Rolex Big Boat Series trophies awarded

Rolex Big Boat fleet upwind in front of Alcatraz

There's a saying in sailboat racing that if there's wind, then everyone is happy. It's safe to say that the competitors in the Rolex Big Boat Series were ecstatic with today's conditions of 8-10 knots in the morning, building to 15+ knots by early afternoon for the regatta's final race - known as the Bay Tour.

The St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) Race Committee sent the 10 competing classes on courses ranging from 15.44 to 21.01 nautical miles. When it was all over, six of the 10 class winners were awarded one of the StFYC's Perpetual Trophies as well as a Steel Submariner Rolex timepiece in recognition of their accomplishments.

Earlier this morning, as a tribute to the late Olin J. Stephens, each boat motored past the yacht club, through the 'A' and 'B' marks which would later serve as the finish line, and tossed one single white rose into the Bay before heading out to the race course.

In IRC A class, Bill Turpin's (Santa Cruz, CA) Reichel/Pugh 78 Akela took line honors in the final race; however it was John Kilroy Jr's (Los Angeles, CA) TP52 Samba Pa Ti that won the race on corrected time and with it the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy. Dedicated in 1964, it is the only one that does not rotate among the classes each year. It was deeded to the premier handicap division, the IRC A class in this 44th annual regatta.

Vinctore, the Reichel/Pugh IRC 52 chartered by Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI) finished second overall, while Akela was third in the 9-boat class.

In IRC B class, Brad Copper (Point Richmond, CA) and his Custom Tripp 43 TNT held onto the lead by winning the last race and was awarded the City of San Francisco Trophy, one of the two golden spades used to break ground for the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933. Michael Diepenbrock (San Francisco) and his Swan 45 Rancho Deluxe finished second. Third place went to Swiftsure II, owned by Sy Kleinman (Saratoga, Calif.) who counted this as his 28th Big Boat regatta.

Steve Taft, Swiftsure's helmsman and past America's Cup competitor recalled the moment onboard this morning as the crew paid tribute to Olin Stephens. 'Olin was a good friend of mine and it was sad to see him go,' said Taft who first met Stephens during the 1974 America's Cup defense with Intrepid. 'I was thinking that I saw him last year in Newport and the year before we were together for a 12 Metre reunion, the old 1974/77 crew. Last year we went to this party and Olin was late because he was still out sailing, at 98 years old. So it was a fitting moment out there this morning to throw the rose over and remember him.'

In IRC C class, Dave Kirby (Manhattan Beach, CA) and his J/122 TKO won the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial Trophy for the second year in a row, which was established in 1976 to honor Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn. Scorpio, the Wylie 42 owned by John Siegel (San Francisco) finished in second place, with Jeff Pulford's Sydney 38 Bustin' Loose, in third.

White Dove finished the regatta with a bullet and won IRC D class. Owner Mike Garl (San Francisco) was awarded the Atlantic Perpetual Trophy. Established in 1978, it features the ship's bell of the yacht Atlantic, long-time Transatlantic Ocean record holder (1905). The bell was donated by John C. 'Jack' Morris, and the trophy by Jack H. Feller Jr.

Garl had stated before the regatta that he was going to retire after this Rolex Big Boat Series. 'This is just the highlight of my sailing career,' said Garl after learning of his win. 'I've been saying I'm going to retire and this was really exciting for us.' At the end of today's race, his crew presented him with a retirement watch since he thought he was not going to win a Rolex. With the news that he indeed was going to win a Rolex as winner of the 13-boat IRC D class, he was clearly pleased by his crew's hard work today.

'Today we were going in four points ahead,' said Garl. 'We had a wonderful time last night at our crew dinner and everyone was in good spirits. I think we were a little over confident this morning and we had a very poor start, in fact. We fouled a boat at the start and we calculated that we had to take a 20% penalty, which would wipe out our four point advantage, so we were dead even with next boat, Tupelo Honey. So we said, 'OK, we didn't plan it this way, but we're going to go out and win.' We stretched out and had a nice lead around Blackaller (mark by the Golden Gate Bridge). I think we needed two and a half minutes on them and it was actually 3-4 minutes that we were ahead of them. We had a comfortable margin. When you relax, things go well. It was a situation where we could get negative, but we just took a very positive attitude to the race and won.' Tupelo Honey, owned by Gerard Sheridan (San Francisco), finished in second place.

The Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy, established in 1972 in his memory of Richard Rheem whose famous yacht Morning Star was the elapsed time winner in the 1949 and 1955 Transpac races to Honolulu, went to John Porter (Lake Geneva, WI) and his boat Full Throttle for winning the 9-boat Melges 32 class.

'It's thrilling to win,' said Porter after the Rolex Trophy Ceremony. 'There are so many good sailors out there. We barely won. Going into today we were tied for first with Michael Illbruck. They're just terrific sailors. They had a bad first leg. They went to Alcatraz, and we went to the beach. It made us lackadaisical, made us not sail the boat properly. We sailed the last 15 minutes of the race the best we ever sailed. They actually crossed our bow on the last upwind leg. They got out to the right and passed us and that ebb was just flowing big, you had to be good. It's a thrill to win, especially a watch. I usually don't win Rolex watches when I do well at a regatta. It's cool, really exciting.'

Porter's father-in-law is Gene Trepte, who chaired the Defense Committee for San Diego Yacht Club in the 1992 defense for the America's Cup. 'This morning, we talked about how cool it was that the yacht club was doing this memorial. We said, 'Here's to Olin' and put the rose in the water. Gene was really good friends with Olin and has been very close to him for many years, so I have always heard stories about him. It was a great tribute. My hat's off to the StFYC.'

Illbruck's Pinta (Munich, GER) finished in third behind Peter Taeseler (New York, NY) on Bliksem in second.

The last Perpetual Trophy, the Commodore's Cup, which was established in 2004 to be awarded to the largest one-design fleet, will be awarded to the winner of the J/105 class Chris Perkins (San Francisco). Perkins and his brother co-own Good Timin' and were named the winners after Donkey Jack, owned by Scott Sellers and Rolf Kaiser (both San Francisco), was disqualified from the race after being protested by Race Committee (RC) for not passing a tanker as prescribed.

Good Timin' won the 31-boat J/105 class. Tim Russell's (Belvedere, CA) finished in second place with Scooter Simmons (Belvedere, CA) on Blackhawk, in third.

In the 1D35 class, Gary Boell's (Brickyard Cove, CA) Diablita won the race over Mario Yovkov's (San Francisco) Great Sensation. Mistral, owned by Edward Durbin (Richmond, CA), won the 6-boat Beneteau 36.7 class, while Bartz Schneider (San Francisco) won the race with his Expeditious and the Express 37 class, and with the win clinched the national championship title.

In the J/120s, Steve Madeira's (Northeast Harbor, ME) Mr. Magoo slipped into second place behind Barry Lewis' (San Francisco) Chance, which won the 8-boat class.

The 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series will be held September 9-13 at the St. Francis Yacht Club and double as the Rolex US-IRC National Championship.

This evening competitors celebrated the end of the regatta with the Rolex Trophy Ceremony where specially engraved Rolex Steel Submariner timepieces were awarded to the St. Francis Yacht Club's six Perpetual Trophy winners.

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