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March 15, 2024

Rolex Big Boat Series 60th Anniversary Regatta Registrations Open Now

St. Francis Yacht Club has announced this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. This marks the 60th edition of the annual regatta, and organizers will be showcasing its rich history and celebrating the many legendary yachts, crews and skippers that have participated since 1964.

“My first Big Boat Series was in the mid-1980s aboard Bill LeRoy’s Blue Blazer,” said Chris Perkins, commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club. “Those were the IOR days and, yes, we did fly a blooper — or at least we tried! I have raced in so many Big Boats since then, including many on my J/105. Last year, I enjoyed sailing with Shepard and Ellen Kett aboard their Santa Cruz 50 Octavia, which won the ORC A fleet. I’m not sure what I will sail this year, but like many sailors who have raced in it over the years, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. On behalf of St. Francis Yacht Club, I invite you all to participate in our most spectacular regatta of the year.”

Details are as follows:

Notice of Race here.

Registration here

When: The regatta is scheduled for September 11-15, “when conditions are sporty on San Francisco Bay.” This legendary regatta attracts the highest level of competition, with perpetual trophies and Rolex timepieces awarded to select fleets.

Who: The following are invited to compete in this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series:
• One-design boats of the J/88, J/105, Cape 31, Melges 24 and Express 37 classes. Other classes with a minimum number of boats can be considered with application to the Organizing Authority.
• ORC Monohulls with a LOA ≥ 30-ft. Boats with an APH of 500 or lower are required to have an ORC International Certificate. Boats with an APH higher than 500 may compete using either an ORC International Certificate or ORC Club Certificate.
• Classic boats built prior to 1955 with a LOA ≥ 48-ft and a current ORR-Ez rating certificate.
• Multihull boats with a current valid OMR certificate issued by the Bay Area Multihull Association with a rating of between 0.89 and 1.22. Trapezes are not permitted.

The event will also serve as this year’s ORC West Coast Championship, with the top three positions in each ORC Class awarded titles and trophies. Additionally, entries are invited to compete for the Storm Trysail Team Trophy, to be presented to the top-scoring three-boat team from the same yacht club and comprising one ORC boat, one one-design boat and one boat from any other class.

Regatta chair and rear commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club, Susan Ruhne, said, “You only turn 60 once, and St. Francis Yacht Club will be pulling out all the stops for our skippers and sailors. In addition to world-class racing, expect lively post-racing socials and parties.”

The parties begin on Wednesday evening, September 11, when boats and sailors arrive for the Competitors’ Briefing. Competition commences Thursday with two races per day for most fleets through Saturday. On Sunday, all fleets will race one long “Bay tour” course. The Classics will race once per day for all four days.

“Our goal is always to provide the best experience possible for sailors, both on the water and ashore when the racing is over,” said Felix Weidling, race director of St. Francis Yacht Club. “We’re working on incorporating new courses for the Classics and refining our race management based on feedback from last year. We have an outstanding team of race professionals joining our talented volunteers who have decades of experience on the busy and complex waters of San Francisco Bay. We are especially excited to welcome multihulls back to the competition and to see such enthusiasm from the Cape 31 fleet.”

J/70 Cool Story Bro
Cool Story Bro racing in the J/70 division in 2020.
© 2024 Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

Indeed, the growing International Cape 31 Class is coordinating a mass turnout on the West Coast to compete in Rolex Big Boat Series. “San Francisco is an amazing place to race these boats as they plane so easily and the conditions will make it an absolute blast,” said Drew Freides, owner of the Cape 31 Pacific Yankee. “It’s a great venue to showcase the fleet, and we’re working hard to have all the Cape 31s in the US on the starting line. It’s the preeminent West Coast event and our entire season is gearing up for it.” Freides has sailed in different classes at previous Rolex Big Boat Series, but this year is going to be special, he says. “It’s been a dream of mine to sail my own boat in Big Boat Series and I’m psyched to do it. It’s the premier event. Trust me, this has been in the works for a few years. We’re going to have some fun!”

Notice of Race here.

Registration here.

Don’t miss the fun — register today!

Twenty Years of Sailing and ‘Latitude 38’ for this Golden Ticket Winner

We’re back with another sailing-life story from Latitude reader and recent Golden Ticket winner Adam James. Hailing from Novato, James has been sailing the midwinter series with Sausalito Yacht Club, which he says “are really fun.” And while in town, Adam picked up his winning issue from the nearby West Marine in Marin City. “I’ve been reading this magazine for about 20 years now!!!” he tells us. “Love it!”

Adam James with Golden Ticket
All smiles for Adam James as he finds his Golden Ticket in the February issue of Latitude 38.
© 2024 Adam James

Twenty years is also how long Adam has been a sailor. He began with lessons at Sailing Education Adventures (SEA) when they were based in Sausalito. (SEA now operates out of San Rafael and is the winner of PCYA’s 2023 Garrett Horder Trophy.)

“It was really fun to sail their Catalina 16.5-ft boats around Richardson Bay and meet other sailors,” Adam says. He then moved on to doing some cruising in the Bay and on the Petaluma River. He then started racing more, learning the ropes by crewing on a lot of different boats, and taking on the roles of rail meat, mast, pit, and trimmer. And, guess what? Adam found these crewing opportunities on the Latitude 38 Crew List page, proving the benefits of signing up — for both captains and crew! All Adam brought with him was “a positive attitude and willingness to learn.”

“I did so many types of races (YRA, OYRA, NOODs, midwinters) out of different harbors. It was great to see so much of the Bay,” he adds. “At one point, I did the Great Vallejo Race, 10 years in a row on various sailboats. Racing on different boats with different crews was so educational, because it allowed me to pick up a broad range of perspectives and skillsets to boat handling.”

All this practice and experience led to the inevitable. Adam is now a proud and happy boat owner, having recently bought the J/100 Northern Bear that was for sale in Seattle. Without going to see the boat, Adam signed the deal, and had it trucked to Sausalito. “I like its features and that it goes pretty fast for a daysailer,” he says. “It has a Hoyt jib boom, so I don’t need much crew.” Adam usually sails Northern Bear with his wife, and together they are racing and working on their doublehanding skills.

Adam aboard his J/100 Northern Bear.
© 2024 Adam James

Adam says his favorite thing about sailing is simply being out on the water. He encapsulates everything we love about sailing.

“[T]he Bay is a special place for sailors. Sometimes it’s really peaceful and beautiful, like when I’m motoring out the Sausalito channel at sunrise. Other times it’s invigorating, like when the wind picks up, the boat heels over, and I feel the acceleration. It’s also fun to gauge the wind direction and currents while racing around the marks. Additionally, I enjoy seeing the wildlife in their natural elements. It’s cool to see pelicans gliding above you, seals lounging on buoys, and dolphins swimming around your boat. There are just so many enjoyable aspects to sailing.”

Pre-race action ahead of the Three Bridge Fiasco.
© 2024 Adam James
Rain or shine. It makes no difference to Adam. His smiling face repels any dampness caused by the weather as he returns from an SYC midwinter race.
© 2024 Adam James

And when asked about his most memorable sailing moments, Adam shares a story about a California cruising course with Orange Coast College (OCC) on a 65-ft sloop named Alaska Eagle.

“We went out the Golden Gate and turned left toward our destination of Newport Beach, stopping at various ports along the way. One night, we were on a run with full sails up under a full moon. The sound and feeling of just the boat surfing down these big ocean swells in the middle of the night was totally amazing. On the way to Newport Beach, we anchored at San Miguel Island and took a dinghy to shore the next day. It was a really unique experience because it felt like we had this entire Channel Island to ourselves. Well, just us and a bunch of elephant seals!”

We love Adam’s story and can feel his joy of sailing in every word. By the way, you don’t have to wait to be a Golden Ticket winner to send us your sailing story. If you want to share, drop us a line at [email protected].

‘Latitude 38’ Seminar for Fall Southbound Cruisers at Svendsen’s Spring Fling

The 30th Annual Baja Ha-Ha will be here before you know it. (Sign-ups open May 9.) To help you get ready, Latitude 38 has arranged for cruisers and authors Pat and Carole McIntosh to give a seminar at the Svendsen’s Spring Fling on Saturday, April 13, at 1 p.m. Pat and Carole are the authors of the comprehensive cruising guide, Cruising Notes — Know Before You Go (download below). They put on their popular seminar many times at the boat shows at Jack London Square and in Richmond before COVID shut it all down. This is their first presentation since then!

Pat & Carole McIntosh
Sailors, cruisers and seminar speakers Pat and Carole McIntosh will help you get ready to sail south at the Svendsen’s Spring Fling.
© 2024 Pat McIntosh

The McIntoshes have roughly 50 years of sailing under their belts. Their sailing résumés include thousands of miles of bluewater cruising in addition to spending many years developing an in-depth knowledge of the California Delta and the west coast of North America. In the process, they have made multiple trips up and down the coasts of California and Mexico, including several Baja Ha-Ha’s and Baja Bashes, and a few years of “commuter-cruising” in Mexico. These sailors will not only guide you down the Pacific Coast, but can answer any land-based questions you may have — roads, airport connections, shopping — to ensure you get the most out of your trips south of the border. And this covers both extended cruising and commuter-cruising.

The primary focus of Pat and Carole’s seminar is to help prepare you for cruising, and take you safely and comfortably through towns and villages heading south from San Francisco to the coastal waters of the Baja peninsula, up into the of the Sea of Cortez and south along the coastal waters of Mexico. They can also introduce you to voyaging as far south as Panama.

Cruising Notes
Download this first so you can bring it with you and take notes!
© 2024 Pat & Carole McIntosh

The McIntoshes have helped thousands of sailors prepare for cruising. Their cruising logs, seminar notes, information on recent regulation changes, and constant input from active cruisers have led to the creation of their two cruising books, CRUISING NOTES —Things to know before you go, and CRUISING NOTES —Underway to Mexico. Their books are compiled with their particular blend of firsthand knowledge and zest for the cruising lifestyle, resulting in an invaluable collection of tips, data, and useful information not readily available anywhere else.

Download your complimentary copy of their 300+ page book, CRUISING NOTES – Things to know before you go (10th Edition) from Latitude 38, and bring it with you to their seminar at this year’s Svendsen’s Spring Fling Expo. Pat and Carole invite you to join in, ask questions, and participate in the conversation as they help you prepare for your sail of a lifetime, to wherever the wind blows!

We also just talked with Rich Bron of Cruise RO Watermakers, who said he’ll also be there. We look forward to seeing Rich, Pat and Carole — and you — at the Spring Fling! It’s a great time and place to start getting your boat ready for summer sailing or heading south with the Baja Ha-Ha.

Nine Days To Go for Applications to MerConcept Women’s Ocean 50 Race Program

Cole Brauer’s record-setting circumnavigation has opened the world of Grand Prix sailing to more women by demonstrating the possible. You don’t know till you try. Right on the heels of her success is the opportunity for women who want to move up in offshore Grand Prix racing to apply to join the crew of 11th Hour Racing’s MerConcept Multi 50 trimaran campaign. The deadline to apply is March 24 — nine days away!

MerConcept reports that, so far, 30 women have applied. They will be selecting 12 for tryouts at their Concarneau base in the home of offshore sailing, in Brittany, France, and six will be selected for the final team.

You can learn more from our announcement story here or in our recent podcast with Bay Area sailor Melinda Erkelens, who is managing the program together with team captain Francesca Clapcich.

Apply here by March 24!

Open 50 Trimaran
Don’t miss this opportunity!
© 2024 Upwind by MerConcept

Why ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’ Is the Greatest Sailing Movie of All Time

After the Hollywood award season came to an end last week, a little hyperbole and pablum about cinema seemed in order: We’re calling Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World the greatest sailing movie of all time.

Nearly the entirety of Master and Commander (94% — I measured) takes place on a ship under sail. The movie is thoughtfully directed, well-acted and beautifully written — the amalgam of three Patrick O’Brian novels from the 20-book Aubrey–Maturin series. It’s a Hollywood blockbuster set on the high seas that has the gravitas of a historical, sweeping epic, combined with the edge-of-your-seat pace of a popcorn action flick. The film garnered critical acclaim and was a “moderate” box-office success. It’s full of drama, intrigue, surprise (forgive the pun), swashing and buckling.

Released in November 2003, Master and Commander was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director for Peter Weir; the film won for cinematography and sound editing. And now, 21 years after its release, Latitude 38 is proud to declare Master and Commander the greatest sailing movie ever to grace the big screen.

Master and Commander had a budget of $150 million and made $211.6 million at the box office.
© 2024 Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Films

Act One — 1805. North Coast of Brazil

In the glaring moonlight, we see a silhouette of the 28-gun, 197-soul English frigate HMS Surprise. Her mission: to intercept the French privateer Acheron, which threatens to tighten Napoleon’s grip on the world.

We’re onboard a ship under sail, our ears filled with creaking and groaning. (A sailor might hear the soothing drone of a night watch.) We see rows of hammocks swaying from the interior like cocoons. We pass livestock and rows of cannons — one is named “Sudden Death.” Two bells are struck, and the watch changes with sailors descending and ascending the rigging in the predawn moonlight. Not a word is spoken, nor barely a character seen, for the first two minutes of the movie.

A ghostly silhouette is spotted in the fog. (It’s the Acheron.) The crew beat to quarters, and we’re introduced to our dashing, ponytailed hero, Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe. Through his telescope, the captain sees a flash in the fog. “Get down!” Surprise is smashed and splintered with cannon fire, but the crew never fails to be extraordinarily English: “Damage report if you please!” We are instantly under the, calm, confident command of Captain Aubrey, who never fails to be debonair.

Surprise is crushed by fire again. Rigging and decks explode. Water gushes in and there’s blood all over the deck. Captain Aubrey is down, maybe wounded, and as a viewer on my 10th-plus rewatch, I genuinely wonder if our newly introduced heroes have been defeated in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Alas, with Aubrey’s guile and the crew’s muscle and bravery — which will play out again and again — Surprise is pulled to safety in the fog, soundly beaten.

After repairs, she intends to pursue the Acheron.

At its heart, Master and Commander is an immense chase scene, with interludes of microdramas between the crew set in a microcosm of 19th century British society, where class is strictly divided, even in extremely close quarters. (We never see a soul on the Acheron until the end of the film.) We get to know the crew and look forward to their company — many of them have only a few lines and mere minutes of screen time. There’s 13-year-old midshipman Blakeney, who’s injured in the first battle and has his arm amputated in a graphic scene. There’s the battle-scarred but always cheerful Lt. Pullings, the eagle-eyed coxswain Bonden, the grumbling, cantankerous cook, the wise older sailing master Mr. Allen, and the timid Mr. Hollom, who will be labeled a Jonah — a cursed, doomed man. We’re sweating, shivering, sloppy drunk and shoulder to shoulder with a crew in peril, bored, at war, and having a grand adventure.

The crew of HMS Surprise.
© 2024 From top down: Tumblr/

Act Two — Confrontation

I’m sure there’ll be some “Which is better?” debate about Master and Commander the books vs. the movie. I haven’t read any Patrick O’Brian novels, and I’m sure they’ll be some grumblings as to my qualifications to critique the movie. But on this last rewatch, I became fascinated by the relationship between Jack Aubrey and ship’s doctor Stephen Maturin, played by Paul Bettany. Aubrey, a navy man, swashes and buckles, while Maturin, an educated deep thinker, wants to explore and do science. Maturin is skeptical of power and authority, while Aubrey is the power and authority. Aubrey plays the violin and Maturin the cello, and the two perform a kind of opposing duet throughout the film, both musically and dramatically, creating the moral tension that’s key to cinematic drama.

After being caught by the Acheron again, but masterfully deceiving her and eventually sneaking up behind her, Surprise is in hot pursuit all the way to Cape Horn. But Aubrey — driven by his damned hubris, as any flawed hero is — pushes too hard, snapping a mast he knew to be compromised and losing a man overboard. The pace of the movie and the chase slows to a crawl, which might remind sailors of the vacillations of life at sea. Much like a passage (and this article), the movie is long — with a running time of two hours and 18 minutes.

Aubrey offers Maturin a chance to explore the Galápagos Islands, but as they arrive at the archipelago, they learn that the Acheron has just departed. This leads to a perfunctory argument to display that elemental tension between the two main characters. “We don’t have time for your damned hobbies, sir,” Aubrey screams, almost making fun of his friend after enticing him with the promise of exploration.

“I must hurry past inestimable wonders [for a pursuit] bent solely on destruction. I say nothing of the corruption of power,” Maturin counters. These are the morally diametric points of view: war, peace and the pursuit of discovery. Everything must be sacrificed for the chase.

But in a wonderful twist, both Aubrey and Maturin will sacrifice their own dramatic needs for the other man’s desires.

Dr. Stephen Maturin catches fish for study while the crew of Surprise practices on the cannons so that they can “fire two broadsides to the Acheron’s one.”
© 2024 Miramax Films/Universal Pictures/Samuel Goldwyn Films

Intermission — Behind the Scenes

The majority of the Master and Commander shoot took place on a full-scale replica, mounted on gimbals, at Baja Studios in Rosarito; it was the same 20-million-gallon tank originally built to film Titanic. There were a mere 10 days of filming aboard the real-life Surprise, a 1970-built replica of the 18th century Royal Navy frigate Rose, now bearing her movie name and berthed on the San Diego cityfront. There were also “miniatures” (one was up to 34-ft long) and lots special effects. Footage taken while aboard a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour rounding Cape Horn in 2002 was digitally incorporated into Master and Commander’s Southern Ocean scenes.

Left: The 179-ft LOA HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Right: A replica of Surprise at Baja Studios in Rosarito.
© 2024 Wikipedia

Surprise was chasing an American vessel in the Aubrey-Maturin novels, but in 2001/02, the studio had to consider the sensitivities of a post-9/11 audience … and the French were easy targets at the time.

In 2000, Tom Perkins wrote of Patrick O’Brian in Latitude 38: “1) his capacity for serious drinking greatly exceeded my own; 2) his reserve only eased very slightly in the presence of this unknown American (me) and; 3) his knowledge of the practical aspects of sailing seemed, amazingly, almost nil.”

— Best quotes, all from Aubrey/Crowe:

  • “Do you not know that in the service … one must always choose the lesser of two weevils?”
  • On the captain of the Acheron: “What is it with this man? Did I kill a relative of his in battle perhaps? His boy, God forbid?”
  • “Name a shrub after me — something prickly and hard to eradicate.”

— As Surprise sails in frigid weather (upon a digital sea), a crewman is briefly seen defecating on the bow.

When nature calls …
© 2024 Reddit

— Russell Crowe was at the height of his superstardom, coming off three-straight years of acting nominations — including a win in 2001 for best actor in Gladiator — when he was cast for Master and Commander. There are moments, however, when I feel like he’s not quite pulling off his stately English accent. (Or that it feels forced.)

Crowe holds the space as captain well and is so obviously in command of men both younger and older than he is. (He reportedly arrived on set a week early so that he’d have an air of experience when the rest of the cast arrived.) You can’t not root for or be legitimately inspired by him, and I can’t imagine another actor in the role, but something about his performance, which is otherwise perfect, has always felt a little off.

When he’s not so damned dashing, Captain Jack Aubrey is so damned resolute.
© 2024 Emeraldraw/YouTube

Act Three — Resolution

Maturin is accidentally shot at sea, and the best chance to save him is to get back to shore. (Maturin actually performs surgery on himself, another uncomfortable scene taken from the books.) Even though the Acheron is finally in sight, Aubrey gives up the chase to save his friend.

We’re soon on land for the first and only time in the movie, with Maturin convalescing while the crew plays cricket and distills spirts from cacti. Once he’s well enough, Dr. Maturin sets out across the island to collect samples, all under the hypnotic score of Bach’s cello suite No. 1 in G major. All Galápagos scenes were shot on location, and it’s here that Master and Commander feels like something higher-brow than your ordinary Hollywood flick.

A brief interlude on the Galápagos Islands takes Master and Commander into another (assuredly loftier) realm of movie.
© 2024 The Internet

Reaching a high peak on the other side of the island, Maturin sees the Acheron. He knows that he must abandon everything, again, for war. Aubrey hatches an ingenious plan after seeing a phasmid, an insect that disguises itself as a stick, which Maturin collected — Surprise will disguise herself as a whaler to draw in the Acheron. “I had no idea that a study of nature could advance the art of naval warfare,” Aubrey says.

Preparations are made for the final, brilliant act, where the element of surprise (pun intended) wins the day. I won’t bother with a blow-by-blow of the final battle — rest assured that our heroes win the day, but not without tragic losses.

After the battle, Surprise is headed back to the Galápagos yet again. Aubrey was told by the Acheron’s doctor that their captain was killed in battle, but Maturin tells Aubrey that the doctor actually died months ago. Le capitaine is still alive? (You guys couldn’t have gotten together before the Acheron sailed and figured that out?)

And it’s here that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World solidifies itself as an incredibly well-told story, and the greatest sailing movie of all time. Even though both Aubrey and Maturin traveled their moral arcs and sacrificed their own fundamental desires for the other man, they cannot escape the chase.

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