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Rolex Big Boat Series - Lessons learned by J/111 Rock & Roll winner

by J/Boats 28 Sep 2021 11:37 PDT
Rolex Big Boat Series © Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

After the remarkable performance by the winner of the ORR A Class, the J/111 Rock & Roll, we got a fascinating insight into owner/skipper Bernie Girod's program that led to his winning one of the most coveted trophies in all of sailing, a ROLEX Submariner watch for winning his class.

Here is Bernie's candid perspective regarding his experience on San Francisco Bay.

"We prepared well. Our boat was in good shape. And, we had three new sails (J3, A2, and FRO).

Contrary to common practice in San Francisco Bay, we decided to use our larger SoCal A2 (166 square meter vs. class A2 of 130 sq.m.) thinking that it was worth the rating penalty in the lighter winds.

Our crew was mostly my Santa Barbara crew, including Kevin Miller, but supplemented by Seadon Wisjen and Kevin Miller from the North Sails San Francisco loft for their local San Francisco Bay knowledge.

Practice on Sunday before the event went badly. We blew up our brand new A2 spinnaker gybing! Ouch! Rough crew work in the higher winds, inside gybing was not the way to go.

Monday was much better. We did outside gybes above 15 kts TWS and we cross-sheeted upwind. Much faster! We tuned the rig to max settings. We also calibrated the instruments. So, we were in good shape by the end of the day Tuesday.

For the regatta, all racing started either at Treasure Island or the North Course. Typically, W/L courses to the South Tower and back. Each race about two hours long, mostly in ebb-tide conditions. Starts were at 11:00am.

Our competition was mostly larger boats, including a Santa Cruz 52 helmed by the Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club, with only one other J/111 sailing with us.

Race 1- great Santa Barbara-like conditions, max 16 kts TWS, flat water. The big A2 (now repaired) really paid off. We won by 4.5 minutes corrected!

Race 2- this was a much breezier, typical San Francisco Bay conditions with a choppy ebb tide. Our victory margin was under one minute corrected after two hours of racing.

This day was pretty much a repeat of day one. We won race 3 by 1.5 minutes and race 2 by 28 seconds.

However, we had our share of mishaps. We lost our wind instruments in race 4, blew-up our cross-sheeting block, and our backstay died! Back to the docks to lick our wounds and fix a few things!

We had a 2.5 hour delay on Saturday waiting for wind. Race 5 started OK for us. We won it by about one minute with the other J/111 close behind us. Still no wind instruments and we still had a troublesome backstay.

The wheels fell off the shopping trolley in race 6. We made errors in sail-handling and tactics, the backstay died in the big winds, and we had NO instruments. We lost by about five minutes with all those self-imposed handicaps! The crew spent several hours that night replacing the backstay cylinder and pump and got it working... we hoped.

On the final day, we started well. We found a new CPU board for our instruments, thankfully we had numbers on the displays to sail fast... again! The boat felt great all day. Crew work and tactics were flawless.

Upwind boat speed was often above 8.0 kts, with 33 TWA, and above 16 kts planing downwind. Amazing day! A great finish in front of StFYC reaching with the A4 kite (yes, heavy weather) and jib, planing away in showers of spray blowing past the weather rail! Great fun! We won the seventh and final race by 1.5 minutes handicap after three hours of racing!

Overall, six bullets out of seven races in ORC A division. Amazing! We were surprised, quite frankly.

The 111 was terrific, fast, and easy-to-handle. It does everything well, has a comfortable interior, the best all-around boat I have owned!" Thanks! Bernie.

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