Three maxi yachts sign up for this September's Rolex Big Boat Series in St Francisco Bay

With three months until this September’s Rolex Big Boat Series, many of the world’s top maxi yacht programmes are making plans to compete in the West Coast classic in St Francisco, USA.

Race organisers at the St Francis Yacht Club confirmed the entries of three maxis: Genuine Risk, the Dubois 90 owned by Randall Pitman; Morning Glory, the MaxZ86 owned by Hasso Platner (Germany) with Russell Coutts and Morgan Larson sharing tactician duties; and Peligroso, the Dencho 70 owned by Mike Campbell and Dale Williams.

For the first time in its 41-year history, the Rolex Big Boat Series will take competitors out of the San Francisco Bay, past the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean as part of an extended racecourse. The 2005 Rolex Big Boat Series is scheduled for 15-18 September and is expected to draw over 100 boats in 12 one-design and IRC handicap classes.

“Due to the size, speed and draft of the maxis, we need to take them outside the Golden Gate Bridge,” said John Craig, St FYC’s race manager. “Ideally, we’re trying to get an 18-24-mile racecourse and that’s hard to do on the San Francisco Bay.” Craig also noted that special docking arrangements are being set-up at the city’s Pier 45, on Fisherman’s Wharf, next door to the ferry terminal for Alcatraz, as the basin aside the St FYC is too shallow to accommodate the maxis.

Although racing on San Francisco Bay is considered an inshore venue and not the typical maxi boat arena, the Rolex Big Boat Series annually attracts some of the world’s top ocean racers eager to face the challenge of California’s famed Golden Gate, one of the world’s most tumultuous bodies of water. Up to 335 feet deep and only a mile and a quarter wide, the Golden Gate is the largest California coastal opening – a portal into which the Pacific Ocean surges.

Powerful currents also flow in the opposite direction, as water from many of Northern California’s freshwater rivers and streams rushes into San Francisco Bay. This freshwater flow collides with the incoming Pacific, creating complex and violent currents. At 2.3 million cubic feet per second, these currents pump one-sixth of the volume of the San Francisco Bay through the Gate and into the Pacific Ocean every day.

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 the Pacific Ocean and 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 the St Francis Yacht Club Race Deck.