Out & About The Bay – by Jillian Humphreys
The Rolex Big Boat Series Brings Classic And Modern Boats Back To The SF Bay!
Traveling to the San Francisco Bay to watch the Rolex Big Boat Series out of the St. Francis Yacht Club is something that I have done a lot, but mostly to watch my friends. I have always wanted to be on one of the boats, stand on the stage and be looked up to as a true bad ass. However, due to certain circumstances in my life I have not been able to. Instead, I get to be a part of it in other ways like this rare opportunity to report on this historical four-day event that brings sailors from all over to compete.
The Rolex Big Boat Series has not always been called the Rolex Big Boat Series, but rather the Big Boat Series. The partnership with Rolex only began about 18 years ago and has brought people from all over the world to compete in one of the highest levels of sail boat competition known. The prestigious four-day event has only been cancelled twice in its 56-year history. The first was in 2001 after the attack on the World Trade Center, which happened only two days prior to the opening day of racing and the second was in 2020 due to the global pandemic. The field of boats in 2001 would have been the biggest in the regatta’s history. The Rolex Big Boat Series has partnered with Sailors for the Sea again for the ninth year. Sailors for the Sea program offers resources to improve the environmental footprint that the regatta causes.
This year we saw 85 boats and nine different fleets. The smallest boats out on the course were the J/70s measuring in at 22.74 feet and the longest vessel was Merlin, a 71.5-foot boat built by Bill Lee in CA., which held the record for the Transpacific Yacht Race for 20 years. The record time was eight days, 11 hours and one minute to get to Honolulu from Los Angeles, and was held from 1977-1997. Wow, that is a fast boat if you ask me. The J/88 fleet has only been participating in the event for a few years, but this event serves as their North American Championship since Gary Panariello of Sausalito took home the win this year. The local J/105 fleet was able to keep sailing and fine-tune their skills throughout the pandemic. This was shown as they left everything they had on the course. Ne Ne had my attention as Tim Russel has been chasing this win for at least the last two years, but unfortunately came up short when it came to the tiebreaker with Blackhawk, the 2019 winner. Hopefully, Russel will make a bigger splash next year.
The weather for the regatta varied from race course to race course, as well as changing day to day. On Thursday racers saw fog in the morning and winds that stayed consistent throughout the day which made for a typical fall day on the Bay. Friday saw stronger winds from the low teens in the morning hours to low twenties which made for epic photo finishes off the St. Francis race deck, including the shredding of a few spinnakers and failed steering systems. After the Mount Gay Rum party on Friday night the wind took a while to show up on Saturday. When it arrived, the presence came unusually from the south and was light. The Bay tour on Sunday was a beautiful sight to see. There were over 70 sail boats of all different styles, with the colors of their spinnakers creating a beautiful rainbow underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
The trophies are not all Rolex watches despite what one might think, as there are some unique ones that will surprise you. The City of San Francisco trophy was awarded from 1968 to 2019, and was a golden spade shovel that was used in the groundbreaking of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933. The trophy was returned to the De Young Museum in 2020 as it had been on loan since 1968. St. Francis Yacht Club is looking at getting a suitable replacement and the J/88 Courageous took this home as well. The St. Francis Perpetual Trophy and one of the lucky winners of a Rolex watch was a J/111 Rock & Roll out of Santa Barbara. The Atlantic Perpetual Trophy and winner of the second Rolex went to Annapolis Yacht and New York Yacht Club skipper Sandra Askew, who rocked a beautiful spinnaker with a portrait of her mother on it. It was appropriately named Flying Jenny. The Keefe-Kilborn Trophy was awarded to Scott Easom, local rigger of Eight Ball, and the nephew of Hank Easom who had his own special appearance in the Classics Division on Yucca, who took 3rd. The Express 37 fleet celebrated its own milestone this year at RBBS as it is the 30th year of competing. This year the fleet also decided to include their Pacific Coast Championships in the event. Shawn Ivie’s Limitless took home the bacon, or rather the Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy. The 2021 Nationals for the Express 37 fleet are set for later this year. The last, but definitely not least trophy for the event is the Commodores Cup. It is a special trophy that is awarded to the largest one-design fleet in the entire series. This year it went to the J/105 fleet, as there was a total of 22 boats on the starting line. As I sat and listened to the starts for the J/105 fleet on the press boat, it was clear that the J/105 competition was hot as the boats kept getting called over early and having to restart. The most elegant class of boats to watch was the classics. Out of the five entrants, two are over 90 years old, Hurrica V and Water Witch.
Let’s party and celebrate. Well, if the truth be told all sailors tend to scream when they are in intense situations, and yes, we sailors have rules of the road. After every day of racing, all the racers grab a beer and some food while discussing the highs and lows of the day’s events with their teams. Three of the four days of racing have two races. They have what is called the Bay Tour on the final day of racing. This race is to ensure that those spectating from St. Francis Yacht Club and Crissy Field get an up-close view of the boats in competition. The St. Francis Yacht Club provided live commentary and also had a live feed on Facebook. Commentary was provided by Kimball Livingston and Genny Tulloch. Sailors tend to leave things on the water. I know that personally some things can be said in the heat of the moment on the water, but as soon as we hit the dock all is forgotten unless it is something that involves contacting insurance companies.
I look forward to coming back in 2022 and seeing all of my friends that I made on this adventure, but in the meantime, you can virtually relive the event at stfyc.com
Hurrica Is More Than Just A New Waterfront Restaurant
The restaurant that is in the process of being built gets its namesake from the rich 97-year history of the classic sailing vessel by the name of Hurrica V. That history begins in Australia long before its arrival here in the South Bay. I sat down there with Mark Sanders, the 10th owner of the 1924 Nicholson Ketch which was built for comfort, to talk about the history of Hurrica V and how it inspired the new restaurant’s name at Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City.
The sailing vessel Hurrica V is over 70 feet in length overall, weighs in at over 70,000 pounds and is entirely made of wood, including the two 80-foot masts. She was originally called the Queen of Australia and was a historical landmark for many years. Mark and his family enjoyed sailing her around Sydney for many years until the fires in Australia broke out. They decided to sail the classic sailing yacht from Sydney to Brisbane, which was a five-day sail, and then over to Auckland, New Zealand where she was loaded on to a ship to come to North America. Last November, Mark endured the daunting task of sailing her north from Mexico to her new home here in the San Francisco Bay.
The Rolex Big Boat Series is the first North American race that Hurrica V has ever competed in. She has done a number of Sydney to Hobart races, as well as providing aid to the Australian Navy during WWII. The Australian Navy took the masts and cabins out and replaced them with machine guns and cannons. Hurrica V was used by the Navy to conduct rescue missions in New Guinea for submarines.
In 2001 she was pretty neglected when Steve Gunns, a local sailor and architect, found her in Broken Bay, a part of Avalon Harbour. Steve took the next eight years to restore her to her current state. He kept the original keel and replaced all the fasteners. Hurrica V has been upgraded over time to allow a minimum of two people to sail her. Steve upgraded everything to be as efficient as possible. The big bronze winches on the cabin top are now two-speed self-tailing winches. Hurrica V also has modern technology like a bow thruster to keep her out of harm’s way while docking, along with a washer and dryer. The quarter berths are both queen size beds while the forward berth is a king. The main saloon features a microwave and a table that seats 11 people. All the electrical accoutrements still have the 250V, but some also have 125V since she now lives in North America.
Mark has been sailing for years. He learned how to sail as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy and always dreamed of having a classic yacht on display in front of his yacht club. Mark owns Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City, and after 13 years the yacht club is being rebuilt. After looking at a number of classic boats throughout the world, and realizing that none compared to Hurrica V, Mark knew she was the one at first sight. Steve and Mark keep in touch about not only how Hurrica V has become the talk of the San Francisco Bay as a boat one must see when visiting Westpoint Harbor, but also how she does in the racing scene being that she is competing against boats much younger.
Hurrica V may look familiar if you come visit her as she starred in the 2013 feature film “The Great Gatsby” with Academy Award winner Leonardo Dicaprio, as Jay Gatsby. The producer of the film, Baz Luhrman, is from Australia. Despite the film being an American classic, he insisted that Hurrica V was the boat to be used to replicate the 1925 vibe that F. Scott Fitzgerald created in his novel. The flag shown in the movie is a traditional 1924 American flag and is the same one that Hurrica V flew at the Rolex Big Boat Series this year. Her sleek lines and design truly make her a piece of art.
I plan on visiting Mark and his boat again once the restaurant Hurrica is completed at Westpoint Harbor. I also plan to visit the new yacht club. The chef, Parke Ulrich, at the Waterbar restaurant on the Embarcadero has taken on opening and running the establishment and surprised Mark with the name, Hurrica. Parke explained to Mark that the vision is to be sitting in the restaurant enjoying a meal with the fabulous piece of craftsmanship to look upon. Mark says that he will most likely be caught sitting on Hurrica V eating food from Hurrica instead.
Hurrica is opening soon and I hope to catch up with Mark then. Please feel free to reach them at westpointharbor.com
Women Making Waves One Wave At A Time
Sandy Anderson Wertanen has been the driving force behind Women Making Waves. It all started a few years ago in the hopes of making her dream come true of skippering an all women crew across the Pacific to Hawaii, but then 2020 happened. Sandy has been sailing in the SF Bay since she first started sailing with the Cal Club in Berkeley about 30 years ago. Sandy became inspired when she received her college card and it had a photo of a sail boat. Later, she learned that the sail boat was racing what is called the Pacific Cup. In 2012 Sandy came up with her own mission and her own push to make Pacific Cup history by being only the second boat to compete in the race with an all women crew. She came up with the name of the group, Wahine Warriors, Wahine meaning woman and Warrior meaning fighter, and it was perfect. At the beginning, trying to locate women that would be willing to sail and work together as a team seemed to be more than difficult.
Sandy soon discovered that women who sail were not always into the physical demands of racing, but would rather be out for a day sail. Jocelyn Nash became the inspiration that Sandy needed. Nash could relate to what she was going through since she made her own waves on the SF Bay. Nash made it clear in her early years of sailing that she did not want to be like other women at the yacht club by saying things like “I didn’t want to be like the other wives who made sandwiches on the boat and cooked spaghetti at the yacht club.” Nash was a warrior who raised four children as a single mom and continued to sail into the record books. In 1955 she became the first woman to compete in the Transpacific Race, a race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Over the next six decades she continued to set records and inspire women until her untimely passing in spring in 2020.
Wahine Warriors is about raising awareness and funds for silent killer cancers including pancreatic, thyroid and breast. Sandy explained that the reason why the mission is to raise awareness is because the wife of her first (2012) Pac Cup skipper, Kay, passed away from cancer. Sandy made an effort to get a group of women together and conquer the Pac Cup. Most of the women that race with Sandy on Eclipse, the Express 37 sailboat Sandy bought a few years ago met her through chance meetings at yacht clubs after regattas. Like Sandy, most of the women that sail with her have the same motto, “As an athlete, nothing discouraged me as a little girl, and nothing will discourage me in accomplishing greatness as a woman.”
I personally met Sandy by chance at the Richmond Yacht Club and am now a part of the Wahine Warriors. Sandy and I are both all about getting more women confident enough to be their own captain while on a boat. Along with other women in the boating community, we take a part in the Women’s Sailing Seminar through Island Yacht Club. Island Yacht Club has been putting on this seminar for women by women for over 20 years.
Island Yacht Club’s Northern California Women’s Sailing Seminar is a three-day event. I first heard about it when I was recovering from a year of cancer. Island Yacht Club is a small yacht club that was based out of Alameda. It recently had to relocate due to the change upon the estuary waterfront. The purpose of the sailing seminar is to get women on the water and teach them in a way that will make them feel safe. Last year the seminar was changed to a hybrid format and was more about women sailors telling stories about how they either got involved in sailing or an experience that they feel would assist others.
The seminar consists of women guest speakers. These women have all made waves on their own over the years and continue to assist in uplifting women in the sport. The guest speaker this year was changed to multiple guest speakers including Lauren Eisele as the keynote speaker. Lauren is known for her 40 years of sailing experience and exploration of the world by sailboat, and is a U.S. Coast Guard master captain with Captain Morgan Sail Charters. Other speakers talk about how to go up the mast with confidence, how to change the oil and fuel filters in the boat and how to trim a spinnaker with the boldness needed to tame it in high winds.
The women participants sign up for what classes or tracks they want to take. The classes range from complete novice where they learn about basic sailing skills, the terms used and rules of the road to the most advanced skills one will want to learn. The advanced classes take women out to the SF Bay and practice anchoring or things such as “suddenly single” which means man overboard. Classes are as follows:
Beginner is where you learn the terms of the boat and how to be safe on the boat whether at the dock or on the water.
Crew is for women who have been on a sailboat before, but would love to learn more about boat handling skills.
Sailors is where we teach about VHF etiquette and safety protocols, and assist with fine-tuning the boat handling skills one might need.
Divas on the Bay is both Saturday and Sunday for the women that wish to gain more confidence in driving and how to safely dock the vessel.
Spinnaker is the class I think intimidates most as it is the big colorful sail, but with the right instruction the class is about the theory behind it and how to get the best use out of it.
The Racing track prepares one by covering all of the signals so sailors know when they are starting and the tactics needed to win a race.
Navigation prepares the women in a lost art of chart reading. With the AIS (automatic identification system) becoming more and more common, the tips and tricks taught in this course are valuable, as well as being able to safely recover crew if they have fallen overboard. Crew overboard is something that with the right training can save lives.
Boat Maintenance and Up the Mast is a new track that they are offering since it was such a big hit in 2020 when the seminar was held virtually. This is usually looked at as too messy and too hard for a woman to do. In this track, women are taught how to do engine maintenance on a diesel engine, as well as how to do work aloft by a fellow woman sailor.
The instructors come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some have been volunteering on tall ships while others are local sailors that race competitively. Others are captains of their own charter companies and some are certified through ASA or US Sailing and want to help empower women on the water. Most of the instructors for the seminar have come from local yacht clubs and have gone through the program themselves.
All of the classes are spent in classrooms and each has an on the water portion on Saturday. All the students get to experience different types of sail boats from 22 to 38 feet, and all are taken out to the Estuary after lunch. Lunch is provided both days by Island Yacht Club. Since change is upon the waterfront, the classroom portions of the seminar will be at Encinal Yacht Club and Oakland Yacht Club.
I have gone to the event for a number of years as an instructor and it is the most rewarding experience to assist women in becoming confident in a new sport. Some women I meet there are wanting to do more than just sit there as their spouse does all of the work, while others want to fine-tune some skills they learned at a different sailing school and thought this would be a great opportunity to meet women that share a common interest. On Saturday evening there is a social where the women can sit back, relax and get to know each other, as well as a raffle. Prizes in the raffle range from women artists donating postcards to women captains offering up charters, as well as some of the sailing schools in the Bay offering some private lessons.
Sunday is a fun adventure for all. The classes from Saturday are mixed up again as the students sign up in advance for a Bay Cruise on one of the larger boats or an Estuary Race against the same size boats. The race option is always fun and friendly, as the instructors are not able to steer and have to teach the new group of students how to race competitively. Some of the instructors get a bit more into winning than others, but at the end of the weekend all the women have made lifelong friends and had fun. Something which is a take as a breath of fresh air, as women need to encourage each other more.
When I was 16 years old, I was told that I was not good enough to sail with the boys and that comment has stuck with me my entire sailing career. I hear similar stories from the women at this seminar and all I have to say to them is, do not be afraid to make waves. Sandy and I, along with other women from around the Bay will be teaching and encourage you to come join us. You can sign up at www.iyc.org.
Please let me know where I can catch you on the Bay or how you have made a wave lately. Contact me at email@example.com