Sailors at the Rolex Big Boat Series sensed it was going to be a difficult day when they showed up at the St. Francis Yacht Club this morning and it was already blowing a hooley.
For the last two days it had taken at least until an early fog lifted for the wind to reach its peaks in the 20s, but this morning it blew 20-25 right out of the box, with gusts nearing 28 even before the first race start at 11 a.m. The result of it never letting up was a good amount of carnage on the race course and some losers as well as winners in the battle between man and Mother Nature.
The first boat back to the dock with damage was Scooter Simmons’ (Belvedere, Calif.) Blackhawk, which was leading the 21-boat J/105 fleet going into today; the boat was t-boned after a classic port/starboard crossing went awry. 'Whisper (skippered by Marc Vayn of San Francisco) was on port and looked to be ducking us, but I guess his mainsheet got stuck or something and he couldn’t avoid hitting us,' said Simmons, nodding to the port-side gash in his hull topped by a tumble of stanchions. 'Our goal is to seek redress for both of today’s races and get this fixed before tomorrow.' Redress was later granted, and Blackhawk added a 2-2 to its score, having turned in finish positions of 4-1-2-1 over the last two days. The team still sits atop the scoreboard with Jason Woodley/Scott Whitney’s (Tiburon, Calif.) Risk in second, a full 12 points behind.
Bartz Schneider’s (Crystal Bay, Nev.) team aboard Expeditious, which was four points out of first in the Express 37 class going into today, suffered a horrific spinnaker broach in race one and had to call it quits. 'Golden Moon and Blade Runner both crashed in front of us,' said crew member Rhim Fleischman (Corte Madera, Calif.), 'so we passed them and were in first and thought ‘if we could just hang on...’' They didn’t, and when the boom hit the water, Expeditious nearly pitch-poled. By the time the crew sorted, there was no time left to avoid going aground just yards away from the observation decks at St. Francis Yacht Club. To make matters worse, a spinnaker sheet wrapped around the propeller when the decision was make to start the engine. Golden Moon (Kame Richards, Alameda, Calif.) went on to finish 1-2 for the day and maintain its lead from yesterday while Blade Runner (Michael Shlens, Palos Verdes Est., Calif.) posted a 2-1 to move into second. Expeditious fell to third showing two races not finished.
One who didn’t find it so tough today was Jim Swartz (Park City, Utah), owner and skipper of the IRC 52 Vesper, which is sailing in IRC A class and won both races today. 'It has been a fun regatta,' said Swartz. 'I’m just blessed with this awesome crew, and we didn’t break anything. We talked a lot about preserving assets and taking it easy-- that was of incredible importance.' Vesper was at the top mark first in both races, which Swartz said took the edge off. His closest competitors have been two other 52s: Peter Cunningham’s (George Town, Grand Cayman, CAY) PowerPlay, which moved into second behind Vesper today on the strength of finishing 2-2, and Ashley Wolfe’s (Calgary, AB, CAN) Mayhem, which fell to third from second yesterday after finishing 4-3. 'It has been like one-design racing,' said Swartz about the fact that five 52s are racing in his class. 'The rating differences are very slight.'
Donald Payan (Hillsborough, Calif.) likened today’s racing to a 'heavyweight boxing match.' He came out swinging and threw the last punch to finish 1-2 today in IRC D class aboard his J/120 Dayenu. 'We finished 1-2 yesterday, and the first day we turned in two firsts,' said Payan, who now has a five-point lead over the fleet. 'Not too bad; if we can keep it up tomorrow, we can win.' Payan won this event last year, sailing in the J/120 one-design class and decided to try his luck in IRC this year. 'I wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t been enough J/120s here to make a class without me. I’ve raced in one-design for ten years, so I thought I’d try a different fleet...for the sense of adventure if nothing else. It has been a punishing three days, but the J/120 is very stable, and when you get it in the groove going to weather in north of 16 knots, it does very well.' Payan said knock-downs are uncharacteristic for his team, but he endured some disastrous jibes today that he thought would have cost him. 'I thought we were doing so badly, but then I turned around and saw that everyone else was having trouble just the same as we were.'
While riggers and sail makers had already been working serious hours over the last two days, they were sure to be burning the midnight oil this evening. Richard Courcier’s (Tahoe City, Calif.) Farr 36 Wicked came back to the dock after it lost its spinnaker sheet as well as its control in 34 knots of breeze. 'We are running out of sails,' said Courcier, 'but we hit 20.1 knots, a new boat speed record for us!' The crew aboard Bob Harford’s Express 37 Stewball said it was a 30+ gust that caused them to break their spinnaker pole and lose a man overboard. 'We did our man overboard drill, gathered our wits about us and finished,' said crew member Pete Belghaus (Alameda, Calif.), adding that a torn main also helped force the decision to sit out the second race. Meanwhile, John Clauser’s (Walnut Creek, Calif.) ID 48 Bodacious had bailed before the start of the first race. 'We simply chickened out,' said Clauser.
But despite the chaos on the Bay, things sorted out just fine on the scoreboard for Andy Costello’s (Pt. Richmond, Calif.) Double Trouble. The team turned in another perfect 1-1 score today to continue leading the IRC C class. Scott Easom’s (San Rafael, Calif.) Eight Ball maintained its lead in the Farr 30 class with finishes of 3-2, as did Brad Copper’s (Pt. Richmond, Calif.) TNT in IRC B, with a 2-2, and Barry Lewis’s (Atherton, Calif.) Chance in J/120 class, with a 1-3.
'They definitely got more than they paid for out there today,' said Event Co-Chair and Principal Race Officer Kevin Reeds. 'It was big, big wind, big waves; the Rolex BIG Boat series.' Results – Day 3
IRC A (IRC - 8 Boats)
1. Vesper, TP 52 52, Jim Swartz , Park City, UT, USA - 1, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, ; 9
2. PowerPlay, TP 52 52, Peter Cunningham , George Town, Grand Cayman, CAY - 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 2, ; 13
3. Mayhem, TP 52 52, Ashley Wolfe , Calgary, AB, CAN - 2, 1, 3, 2, 4, 3, ; 15
IRC B (IRC - 9 Boats)
1. TNT, Custom Tripp 43 43, Brad Copper , Pt. Richmond, CA, USA - 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 2, ; 9
2. Swiftsure ll, Sloop 54, Sy Kleinman , Saratoga, CA, USA - 2, 1, 5, 2, 1, 1, ; 12
3. BustinLoose, Sydney 38 38'6, Jeff Pulford , Salinas, Ca, USA - 3, 4, 2, 4, 3, 3, ; 19
IRC C (IRC - 8 Boats)
1. Double Trouble, J 125 41, Andy Costello , Pt Richmond, CA, USA - 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, ; 6
2. Resolute, J 125 41, Tim Fuller , Murrieta, CA, USA - 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, ; 15
3. Timeshaver, J 125 41, Viggo Torbensen , Laguna Beach, CA, USA - 3, 2, 4, 5, 3, 4, ; 21
IRC D (IRC - 8 Boats)
1. Dayenu, J 120 40, Donald Payan , Hillsborough, CA, USA - 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, ; 8
2. Tupelo Honey, Elan 40 40, Gerard Sheridan , San Francisco, CA, USA - 3, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1, ; 16
3. Mirthmaker, Archambault A35 35, Douglas Holm / Kirk Denebeim , Corte Madera, CA, USA - 2, 2, 1, 2, 9/DSQ, 4, ; 20
J 105 (One Design - 21 Boats)
1. Blackhawk, J 105 34.5, Scooter Simmons , Belvedere, CA, USA - 4, 1, 2, 1, 2/RDG, 2/RDG, ; 12
2. Risk, J 105 34.5, Jason Woodley / Scott Whitney , Tiburon, CA, USA - 7, 3, 8, 2, 3, 1, ; 24
3. Godot, J 105 34.5, Phillip Laby , San Francisco, CA, USA - 8, 6, 5, 6, 2, 4, ; 31
J 120 (One Design - 7 Boats)
1. Chance, J 120 40, Barry Lewis , Atherton, CA, USA - 3, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, ; 10
2. Mr. Magoo, J 120 40, Stephen Madeira , Menlo Park, CA, USA - 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, ; 15
3. Peregrine, J 120 40, David Halliwill , New York, NY, USA - 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 1, ; 18
Express 37 (One Design - 9 Boats)
1. Golden Moon, Express 37 37, Kame Richards , Alameda, CA, USA - 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, ; 8
2. Blade Runner, Express 37 37, Michael Shlens , Palos Verdes Est., CA, USA - 4, 3, 4, 2, 2, 1, ; 16
3. Expeditious, Express 37 37, Bartz Schneider , Crystal Bay, NV, USA - 2, 1, 3, 3, 10/DNF, 10/DNF, ; 29
Farr 30 (One Design - 12 Boats)
1. Eight Ball, Farr 30 30, Scott Easom , San Rafael, CA, USA - 2, 4, 1, 5, 2, 3, 2, ; 19
2. Barking Mad, Farr 30 30, James Richardson , Boston, MA, USA - 3, 1, 5, 3, 4, 2, 3, ; 21
3. Groovederci, Farr 30 30, Deneen Demourkas , Santa Barbara, CA, USA - 7, 8, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, ; 22
Full results Rolex Big Boat Series here