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.