Next weekend's Rolex Big Boat Series at St Francis Yacht Club is expected to attract over 100 entries

After four decades of superlative competition on the San Francisco Bay, organisers of the Rolex Big Boat Series which takes place 15-18 September expect this year’s regatta at St Francis Yacht Club to set a few new milestones for the historic event.

To date, there are 32 entries in the IRC fleet and a diverse fleet of one-designs that make up the 100-plus boat roster competing for six historic Perpetual Trophies. At the conclusion of the four-day regatta, specially engraved Rolex timepieces also will be awarded to the perpetual trophy winners.

In addition to naming Rolex as the regatta’s first title sponsor, St Francis YC has been busily preparing for the fleet which includes a handful of big boats, including Genuine Risk, the Dubois 90 owned by Randall Pitman; Peligroso, the Dencho 70 owned by Mike Campbell and Dale Williams, Morning Glory, the MaxZ86 owned by Hasso Platner (Germany) with Russell Coutts and Morgan Larson sharing tactician duties; and the R/P 72 Beecom, owned by Isao Mita of Yokohama, Japan with Gavin Brady serving as an alternate helmsman. Beecom was built in New Zealand in 2004 and has made a name for itself in the Bay of Islands Race Week (NZ), the Coastal Cup and the Centennial Transpac Race.

Following tradition, the J/105 class is the largest fleet with 28 entries, to date. Stuart Taylor, the San Francisco’s fleet captain summarised the competition: “The Perkins/Wilson team on Good Timin? remains the boat to beat in the fleet, however, the competition is getting tougher,” he said. “Tim Russell on Aquavit has been barking at their heels all season, and Scott Sellers will be driving a new boat to the fleet this year, Donkey Jack. And the fleet welcomes the return of Bergman and Bennett in Zuni Bear, Dean Dietrich?s Blackhawk and Peter Wagner’s Nantucket Sleighride – absent from local competition for much of the year. The J/105 fleet is the largest one-design keelboat class on the bay. One of the keys to the class’s success is a strict owner-driver rule, the absence of professionals in the fleet and a focus on skills rather than dollars.

Coveted prizes for the fleet are six perpetual trophies: Richard Rheem, St. Francis, City of San Francisco, Atlantic, Keefe-Kilborn Memorial and the Commodore’s Cup. Specially engraved Rolex timepieces also will be awarded to the perpetual trophy winners.

Racing takes place on San Francisco Bay within viewing range of Pier 39 and the Marina District, between Treasure Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, with the finish line set off St Francis Yacht Club Race Deck. The IRC division will have the racecourse option of going ‘outside’ the Golden Gate Bridge.