• It's Not The Size, It's The Length

    Big Boats 2014: Let The Good Times Roll

    2014, the 50th anniversary of the Big Boat Series will go down a perhaps a turning point where size really doesn't matter, it's the length that counts. 4 days of long courses with a nice variety of conditions will be remembered long after the bruises and strains have subsided. Taking a page out of the Key West Race week where the numbers of large one design boats had also declined, the inclusion of high end one designs seems to have provided a needed shot in the arm to the Fall Classic.

    Without a feeder race like the Pan-Am Clipper Cup or Kenwood Cup in mid summer to provide a Pacific Rim contingency for the larger offshore programs, and many other interests like the TP 52 series in the Med, owners have opted to keep their other assets in locations closer to warm water winter retreats and perhaps pick up a less expensive, yet just as exciting sport boat they can compete with, at a much reduced expense an time commitment. " We saw it with the Farr 40's back in the 90's "said Bill Colombo, sail maker at Doyle Sails Pacific, who has sailed in countless Big Boat Series in the past. "The 1st move was to the up and coming Melges 32's and then the Melges 24's and now the Melges 20's and J-70's. Owners seem to be finding just as much fun with these fast sportboats and the competition is very high.

    Bill, who sails a regular with Frank Slootman and his RP 63' Invisible Hand on offshore campaigns, was tactician with Frank during the series on Franks J-70 Little Hand. " We were a little off on our tactics and boat handling, as we have not practiced together in a while, but at the end of the day, it was great fun! Frank relates:" It was a bit of a struggle for us. We had not sailed the boat since last year's BBS, and the conditions didn't help, was rough out there, very windy the afternoon." On the class Frank adds:
    "Great OD class, super competitive. Fast down wind. We saw 15-17 kts. on a tear. Upwind in chop is painfully slow. OD sailing is a humbling experience."

    And comparing the J-70 to his larger offshore ride:

    "It is physically much more demanding, there is not a comfortable dry spot on that boat, and it gets violent down wind in breeze, wild broaches etc." Translated, he likes it. Frank mentions the J-70 Worlds coming to SF in 2016, so expect to see much more of the Little Hand.

    Another bigger boat sailor that decided late in the game to get on a J-70 was Andy Costello, who had set the bar high with 7 aces in 2011 with his J-125 Double Trouble, which Andy usually reserves for offshore races. This year, And has been absent for most of the events we usually see him and Double Trouble at, due primarily to time constraints and enjoying spending time with his kids while they are still in the formative years. " I had been given the chance to deliver a J-70 prior to the Jazz Cup and took the kids along. When we set the kite and the boat popped out of the water, it was all ear to ear grins" Andy explains. " On the bigger boat, the forces are just too overwhelming, but with the 70, its just about perfect. That got me to thinking and when I mentioned it to Jeff at Quantum Sails, he said, I think Mark Howe isn't racing in the BBS..Anyways we ended up borrowing Mark's boat, and I gave Paul(Cayard), Nick (Cately)and James (Clappier) a call and they were all available so we made it happen.

    What happened was a decisive win in a 13 boat one design fleet. With only a few days to get their act together and a new set of sails which Andy plans to use on his own J-70 when that time arrives the foursome got their act together in rapid fashion after a mid pack finish in race 1, to collect a series of aces and deuces to win the regatta with plenty of room to spare. Andy acknowledges Paul's tactical calls and freely shared knowledge to making a difference on the current heavy courses, but also James 's boat captaining skills, which included the tuning of the rig on a daily basis and tweaking the boat with the latest class mods and settings and Nick Catley solid trimming and bowman skills, the very same which helped with DT back in 2011.

    It all came together quite nicely for Andy, who said regardless of outcome , " It was a hell of a lot of fun, the funnest sailing I have done in a long time" . The Double Trouble J125 program is slated to return in 2015 with Farallones, Spinnaker Cup and a possible Transpac in the forecast!

    In a herculean Corinthian effort, Chris Andersen and crew on Perfect Wife took their J-70 to another level. Having returned from Long Beach Race Week with little to show Chris and regulars Doug and Patti Sloan had an ace up their sleeves in the form of David Liebenberg. The former RYC junior and now Tufts Graduate was the difference maker. "I can't say enough about David" , relates Chris " He's a really nice kid and knows how keep the boat moving fast, consistently and his communication with Doug on tactics worked perfectly. After the 1st race, I put complete confidence in him and went exactly where he told me to. " In the end it came down to the final leg of the final race, "We rounded the leeward gate in 6th and needed to put a boat between Bottle Rocket and us to claim 2nd, David and Doug guided us up the cone of Alcatraz and further west than I would have gone, but it was enough to get us up and over them when we crossed back to the City Front to seal the deal!"

    Another newcomer to the fray, as it were, was the fast building J-111 class. With 7 boats on the line the class has established itself as the heir apparent for one design racing in the larger waterline department. Fast off wind able to keep up on the uphill climbs. The fleet got more than their share of miles in over the series and more trips in and out the gate than they had all season. " I'm so tired of the standard sausage, gimme something spicier" Could have been the mantra of the day. With 51 courses to choose from, the RC did not hold back in their selection of lengthy courses, many of which took fleets out to Point Diablo, forcing crews and tacticians to draw even deeper in their current reading skills, maximizing ebbs and flood developments far more than your normal city front variety or once out and back ocean race.

    The J-111 owners, comprised of successful Silicon Valley types who socialize and work together, vary in sailing skill levels have built a nice fleet of the 36' sportboats here in the Bay Area and continue to grow. At the top of the fleet, Madmen, Big Blast, Aeolus and Big Dog have built up quite a rivalry and established crews that can really push the boats, the newer boats to the fleet are gaining in leaps and bounds, and tight rounding's after lengthy legs are becoming more of the norm and not the exception. The Big Boat Series courses, according to Nick Salvador " Were great, we really enjoyed the racing aside from Saturday's race which was sadistically long . We finished pretty where were expected but we continued to improve as the weekend progressed. Congratulations to the Rob Theis for the victory and entire J-111 fleet for great series"

    The front runners had a battle royale on their hands, with Roland Vandermeers' Big Blast looking strong and Dorian McKelvy's Madmen and Rob Theis's Aeolus in very tight contention. The boats finding passing lanes on heavy air downhill stretches, pushing the limits of the boat and crew then finding the sweet spot in the currents headed west again. " It really was a big current year" Said Drew Harper who was working the main and calling shots on Michael Stimson's Blast. "The races were really dictated by the tides and making the right calls. Fun legs and a great series. The crews and owners loved it, and the St Francis put on another fantastic series. We even had several J-105 owners wander over and do some tire kicking, we expect to see another influx of boats joining the fleet over the winter and have some awesome events for the fleet in 2015! In the end just 3 points separated the top 4 boats, the nail in the coffin for Mad Men was a mechanical issue with the jib foiler preventing them completing race 5!

    Over in the Express 37 fleet, current guru extraordinaire Kame Richards Golden Moon put on a clinic, leading with a string of 7 bullets and relenting the final gun to Bartz Schnieder's Expeditious, yet held on to a 7 point victory. Robert Lugliani is the newest owner of Phat Jack and did some scrambling to get their crew together, one of which, was Paul Sutcheck working the foredeck. Paul "Fell down the rabbit hole" as he stated" I was pulling on a lazy sheet which suddenly unloaded and down I went. It must have been funny as hell to watch, but it hurt like hell and I now have a nice tattoo on my back, which goes nicely with the hematoma on my thigh and the blood pooled up at the bottom of my right foot.

    In the J-120 fleet, David Halliwill and the crew on Perigrine finally got their Big Boat Series win over locals Chance and Mister Magoo and the Japanese entry of Julian, which sailed an amazing clean race for their 1st foray onto San Francisco Bay. Dave moved back to New York a few years back but the boat remained, Skipper Mike O'Callaghan and local crew still sail the boat when Dave is absent. Kristen McCulloch generally sails with Barry Lewis on Chance but did not get the nod this year and joined Peregrine in time for the Aldo:
    I have truly loved racing with Chance and so I had no bad feelings. They are an amazing team. But I am so happy I got to know the Peregrine crew so well. I feel I made new friends for life. And then we went and won it. I can honestly say I never worked harder in a race. The entire crew was focused and work hard, but we never forgot to have fun. It was total blast to race with Peregrine!! And we will all be back out on the water this coming Sunday in the Leukemia cup. Our main sail trimmer Tad Lacey's son is an honorary skipper as a 20 year survivor.

    The Multi's were a mixed bag of various lengths and with longer courses and a bit stronger winds than last year, with guest sailor Brian Thompson, Tom Siebel 's Mod 70 Orion had the room to stretch out and make use of her waterline. With 6 bullets and a 4th they had little trouble dispersing the cats under 40's, despite the very well sailed efforts of extreme 40 Smart Recruiters and Prosail 40' Shadow. Urs Rothatcher made the trip back from Switzerland to sail his SL33 Bridge Runner with Pete Melvin on board and Randy Miller made the best of a bad situation, sailing his Marstrom 32 Gradient Vee through the course with a much heavier mast than the boat was designed for, yet at times looked as fast as always!

    Wayne Koide and company put his Sydney 36 Encore into overdrive to finally solve the Topelo Honey conundrum in the ORR class. 10 Boats started the event but only 8 remained standing at the end, Frank Morrow's IMX 38 Hawkeye got knocked out in the 1st round after a collision with Swiftsure and Encore. Bodacious + sat out Sunday after a heated protest on Saturday.

    In the HPR division which contained some of the highest performance boats in the fleet, and OCS debate continues to haunt the final results. The current standing have Donald Payan's MC 38 Whiplash edging out Greg Slyngstad's J-125 Hamachi by one point and Antole Masfen's TP 52 Beecom on 3rd 4 point off the leader. This debate may carry on for a while...stay tuned

    The J-105's boasted the highest total of boats. No news there. The 19 boat strong fleet is a bit off of previous years but the ever going battle between Scooter Simmons' Blackhawk and Bruce Stone's Arbitrage , Phillip Ladby's Godot and Jeff Littfin's Mojo continues. With this many boats on tightly run courses and the fleet packed in tight formation at all corners, separation does not come easy. This year Arbitrage managed to get aces when Blackhawk took 5ths, but had a 5th, 4th and a 3rd when Blackhawk got their bullets.

    A much reduced number of Melges 24's this year, (9) compared to 35 in 2013, but Don Jesberg and his crew on Viva continue to be the local Corinthian boat to beat, using their 6 aces as down payment on a Sunday day offyet still coasting g to a 16 to 25 point victory over Duane Yoslov's Nothing Ventured. Honorable mention to Zhenya Kirushken-Stepanoff's team on Insolent Minx, who have worked their asses off this season, sailing in nearly every regatta they could, and the results showed, with 4 2nds in te 1st 4 races, they managed to still hang onto 3rd even though they also took Sunday off!

    The Farr 40, making a huge comeback after over a decade of decline showed up with 15 boats from 7 different countries ahead of the World Championships coming up in a couple weeks .Terry Hutchinson calling the shots on Alex Roepers Plenty with a score of 13 out of 8 races, mostly the sausage variety held down on the Berkeley Circle, as per request from the fleet to concentrate for the formats and area which will b used during the upcoming Worlds

    In essence, the 2014 Big Boat Series provided over 100 boats and 600 sailors to some of the best conditions of the year. The weather, courses and venue, both on and off the water made for yet another 4 day contest, and though some came back to the docks after the final Bay Tour, bruised, beat and spent, the under laying grin of content and fulfillment was hard to disguise. When all is said and done the size of the grin, is what matters most..

    Gallery of Day 1

    Gallery of Day 2