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Rolling Up to the Rolex Big Boat Series

This evening, sailors will gather at St. Francis Yacht Club on the San Francisco Marina. What will they be doing there? Weighing in, checking in and sitting in on a competitors’ briefing for the Rolex Big Boat Series, and learning which divisions will sail for which trophies (and watches).

Merlin with rainbow spinnaker
Chip Merlin will race the legendary Bill Lee 68 Merlin in ORC A this year.
© 2022 Dan Marshall

What can the participants and spectators expect from the regatta to be sailed this Thursday through Sunday?

  • The Cal 40 class returns. The oft-raced Cal 39 Sea Star joins four actual Cal 40s. StFYC Commodore Peter Gilmore will sail on Longboard
  • The largest division belongs to the J/105. They’ve attracted the most sign-ups (29) to RBBS that they’ve had in years. They’re tuning up for their North Americans at San Francisco YC starting on September 26.  
  • With the J/105s, J/88s and J/70s making up the bulk of entries, this regatta looks to be a sort of J/Fest. Express 37s have the fifth one-design division. 
  • StFYC has switched from the ORR (Offshore Rating Rule) to the ORC (Offshore Racing Congress) rating system for the first time at RBBS. This is the second regatta on San Francisco Bay under this internationally recognized rating system. (The first regatta on the Bay under ORC was StFYC’s Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta in August. That regatta serves as a tune-up for the RBBS.) ORC has been split into two divisions.
  • The Classics division is back. They’ll have one race on each of the four days. The gorgeous boats, all built before 1955, will draw the eye of spectators who may not even know much about yacht racing.    
  • Yacht club teams will compete for a new StFYC Team Trophy. The yacht club team with the best score in the Rolex Big Boat Series will win the trophy. Each team member must be entered under the same yacht club, represented by three entries competing in at least one ORC and one one-design boat, plus one additional boat from any class. Check out a list of the teams that have entered here.
  • Spectators will have many excellent venues from which to view the action — among them, no less than the Golden Gate Bridge. Crissy Field and the wave organ spit are other (perhaps more comfortable) choices.
J/70 Cool Story Bro
Cool Story, Bro won the J/70 division last year. Eight of the 22.75-ft boats entered this year. They are once again the smallest boats in Big Boats.
© 2022 Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

Andy Schwenk, who needed a medevac during his return delivery from the Pacific Cup due to a severe infection, is out of the hospital. Andy’s Express 37 Spindrift V remains in RBBS, with Bart Hackworth at the helm. Andy will watch the racing from the club, and Spindrift has a docking spot close to Regatta Plaza, so that Andy will be able to get down to the boat in his wheelchair and check in with his team. 


Mercifully for the sailors, last week’s intense high-pressure heat wave, which would have been detrimental to exciting racing, has switched off. A low-pressure system has just passed through, and we expect typical San Francisco Cityfront conditions for the regatta. Winds will tend to be lighter for the first race of each day, building as the afternoon progresses. When you start seeing kiteboarders and wing sailors near the Golden Gate, you know the breeze is on!

Water Witch
John and Gena Egelston’s actively raced 56-ft 1928 P-Class cutter Water Witch will be back, sailing in the five-boat Classics division.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Latitude 38 has several weather links on our website. A glance at the National Weather Service site reveals a Small Craft Advisory for tomorrow, with winds gusting up to 28 knots. Sunday looks to be the lightest day, with a chance of rain.

We’ll be on-site covering the regatta, and we wish all the sailors a safe, successful and super-fun regatta!

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