJ-Haven become a hazardous place to be, although the crowds loved it! There were plenty of penalties and at least one other collision and probably a few more scrapes and close shaves that were not visible from the shore.
Team iShares skipper, Shirley Robertson, who scored a win in the penultimate race today and lies in 5th place overall: “Many of us remember the first year we came to Amsterdam… it was pretty windy and it brings back all of those memories of all the points around the canal where you had a few moments! You just have to sail slightly differently and be prepared to see things that you might not before – look for opportunities and be a bit punchy!” It was certainly a case of avoiding the wind holes and taking advantage of the gusts, which resulted in many place changes throughout the fleet. Two wins apiece for Oman Sail Renaissance (Loick Peyron)and Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild (Yann Guichard) and individual race wins for Holmatro (Mitch Booth), Groupama (Franck Cammas), iShares (Shirley Robertson) and LUNA (Erik Maris) have kept the points close on the Round 5 leaderboard. Only 2 points separate Loick Peyron from Guichard and Guichard from Cammas, and 1 point between Mitch Booth, Robertson and Maris (see leaderboard for full results).
Forecast is for slightly lighter winds tomorrow which may reduce the ‘incident’ rate but at this crucial stage of the race, no one is giving an inch and that counts here on the IJ-Haven!
There are two events to go in the six-stage iShares Cup series, which means 20 points still to play for on the overall leaderboard. Oman Sail Masirah have won the past three events in a row to lead on 37 points, but their top spot is under threat, with just a three point lead on second and third placed Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild and stable mate Oman Sail Renaissance, who are tied on 33 points.
Gilles Chiorri, iShares Cup Event Director, stresses: “Loick Peyron (Renaissance) and Yann Guichard (Gitana) will certainly be the guys to watch out for in Amsterdam, given the tight spot they’re in with their equal points. We’ll witness a close match, on the smallest racecourse of the season, and conventional tactics will have to be put aside momentarily. Covering a direct rival in such a compact fleet is not an easy task, and one has to bear in mind that in Amsterdam, more than anywhere else, keeping out of trouble is key. The risk of collision with another boat or with a wall is possible, and that stress added to the pressure of an equal points situation will make for tense situations.”
Behind these two Groupama 40 will be chasing hard for a podium position as well, as Chiorri adds: “As far as the final podium is concerned, Groupama 40 can still hope to squeeze their way in, and we’ve seen that Franck Cammas was on top form recently.” In fact, Cammas has just won his third Trophée Clairefontaine last week – a series of short races aboard one-design catamarans, a format which is similar to that of the iShares Cup.
Meanwhile Team iShares, BT, LUNA, Holmatro and Ecover could all shuffle their finishing place in the final two events (BMW ORACLE Racing will miss this round due to their America’s Cup commitments). There are no discards in the iShares Cup, so every race counts, and the final race of each event is worth double points, so expect a high-tension finale in both Amsterdam (25th-27th September) and Almeria, Spain (10th-12th October).
“This is a very emotional win for me,” said Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI), owner of the Custom 52 Vincitore, upon winning the 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series. “At the end of racing, when I looked at my Dad, who was out on the chase boat, we both had a tear in our eyes. The speech I gave on the first day was that we have a passion for sailing, a passion for friends and family, and we will let the results speak for themselves.” At the Rolex Trophy Ceremony this evening, winning skippers in six of the 11 classes competing were awarded one of six St. Francis Yacht Club Perpetual Trophies. In front of the owners, crew, family and friends of the 97 competing boats, those six skippers also were presented with a Rolex Submariner timepiece in recognition of their accomplishments.
As winner of IRC A class, Mitchell was awarded the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy. “I didn’t know it was the original trophy,” said Mitchell, clearly taken aback by the priceless silver piece dedicated in 1964, and deeded to the premier handicap division. “That’s a pleasant surprise. It brings a tear to my eyes. That’s so awesome.”
As the top performing IRC rated boat, Vincitore – with tactician Norman Davant and helmsman Chris Dickson – was named the overall Rolex US-IRC National Champion, and Mitchell was presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece to mark the occasion. “We are bringing Vincitore back again next year,” he promised. Tom Akin & Mark Jones’ (San Francisco) chartered TP52 Flash finished in second with John Kilroy (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Samba Pa Ti in third.
The St. Francis Yacht Club race committee planned the day’s final Bay Tour, but with light and inconsistent wind direction, racing was abandoned for the four IRC classes, along with the 1D35 and J/120 classes. The six races completed through yesterday (Saturday) stood as the final results.
The City of San Francisco Trophy, one of the two golden spades used to break ground for the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933, was awarded to Kjeld Hestehave’s (Richmond, Calif.) 73-foot Velos. Since the very first race, the largest boat entered in this regatta dominated his opponents in IRC B class with six straight race wins. Dale Williams’s (San Francisco) Kernan 44 Wasabi finished in second place, with Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, Calif.) Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II in third place, tied on 16 points with Wasabi.
“This win is 12 years in the making,” said Hestehave. “We were here in ’97 and ’98, and we got two second places that year. We were here two years ago and got killed by everyone.” Hestehave explained that he prepared Velos, the Greek word for velocity, for the Pacific Cup, fairing the bottom and getting it tuned. Originally, he planned to participate in StFYC’s annual Stag Cruise, which historically follows the Rolex Big Boat Series, but when he realized there wouldn’t be enough berths at the club’s Tinsley Island location, he brought Velos up from San Diego for the occasion. “We were here so we thought we might as well race the boat,” he recalled. “With 22 crew onboard, that’s a lot of drink tickets and a lot of sandwiches, and tonight is going to be very expensive.”
Dan Woolery’s King 40 Soozal (Alamo, Calif.) won the IRC C class and the Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy, which was established in 1972 in memory of Richard Rheem whose famous yacht Morning Star was the elapsed time winner in the 1949 and 1955 Transpac races to Honolulu. Gold Phoenix, the J/44 chartered by James Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.), finished in second, while Tim Fuller (Marietta, Calif.) and the J/122 Resolute finished third.
Only two entries had straight wins in all races: Velos, in IRC B, and Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey in IRC D class. “I’m feeling great, we really wanted it this year,” said Sheridan, who lives in San Francisco, but grew up in County Galway, Ireland. “We trained for it and the crew is outstanding. Every single one deserved to be on the crew, I’m delighted for myself and for my crew.” This is Tupelo Honey’s fifth Rolex Big Boat Series. It won its class in 2005 and finished second in the other years. Clearly happy to have won an IRC class at this year’s regatta, the 45th annual, he said, “I think IRC is saving big boat racing around the world. It’s giving a new sense of purpose to racing and serious big boat campaigns. Handicap racing is never perfect, but this is close to perfect.” Sheridan was awarded the Keefe-Kilborn Trophy, which was established in 1976 to honor Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn.
On the North course racing started late, but with a short-lived band of wind, the race committee was able to shorten the course and finish the Melges 32, Express 37, J/105, Beneteau 36.7 and Cal 40 classes.
The Melges 32 class was racing for its national championship. Philippe Kahn’s (Belvedere Cove, Calif.) Pegasus had to retire yesterday due to an equipment malfunction, but they were back on form today, winning the seventh and final race, putting them into fourth overall. Andy Lovell & Burt Benrud’s New Orleans-based Rougarou won the six-boat class and the title. Local sailor Don Jesberg and his Viva was second overall, with Stephen Pugh and Taboo in third.
Although Bartz Schneider won today’s final race in the Express 37 class, it wasn’t enough points to topple Kame Richards (Alameda. Calif.) and Golden Moon from the number one spot. Schneider’s Expeditious finished in fourth overall behind Mick Shlens and Blade Runner in second, and Michael Maloney’s Bullet in third. Richards also won the Atlantic Trophy. Established in 1978, the trophy features the ship’s bell of the yacht Atlantic, long-time Transatlantic Ocean record holder (1905). The bell was donated by John C. “Jack” Morris, and the trophy by Jack H. Feller Jr.
The Commodore’s Cup, which was established in 2004 to be awarded to the largest one-design fleet, was awarded to the winner of the J/105 class, Chris Perkins’ Good Timin’. “Honestly, Bruce Stone sailed a great series,” said Perkins of the fleet. “He only had one bad race and won three out of seven sailed. His Arbitrage is clearly one of the quickest boats. Everyone would agree he is quicker than us.” So what would Perkins credit his team’s win to? “The challenge in a 25-boat fleet is consistency,” he continued. “We didn’t have any big mistakes and that is what made the difference for us.”
While they may not have taken the overall 1D35 class win, Japanese entry Ebb Tide was clearly a crowd favorite and stepped onto the prizegiving stage to massive cheers and chants. Owner Masakazu Toyama has sailed the Rolex Big Boat Series for the past three years, each time in a different class, and this time the team’s efforts paid off with a trophy for 2nd in 1D 35. Toyama says he’d love to live in San Francisco one day, “It’s fun, and we will be back” he said with a big smile. Gary Boell and Diablita won the 1D35 class, Barry Lewis’ Chance won the J/120 fleet and Bill LeRoy and Gone with the Wind won the Cal 40 class.
After a large area of thunderstorms moved through this morning, the over 1,000 sailors competing in day three of the Rolex Big Boat Series were given a new challenge: light wind and minimum visibility through the dense fog hanging low on the water. As locals are apt to exclaim – ‘It’s never like this in San Francisco’ – a theory confirmed by spectators lined along the sea wall and second-story viewing bleachers at St. Francis Yacht Club.
An on-time racing start by the StFYC volunteer race committee, lead by PROs Kevin Reeds (Annapolis, Md.) and Hank Stuart (Rochester, N.Y.), gave the 97 competing boats two races for a total of six races. Tomorrow’s final race – known fondly as the Bay Tour – will cap off a solid four days on the water.
Flash, the TP52 skippered by Tom Akin & Mark Jones, won the day’s first race, finished third in the second, and now stands in second overall in IRC A class, one point behind class leader Vincitore, the custom 52 owned by Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI) and driven by Chris Dickson. John Kilroy’s TP52 Samba Pa Ti finished 3-1 and is now in third overall.
The fastest boat around the IRC B racecourse today was Kjeld Hestehave’s (Richmond, Calif.) 73-foot Velos. Since the very first race, the largest boat entered in this regatta continues to dominate the class. It now looks untouchable with six total points. Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, Calif.) Schumacher 54 Swiftsure is tied on 16 points with Dale Williams’s (San Francisco) Kernan 44 Wasabi. “We are more than thrilled to be there,” said Williams, who figures he has competed in at least 20 Big Boat Series in his career, winning in 1999 with a previous boat named Wasabi. However, this Wasabi is brand new, designed by the same group who created Williams’ last boat the 70-foot Peligroso. “It’s really easy to sail,” he said. “We’re surprised how fast it goes. There’s a retractable sprit, but no spreaders, no runners, no reaching struts and no after guys. It’s fast at 12,900 lbs. with 6,700 lbs of ballast. It’s everything we thought it was and more.”
Willims set up a StFYC duel for second place tomorrow between his Wasabi and Swiftsure, giving the overall nod toward Velos. “That is a very well-sailed boat,” said Woolery. “They deserve to be out front. It’s been a lot of fun and really nice to sail against them and Swiftsure.”
Soozal, the King 40 owned by Daniel Woolery (Alamo, Calif.), continues to lead the IRC C class, with James Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.) and the J/44 Gold Phoenix moving into second overall ahead of Tim Fuller (Marietta, Calif.) and the J/122 Resolute.
“Today’s first race was a pivotal race for us. We didn’t know what to expect,” said Woolery. After corrected time, the relatively new boat took first place and then a second in the day’s second race. “The second one was a little more difficult,” continued Woolery. “Our jib goes up on a jib lock and it didn’t stay up on the lock. So, as we went to the bottom mark, our plan was to go into Alcatraz and through the Cone. We were behind Gold Phoenix and we thought ‘Let’s go into the cone.’ We were right behind them and immediately the jib fell down, and that forced us to tack over to clear it. We tacked back and as soon as we did, we realized we weren’t going to make the Cone, so we tacked over to the beach first. Phoenix did as well. When all was said and done we were seven seconds corrected in front of them. At that point the race became between us and TNT.
“If TNT had gotten second and not us, then that would have brought Phoenix a little closer in the gap” said Woolery. “We were in great tacking duels, and managed to tack our way up to Phoenix. We were a minute and a half behind when that whole engagement started, and we put almost a minute and a half on them. Overall we’re feeling really good.” Soozal has a four-point lead over Gold Phoenix going into tomorrow’s final race. “We’re going to win tomorrow,” he predicted.
Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey continues to dominate IRC D class with two more bullets. The San Francisco-based boat won both of today’s races on corrected time and, barring any mishaps tomorrow, stands to take the overall win. “Tomorrow we will go out and race like we like to race, which is fairly conservatively,” said Sheridan. “We don’t want to take any major risks.” This is Tupelo Honey’s fifth Rolex Big Boat Series. It won its class in 2005 and finished second in the other years. “At the start of the year I decided I wanted to win Big Boat this year,” he continued. “It’s the premier regatta on the West Coast, and here at the St. Francis, the race management is impeccable.”
In the grand-prix Melges 32 class, vying for its National Championship this weekend, New Orleans-based Rougarou looked unstoppable blazing downwind. With two more wins today – to add to a series scoreline of 1-2-1-5 – the team lead by co-owners Bert Benrud and Andy Lowell needs to finish fourth or better to win the title. Philippe Kahn’s (Belvedere Cove, Calif.) Pegasus encountered trouble in the first race and dropped out to expedite repairs. The team plans to be back in the race tomorrow. Local sailor Don Jesberg and his Viva is in second overall, with Stephen Pugh and Taboo in third.
Class leaders from yesterday that held onto the lead in other one-design classes include Pat Patterson (Angwin, Calif.) and Summer and Smoke in the Beneteau 36.7; William LeRoy (Tiburon, Calif.) and Gone with the Wind in the Cal 40; Kame Richards (Alameda. Calif.) and Golden Moon in the Express 37; and Chris Perkins (San Francisco) and Good Timin’ in the J/105 class.
The other two one-design classes saw a change in leadership with Barry Lewis’ Chance gaining a slight edge over John Wimer’s Desdemona, now in second place, in the J/120 fleet, and Gary Boell and Diablita taking over from Alex Farrell (Mountain View, Calif.) and Alpha Puppy in the 1D35 class. Alpha Puppy fell to third place, while Ebb Tide, chartered by Masakazu Toyama (Tokyo, JPN), moved into second.
In Italian, the word Vincitore means ‘the winner’ so Jim Mitchell and his multi-national crew took the theme to heart by winning both races in IRC A class on the opening day of the Rolex Big Boat Series. Over 1,000 sailors on 97 boats in 11 classes are competing through Sunday, September 13. “I wouldn’t miss this regatta for anything,” said Mitchell, who grew up in Chicago but now calls Zurich (SUI) his home. “It was one of our crew’s birthdays yesterday, Dallas Kilponen, and I think our two bullets are the best present we can give him.” All of the IRC class leaders – Kjeld Hestehave’s Velos (Richmond, Calif.), Daniel Woolery’s King 40 Soozal (Alamo, Calif.) and Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey – joined the two-bullet club today, in the IRC B, IRC C and IRC D classes, respectively. All four divisions of IRC handicap-rated boats also are competing for the Rolex US-IRC National Championship.
The other two groups vying for national championships are the Express 37 and Melges 32 classes. For Burt Benrud, this is not only his first Rolex Big Boat Series but also his first season in the Grand-Prix one-design class. “This is our first big outing and we could have not picked a better location,” he said. Benrud, with co-owner Andy Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and crew on the Melges 32 Rougarou, won the day’s first race, took a second in the second and now sit in first overall in the six-boat class. “We are sailing under the Southern Yacht Club flag, and we are very proud to be able to represent our hometown.” Don Jesberg (Mill Valley, Calif.), the recent winner of the class’s North American championship, is in second place overall on his Viva, followed by Stephen Pugh’s Taboo (Sausalito, Calif.).
“We actually had our first Express 37 National Championship regatta in 1986,” said Bartz Schneider, the class fleet captain and president, and skipper of Expeditious, currently in fourth place overall. “This is our 20th national championship at the St. Francis. In 1990 we had our first National Championship as part of the Big Boat Series, and except for 2001, we have had it as part of the regatta every year.” Leading the nine-boat class is Kame Richards’ (Alameda, Calif.) Golden Moon, with Elan, owned by Bill Reiss (Oakland, Calif.), in third. Schneider summed up the fleet leaders: “Golden Moon will be tough, with Bay tide guru Kame Richards at the helm. Elan will be very competitive. And Blade Runner (Mick Schlens, Los Angeles, Calif.), with their name already on the trophy several times, is always a possible threat.”
The largest one-design fleet is the J/105 class with 25 boats. Returning champion Donkey Jack, owned by Robert Conrads (San Francisco), took 13-6 in two races and is now eighth overall. Bruce Stone’s Arbitrage won the day’s first race, while Adam & Guillemette Spiegel’s Jam Session won the second, putting them into second overall behind class leader, Jeff Litfin & John Case’s Mojo.
While many of the competing boats are from the Bay Area and California, some hail from ports across the US and abroad. Lorenzo Berho and his J/145 Raincloud hail from Mexico City, Mexico and are in sixth overall in IRC B. “Raincloud is a Mexican family and friends boat that has changed our lives, and also has helped us fulfill several dreams,” said Berho, who only started sailing five years ago. “We had a great experience in last year’s Rolex Big Boat Series that we decided to come back in spite of the difficult economic times, and for most of us that means traveling from Mexico City. The organizers are great and the competing boats are really friendly. Last year we got fourth place in our fleet so we would love to get a third place this year. We know that most of the fleet is very competitive and there are many experienced sailors with local knowledge. I am turning 50 years old on September 15, so I chose this regatta as my birthday present. There is nothing better than sailing with my family and best friends in the most outstanding Bay of the world.”
Jim Mitchell is another perfect example of the international aspect present here in San Francisco for racing. Now living in Switzerland, he launched Vincitore a year and half ago in New Zealand and when asked about his international crew – New Zealand’s Chris Dickson and Simon Minoprio among them – considering that many of the other entries in the race are locals, he quickly said, “Not us, we’re like the United Nations!”
When asked what makes him come back each year to San Francisco for the Rolex Big Boat Series, Jim said, “It’s just so much fun, the competition is great, you have the city, the weather- it’s always windy, constant wind. I really wanted to bring my boat to Europe and sail some races over there,” he continued, “but I want to sail with family and the guys from New Zealand like sailing in Chicago, San Francisco and the Caribbean. Bringing the boat here is just so fantastic and I’m glad to be here.”
This evening competitors celebrated the first day of racing at the Rolex Party where the first daily video was shown. 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.
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.