St. Francis Yacht Club has announced that they will offer a Classics Class in this September’s Rolex Big Boat Series. StFYC inaugurated the series in 1964; this year fans and participants will witness boats older than the regatta racing on San Francisco Bay. The class is open to any boat built before 1955 and measuring longer than 48 feet on deck. “The Classics will compete in one race per day that will start and end off StFYC’s race deck,” said regatta chair Susan Ruhne. “This will give spectators ashore a real proximity to the boats and a sight that hasn’t been seen at this regatta in years.”
As well as being historic, the racing will be as competitive as the other classes competing in this high-level regatta. Well-known Bay Area wooden boats already registered include Terry Klaus’ 95-year-old Herreshoff schooner Brigadoon and Daniel Spradling’s 52-ft yawl Bounty.
“Up to the first warning signal, the Classics Class will be a bit more relaxed than other classes,” says Beau Vrolyk, the owner and skipper of the Alden-designed 59-ft schooner Mayan. Previously owned by David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mayan was built in 1947. “But once the first gun sounds, I think we’ll see the competitive juices flowing.”
Vrolyk admits that this style of sailing differs widely from the Rolex Big Boat Series’ IOR, IMS, IRC and ORR handicap classes in which he has previously competed. “Pushing these heavy Classics around the racecourse requires a return to arcane sailing techniques,” he says. “They lack the advantages of modern winches, lines and sailcloth, so their crews compensate with size, determination and strength.”
Vrolyk began his preparations with a new non-ablative racing bottom job and a new fisherman staysail, the latter of which he specifically ordered for the regatta’s expected racecourse. Additionally, he plans to compete in four Bay Area classic-yacht races as warm-ups, and he’ll ask his sailmaker to evaluate Mayan’s gollywobbler, spinnakers and advance staysail to ensure that her inventory is ready to race. “We’re really looking forward to lining up, varnished rail to varnished rail, with old friends aboard these beautiful classic yachts,” says Vrolyk.
Among other notable entries in this year’s series is Merlin, the famous Bill Lee-designed 68-ft sled launched in 1977. “San Francisco brings back such great memories and is one of the best cities to visit and sail,” said Merlin’s latest owner, Chip Merlin of Tampa, FL. “My hope is that there will be a lot of competitors, and that a few more sleds will register.”
“Merlin seems to have a big reputation everywhere, and not on just the West Coast,” adds Chip. “I have never had so many ‘friends’ in the sailing world as I have since I purchased Merlin. I always thought of it as being special; there are a lot of people who feel the same way.”
StFYC will host the Rolex Big Boat Series on September 11-15. The deadline to enter is July 31.
The ‘Question of the Day’ in yesterday’s Old Farmer’s Almanac newsletter was, “What does ‘neaped’ mean in reference to a ship?”
The almanac’s answer: “A boat that is neaped has gone aground on a mild tide and needs a spring tide or stormy waters to float it off. The boat is only barely aground, as opposed to being hard aground, where even a very high tide or rough waters might not be enough to set it free. The expression comes from the term ‘neap tide,’ which is a moderate tide. Neap tides occur when the Earth, moon, and sun are in quadrature. In other words, instead of being lined up in a straight line, as at syzygy, they are more nearly at right angles. True quadrature happens at regular intervals, about twice a month, at the first quarter and last quarter moons, but neap tides occur for several days around those dates. High tides are considerably higher around the full moon and new moon than around the first and last quarters.”
The last quarter moon will happen this Sunday, May 26, at 9:34 a.m. PDT. Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac moon phases page here.
Many Bay Area boats sailing the oceans carry a legacy that resonates among those who cruised or raced against or on board them. The Gary Mull-designed Improbable (covered in the April issue of Latitude 38) is one such boat.
At the Delta Doo Dah party at Richmond Yacht Club on Saturday, we saw Steve Lewis, who now owns his second Bay Area legacy boat, Dan and Linda Newland’s Pegasus. (Years ago, Steve owned the renowned 33-ft S&S Spirit.) Dan Newland built and launched Pegasus months ahead of the 1992 Singlehanded TransPac. He went on to win that race by four days! Pegasus came to Steve’s attention after he told his son Patrick that he was kind of looking for a new boat for an adventure such as the 2020 Pacific Cup. It wasn’t long before Patrick found Pegasus for sale by the Newlands in the Pacific Northwest. Coincidentally, Steve, like Dan Newland, works with composites and rockets. It’s not a coincidence that Pegasus was an early, lightweight carbon rocket ship.
Patrick’s own sailing story started with the RYC Junior Program. He worked for Dave Hodges at Santa Cruz Sails, and at West Marine in Mountain View. His first major ocean races were the 2000 and 2002 Pac Cups aboard Spirit when he was 18 and 20. He has subsequently done a couple more Pacific Cups and a Transpac. He’s now working across the street from where he worked for West Marine, except now he’s a mechanical engineer helping build communication satellites at SSL. If he keeps finding boats like this for his dad (he also originally ‘found’ Spirit), he may have a few more Hawaii races ahead of him.
Lewis inquired about the boat, found her looking good, and was happy when he received the survey report. Pegasus was immaculate. Pegasus arrived at KKMI in Richmond, and Steve’s going through a checklist of minor issues suggested by the surveyor: Replace the bilge pump handle and the stern light, and a few more projects. But she’s been beautifully maintained and is just about ready to get back on the Bay for the first time in years. For a boat approaching her 20th birthday, with thousands of miles under her keel, she’s pretty spiff. At just about 6,000 lbs. she’s also exceptionally light for her 37 feet and should be a quick ride to both Stockton and Hawaii.
With a short list and the Delta Ditch Run coming up on June 1, Lewis is ready to launch and sail his new steed. She’s from an entirely different generation of boats than Spirit — which was built of wood in 1960 — but Pegasus also collected plenty of silver in her day. Now she’s back, in new hands, and ready test herself again on familiar waters.