The Rolex Big Boat Series traditionally forms the climax to J105 Fleet One’s season. Hosted by the distinguished and very competent folks at the St Francis Yacht Club, the annual event truly deserves its reputation for world-class competition and the best crew parties on the West Coast. Racing started on Thursday 6th September under the sunny summer conditions with a stiff breeze already established through The Slot. Moon and sun conspired to provide a relatively small (for San Francisco Bay) tidal flow, and the wind remained, by and large, under 18 kts, yielding a more tactical and less survival-oriented event than those in the recent past.
The first day’s racing began on the North Course in gentle ebb and just 12 kts of breeze from the South West. Risk and Blackhawk made decisive moves to the left, which paid off well. Speed and boat-on-boat tactical calls kept them ahead of the pack and they rounded the weather mark with good separation that they never surrendered – first blood to Blackhawk. Race 2 started on the City-Front course into a building flood tide. The left paid early, but boats that failed to find a lane back to The Cone behind Alcatraz were punished as the crews that committed to the right side early-on recovered their initial losses and controlled the critical space behind the island. Risk found clean air on a high lane for the dash to the beach and lead the tacking scrum through the current relief along the shore. The rounding at Presidio Shoals was very busy as the pack converged at the mark in puffy and uncertain wind conditions prior to the downwind leg. After one more upwind and a downwind dash along the beach for a race-deck finish, Risk ended the day on top, having sailed to a bullet and a second, ahead of Blackhawk (7) and Godot with Mojo tied on 10 points.
Weather conditions and race schedule on day two and three were identical – one North-Course and one City-Front. Stable, but geographically-variable wind conditions and the turning of the tide in mid race made for an interesting contest. Wianno chose the right side early in race 3 and committed to it aggressively. This move paid-off and they benefitted from a huge lift. They rounded the weather mark in first place by multiple boat lengths, and sailed on to take the bullet. Risk, the regatta leader, did not fare so well on day two, recording only a 12th and a 5th. Godot and Donkey Jack each took home 6 points on the day, with Donkey scoring a bullet, while Godot’s best score was a 2nd in Race 4.The regatta lead shifted in favor of Godot, with multiple boats in contention close behind.
Godot and Risk suffered on Day three as Donkey Jack posted another bullet and Blackhawk returned to form with a bullet and a 4th, tying for first overall on points closely followed by Godot. With all to play for in the final race – the arduous final Bay Tour – Sunday was shaping up to be very interesting.
Weather conditions for the Bay Tour remained consistent and any one of Blackhawk, Godot, Donkey-Jack, Risk and Arbitrage had a realistic shot at winning the regatta. The fleet split after the start with Blackhawk, Risk and Arbitrage favoring the left and Godot committing early and hard to the right. An excellent start, boat speed and a huge advantage on the right of the course sprung Godot out of the pack and Donkey Jack tacked to join them. The other regatta leaders reacted too late and were unable to overcome the early leverage that benefitted the port tack boats on the right hand side of the course. To win the regatta, Godot needed to finish 4 boats ahead of Donkey Jack. During the remainder of the race, Godot stayed in front of a pack consisting of Donkey Jack, Mojo, Roxanne and Advantage3, protecting clear air and the favored course. At the finish Godot took a bullet, with Advantage3 in second, Roxanne 3rd and, crucially, Donkey Jack in 4th place. The regatta, the Rolex and the 2012 J105 Big Boat Series was won by Donkey Jack on a tie-breaker.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Logan-Paige-Simpson, Noods and Salsalito cup match racing.