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September 13, 2023

Let the Racing Begin at the Rolex Big Boat Series

Anticipation is high as the 79 teams registered to race gather at the docks of St. Francis Yacht Club for last-minute preparations before tomorrow’s start of the Rolex Big Boat Series. Three one-design classes (Express 37, J/105 and J/88), four ORC divisions, and a stately gathering of classic yachts make for an intense lineup of competitors for this 59th edition.

“Rolex Big Boat Series is a fantastic opportunity for the West Coast sailing community to end the summer sailing season on a high note. There is no better place to do it than on San Francisco Bay,” said Beau Vrolyk, StFYC’s commodore, and the owner of the classic Alden schooner Mayan. “StFYC is proud to support the high level of competition that this regatta draws, with world-class race management and great parties when we all return to the docks.”

The beautiful schooner Mayan tacks away from the startline during last year’s regatta.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The Divisions

The Express 37s are competing in this regatta for the 33rd time. Eight signed up this year, from as far away as Orange County. The highly competitive J/105 fleet has drawn 31 entries for its 31st RBBS. The class includes seven previous winners, three of whom have won twice: Scott Sellers, Ryan Simmons and Bruce Stone. In the J/88s, Speedwell and Fly are new to the class. The 2022 winner Split Water returns to defend her title. Veterans and newcomers will be racing in the Classics and the ORC fleets. Among the newcomers, Alex Mehran’s 57-ft 1941 S&S Gesture will race in the Classics Division. We’re planning a profile of Gesture in the October issue of Latitude 38.

J/105s racing, Golden Gate Bridge in the background
Action in last year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. The J/105s tack up the Cityfront, round a windward mark, and set kites for a long run down the Bay.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The Return of Octavia

Shepard Kett’s Santa Cruz-based Santa Cruz 50 Octavia made her BBS debut in 1984, four years after she was ordered from legendary boat designer Bill Lee. (Bill is also racing this year, again aboard Mayan.) Kett’s father sailed Octavia for 10 years before Shep took over in 1990. Designed for fast downwind runs to Hawaii, this SC50 has been optimized for buoy racing, switching to an asymmetrical spinnaker for easier and safer handling. Kett has sailed Octavia in three past Rolex Big Boat Series. He’s looking forward to getting back on the Bay this week with a crew of 14, including StFYC’s vice commodore, Chris Perkins.

SC50 Octavia
Octavia crosses the finish line in front of the StFYC clubhouse. We shot this image in 2016, the last time Octavia raced in this series.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

“It’s such a great inshore racing venue. It’s probably the best,” Kett said. “There is a lot of area on the Bay, a lot of variation, and so many different conditions depending on where you are and at what time of day. And, of course, the competition is strong so it’s a real test for the boat and for the crew.”

The Schedule and Prep

The race committee plans to score seven races for most fleets, with two races per day starting at 11 a.m. for the first three days of racing, followed by a single longer Bay Tour course on Sunday. The Classics will race once per day starting at noon Thursday-Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

“The preparation leading up to Rolex Big Boat Series is exciting and hard work. We are so grateful to our many volunteers who help make this event happen,” said regatta chair Susan Ruhne. The event gathers volunteers and assets from clubs around the Bay. “The reward is so worth it when we see a fleet of almost 80 boats duking it out during four days of world-class racing on the country’s best natural sailing amphitheater.”

“With 79 boats and nearly 700 sailors, I’m very pleased with the entry numbers, especially in the J/105s and ORC,” said StFYC’s race director Felix Weidling. “Running three racecourses at the same time requires a lot of talent on the race committee. We’re fortunate to have that. There are always challenges with large events like this, and it’s great to rely on a strong team.”


At tonight’s competitors’ briefing, StFYC will announce which classes will be racing for the six perpetual trophies and two Rolex wristwatches. For the second year, the club will award the Rolex Big Boat Team Trophy to three boats from the same yacht club with the highest cumulative results. To qualify, one boat must race in an ORC class and one in a one-design class. The third can compete in any of the fleets.

Quantum Sails will host Daily Weather Briefings every race day at 7:30 a.m. Everyone can tune in for the forecast from experts at Sailflow Weather and hear local knowledge about San Francisco Bay conditions and currents from Jeff Thorpe of Quantum Sails.

Follow Along

Racing will begin tomorrow, September 14. Follow the action online @bigboatseries on Instagram and Facebook, and see for all the details. We’ll have more here on ‘Lectronic Latitude, and look for a feature story in the October issue of Latitude 38.

‘Good Jibes’ Episode #107: Celebrating French Sailing Culture With Charly Devanneaux

This week’s Good Jibes host John Arndt is joined by offshore racer and Naos Yachts founder and CEO Charly Devanneaux to chat about all things racing, cruising, and French sailing. Charly, who’s been sailing his entire life, has posted podium finishes in the Newport-Cabo Race, Transpac, Pacific Cup, ARC, and more.

Charly and crew aboard Beneteau 44 Lenny
Charly and crew surf into the Transpac finish line aboard his Beneteau 44 Lenny.
© 2023 Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing
Charly on Lagoon
When he’s not racing, Charly and family seek out remote places aboard their Lagoon catamaran in the Sea of Cortez, sailing out of their slip in Puerto Escondido.
© 2023 Charla Devanneax
Coast of Brittany
Charly started young, sailing with his dad off the coast of Brittany, France.
© 2023 Charly Devanneaux

After Charly Devanneaux’s Beneteau 44 Lenny raced in the 2023 Transpac, the boat is now being delivered from Hawaii to Sydney, via Fiji, with the goal of racing in the 2023 Sydney Hobart Race on December 26. You can follow the delivery here.

This episode covers everything from singlehanding to yacht design. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What kind of boats did Charly sail at first?
  • Why did he move to California?
  • What’s so great about sailing the Sea of Cortez?
  • Is it hard to find French wine in Mexico?
  • What race does Charly have next?
  • Do Olympic sailors get the same attention in France as offshore sailors?
  • How has Charly’s sailing business been?
  • Short Tacks: What’s his longest voyage?

Learn more about Charly at and on Instagram @Naos.Yachts.

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots — follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re feeling the Good Jibes!

Shipyard Brewing Comes Aboard Ronnie Simpson Racing for Global Solo Challenge

Ronnie Simpson is currently in the mid-Atlantic aboard his recently rechristened 50-ft Global Solo Challenge entrant Shipyard Brewing (formerly Sparrow). Shipyard Brewing came on board as a title sponsor for Ronnie on August 30, bringing additional resources to his solo circumnavigation campaign. Shipyard Brewing was also a sponsor of Bruce Schwab’s Ocean Planet Vendée Globe campaign.

Ronnie and Shipyard Brewing (which includes both the boat and some beer), and longtime friend and crewmate Ed McCoy, are now on their way from Maine to Spain for the start of the race in A Coruña. It is a reverse-handicap race, meaning the slowest boats in the fleet start first, and start dates are calculated up front so the first boat home wins! Dafydd Hughes’ S&S 34 Bendigedig started over two weeks ago, while Shipyard Brewing is still crossing the Atlantic toward the start line. Ronnie will start his race on October 28, along with fellow West Coaster David Linger on his Class 40 Koloa Maoli. The last boat to start will be the Volvo Ocean 70 Black Betty, on January 6.

Shipyard Brewing Mast step
The mast step on the recently rechristened Shipyard Brewing developed a crack requiring a sit, ponder and repair over a sip of Shipyard Summer Ale.
© 2023 Ronnie Simpson Racing

Since our last update, Ronnie has been busy in the Maine Yacht Center in Portland, doing final preparation for the Atlantic crossing and his eventual race start. After going back into the water in August, they were doing sea trials when they discovered cracks near the mast step requiring repair, and thus setting back the timetable for the boat’s departure. Ronnie and crew Ed McCoy were able to finally set off on September 3, only to be faced by Hurricane Idalia lining up to cross their track toward Spain. Ronnie and Ed decided it would be wisest to take a detour to South Shore Marine in Chester, Nova Scotia, to let the storm pass.

Shipyard Brewing
Ronnie and Fred Forsley of Shipyard Brewing sealed the deal for sponsorship on August 30.
© 2023 Ronnie Simpson Racing

As of today, Ronnie and Ed are east of Newfoundland at about 48 degrees north and heading for A Coruña, about 1,600 miles away on the northwest Atlantic coast of Spain. Once there, Ronnie will continue to prep the boat for the late-October start. It’s an enormous undertaking, which we know he has been working on, full-bore, since acquiring Sparrow, now Shipyard Brewing, almost exactly a year ago.

Ronnie Simpson Shipyard Brewing
They’re out there. Ronnie and Ed left Chester, Nova Scotia, a few days ago, bound for Spain.
© 2023 Shipyard Brewing/Garmin InReach

Ronnie’s plan in early 2022 was to do the the Baja Ha-Ha, but since this quick change of course it’s been a flat-out hustle. We saw Ronnie and his boat at the docks during the Annapolis Boat Show last October, and since then he’s done his 2,000-mile qualifying solo sail and been hard at work on the boat.

Ronnie has set his sights on an eventual Vendée Globe, so the Global Solo Challenge is just a step toward a bigger dream. He’s got the energy, enthusiasm and dedication to make it all happen, and we can’t wait to follow him after the start in October. You can track his voyage across the Atlantic here.

Sailing Supply/Downwind Marine in San Diego To Host Cruisers’ Seminars in October

Are you sailing south across the border for the first time? Are you looking for some tips from experienced cruisers who have traveled the waters you plan to visit? Will you be in San Diego in mid-October, ready to go south with the Baja Ha-Ha fleet?

Well, we’ve got some good news for you.

Sailing Supply/Downwind Marine in San Diego will be holding a series of cruising seminars, with guest speakers touching on a variety of cruising-related topics, each weekday evening October 16 through 20, and again the following week, October 23 to 27. The doors will open at 5:45 p.m. at the back door of Sailing Supply/Downwind Marine; the seminars will start at 6 p.m. each night.

Downwind Marine will also hold their annual Cruisers’ Welcome Party on Saturday, October 21, which will include their annual Downwind Vendor Fair and Storewide Wholesale Discount Sale. “GET THE BEST PRICES EVER on all stock on hand during regular store hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Meet our special vendors and other cruisers, and come help us kick off the cruising season!”

That’s captain Pat Ranis — author of Mexico Boating Guide (now in its third edition) and Cruising Ports: The Central American Route — giving a seminar at Sailing Supply/Downwind Marine.
© 2023 Sailing Supply:Downwind Marine

Sailing Supply/Downwind Marine is located at 2804 Cañon Street, San Diego, near Shelter Island. If you’d like to email a question to SSDM, follow this link.

Here’s the seminar schedule for October:

Monday, October 16: Shea Weston — Veteran Cruiser, owner and operator of Offshore Outfitters. “Today’s Offshore Communication Options for Cruisers — Stay in Touch With Everyone While Cruising.”

Tuesday, October 17: Tom Teevin — Outboard mechanic and college automotive educator, emeritus. “Enjoy Your Dinghy! — Understand and Maintain Your Outboard Motor While Cruising in Mexico.”

Wednesday, October 18: Arno Chrispeels — Educator, veteran cruiser and president, “International Health and Evacuation Insurance Options for Cruisers — What To Know Before You Go.”

Thursday, October 19: Captain Dietmar Petutschnig — President, Good Nautical and founder, Panama Posse. “Meet the Panama Posse: Its Story and Future in Cruising the Tropics and Inspiring Life-Changing Adventure.”

Friday, October 20: Julie Xelowski-Brooker — Educator, veteran cruiser representing sailing for CEDO. “Introduction to ‘Sailing for CEDO’ — Finding the Cruisers’ Role in Data Collection for Citizen Science!”

Monday, October 23: Captain Ann Kinner — Owner, Seabreeze Nautical Books and Charts. “Building a Cruisers’ Library With an Update on Current NOAA and International Navigation Charts.”

Tuesday, October 24: Tim Gaub — Sailmaker and owner, Doyle Sails, San Diego. “Downwind Sailing Tips and Sail Selection for Boat Speed, Plus Sail Repair at Sea.”

Wednesday, October 25: Chef Melanie A. Cady — Certified French chef and owner, The Gourmet Galley Wench. “Maintain a Healthy Diet and Galley Without Refrigeration in the Tropics — Tips for Essential Tools and Meals.”

Thursday, October 26: Captain Pat Rains — Author/publisher of Mexico Boating Guide (now in its third edition) and Cruising Ports: The Central American Route. “Cruising Mexico’s Little Loop — Plus Q&A, and the Latest From Mexico and the Panama Canal.”

Friday, October 27: Dick and Gina Markie — Harbormaster, Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. “The Markies’ Annual Update on Cruising Mexico — Everything You Need To Know and More!”