Over 1,000 sailors lined up for the start of the Rolex Big Boat Series at St Francis YC, San Francisco yesterday

Over 1,000 sailors lined up for the start of the Big Boat Series Presented by Rolex at St Francis YC, San Francisco yesterday.

Racing in the seven-race series was held on the Bay where two IRC fleets and an additional seven one-design classes competed under sunny skies with steady, 12-18knot wind.

In a successful debut on San Francisco Bay, Nicholas Lykiardopulo’s (Athens, Greece) Kerr 55 AERA leads the IRC A class racing for the St Francis Perpetual Trophy. In second-place is Zephyra, the DK46 owned by Robert Youngjohns. Lykiardopulo and his team, which includes Skipper, former Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Jez Fanstone, are on a quest to sail the world’s great regattas, with specific interest in laying claim to the first American IRC event. From this event, AERA will go to the Southern Hemisphere to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, a race the team won in 1998 aboard a previous incarnation of AERA. IRC B class, racing for the Atlantic Perpetual Trophy, is led by Just in Time, a Farr/Beneteau 42.6 owned by Norman Olson.

In one-design racing, the closely watched TP52 class saw very close and exciting racing among all nine entrants. Karl Kwok’s (Hong Kong) Beau Geste traded first and second-place finishes with Makoto Uematsu’s (Tokyo, Japan) Esmeralda to tie for three points. BMW Oracle Racing helmsman Gavin Brady serves as tactician aboard Beau Geste, a role he has held since the inception of Kwok’s modern grand-prix racing programme in the late 80s. Brady’s America’s Cup teammates on board include Dirk de Ridder and Jamie Gale. Defending champion Rosebud, owned by Roger Sturgeon (Fort Lauderdale) is in fourth overall, with Yassou, owned by Jim Demetriades (Los Angeles) is in third.

In the 31-boat J/105 class, a collision in the first race involving a handful of competitors occurred at a mark rounding, causing some damage and all of the boats to retired from racing. Defending class champion Good Timin, owned by the ubiquitous San Francisco Perkins brothers Chris, John and Phil, are in second-place behind Tim Russell’s (Novato) Aquavit.

“We were so lucky today,” said Chris Perkins, who sat out last year’s Big Boat due to commitments with Oracle BMW Racing. “In the second race, the big decision was to either to sail toward the shore or close to Alcatraz. We knew that because there was a late flooding tide, the shore would be better, but there would be more wind near Alcatraz. We went to Alcatraz and were passed by about 10 boats. They all sailed into a hole, but we had the speed to pass them by then.” One point behind is Tom Coates’s (San Francisco) Charade, the West Coast twin of his Masquerade, which won the New York Yacht Club Race Week presented by Rolex.

Jim Richardson (Boston), still riding a high from his win at the Rolex Farr 40 worlds held here last week, won the first race with his Barking Mad, then combined that with a third to take the lead in the nine-boat class. “It’s not a bad start,” said Richardson. “We’ll definitely take it.” Chuck Parrish’s (Hillsborough) Slingshot, which is guided by Olympic bronze medallist Jeff Madrigali, is in second-place, tied on points with Barking Mad. Steve and Fred Howe’s (San Diego) Warpath, with John Cutler on board, is in third.

Mike Garl (San Carlos) is one of two undefeated skippers to date. His White Dove leads the Beneteau 40.7 class, while Mr Magoo, owned by Stephen Madero (Menlo Park) leads the J/120 class.

Two races are planned for today (Friday) and Saturday, with one final race planned for Sunday.