Rolex Big Boat Series to Race Under ORC Rating Rule in 2022

San Francisco, California – 1/4/2022 – This year when handicap fleets line up to compete in the Rolex Big Boat Series on September 15, 2022, they will be racing under rating rules established by the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) rather than the Offshore Rating Rule (ORR).

The four-day regatta, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, has been racing under ORR since 2014; now in 2022, the handicap divisions will be split according to ORC rules and ORC certificates will be required to compete.

“The mission statement of St. Francis Yacht Club is to serve as the inspirational center of boating activities regionally and a leader of yachting internationally. Adopting the ORC rating rule, which has become the dominant rating rule internationally, reflects our commitment to leadership in the sport and in West Coast sailing,” said William H. Dana, Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club.

St. Francis Yacht Club will also employ the ORC rule when scoring other handicap regattas on its 2022 regatta schedule, including the Stone Cup (May 21-22) and Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta (August 19-21), often used as a tune-up event for Rolex Big Boat Series
For over 50 years, the Offshore Racing Congress has managed and developed the International Offshore Rule (IOR), International Measurement System (IMS), and now ORC rating systems used in onshore and offshore racing around the world. Globally, it is the most popular measurement-based handicap system, with over 10,000 certificates issued in 45 countries.

“At ORC we are very excited to have been chosen to contribute to the success of such a legendary event as the Rolex Big Boat Series,” said ORC Chairman Bruno Finzi. “This is one of the world’s premier inshore racing series, and we look forward to providing support to make it a continued success for St. Francis Yacht Club, Rolex and all competing teams.”
Raced since 1964 and considered the most prestigious regatta on the West Coast, Rolex Big Boat Series attracts competitors from around the country and the world for four days of buoy racing on San Francisco Bay. Winners of select fleets are awarded perpetual trophies and Rolex timepieces. In 2021, the regatta saw 31 boats competing in ORR divisions and another 48 racing in one-design classes.

“From the inaugural racing of this regatta, we have evolved with the rating rule of the era,” said Susan Ruhne, Chair of Rolex Big Boat Series. “We have been watching the evolution of ORC internationally and have listened to input from sailors and owners who compete here. As Rolex Big Boat Series continues to evolve, it’s important that we race under the most current and relevant rule, which is why we are making this shift.”

The 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series will likely feature three ORC divisions, in addition to a number of one-design classes. The Classics division, for classic yachts built prior to 1955 and greater than 48 feet in length, will continue to race with ORR-EZ certificates of Offshore Racing Rule (ORR).

Peter Wagner, who has raced his J/111 Skeleton Key (USA 115) in several Rolex Big Boat Series and who won the 2021 J/111 World Championship, said his team has raced under both rules. “Our transition to ORC was seamless and led to some fantastic racing in major East Coast events. The ORC fleets were strong, the competition fierce and the results fair,” said Wagner, who added, “We are excited by the St. Francis Yacht Club’s decision to join the ORC movement, which we think will help broaden the base of high-quality keelboat racing here on the West Coast and worldwide.”
Rolex Big Boat Series 2021
St. Francis Yacht Club’s Senior Sailing Director Adam Corpuz-Lahne sees two big benefits with ORC. “It’s transparent and it’s popular,” he said. “If our goal is to promote high-quality racing, we need to use the rule that attracts high-quality racing boats. Last year, the IC37 Flying Jenny (USA 24) came out from Annapolis and they won their division. We’d like to see more boats like that coming out here to compete. ORC seems to be the preferred rating rule internationally and it’s become very popular on the East Coast and Midwest as well. We hope that we start a trend on the West Coast and see other clubs and areas go to ORC.”

Ruhne concurred that the objective is to continue to draw the best on-water competition and the ORC rule best supports that goal. “Rolex Big Boat Series has a long history of attracting top-notch competition from around the world and we want to continue that tradition,” she said. “We look forward to seeing the same boats return year after year, in addition to hosting fresh competition who test the locals. At the end of the day, our goal is for more boats to race here.”
The 2022 Rolex Big Boat Series will be held September 14-18 at St. Francis Yacht Club. The Notice of Race will be published in February and registration will open at that time for select one-design fleets, Classic boats with ORR-EZ certificates and monohulls with current ORC certificates.

An informational ORC Q&A with Dobbs Davis and the ORC support team will be hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club via Zoom on January 19 at 6:00pm PST. All interested parties are invited to attend.


A celebration of world-class racing

Widely regarded as the West Coast’s premier regatta, the Rolex Big Boat Series features four days of world-caliber competition for buoy and stadium-style racing at St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay. From its inception, the Rolex Big Boat Series has been the annual showcase of what is “big” in west coast sailing. As sailing trends evolve, so too does the regatta. It remains on the cutting edge of sailing by continually adding new classes and championships to its lineup.

A rewarding History

Founded in 1964, the inaugural Big Boat Series regatta attracted nine yachts, with Jim Wilhite’s Sparkman & Stephens 63ft yawl Athene claiming the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy after a narrow victory over Jim Kilroy’s Kialoa /l. In 1972, another perpetual trophy the Richard Rheem Trophy-was added to the competition and awarded to Bill Clute’s Ericson 39, Chiquita. The fourth perpetual, the Keefe-Kilborn Memorial Trophy, was added in 1976 and awarded to Lucian Taylor’s Peterson 40 Racy. In 1978 (with a then-record of 46 entries), the Atlantic Trophy was added and won by Bill Sullivan’s Peterson 43 Blue Norther. In 2004, the Commodore’s Cup was added and is now awarded to the winner of the largest one-design fleet in the series. Chris Perkins and Dave Wilson’s J/105, Good
Timin’, won the inaugural trophy.

The Big Boat Series has always been representative of what is big in sailboat racing. It hosted the glory days of IOR and IMS racing; it accommodated Maxis, Sleds and America’s Cup Class boats as well as fiercely competitive one-design classes. The event survived the economic ups and downs of the 1980s, and soared in entries in the late 90s and early 2000s, reaching 115 entries in 2003. In 2004, St.Francis Yacht Club initiated the use of the IRC handicap formula for entries 35 feet or longer, and in 2005, after three years as presenting sponsor, Rolex Watch U.S.A became the regatta’s title sponsor.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, the regatta doubled as the Rolex US-IRC National Championship, the pre-worlds for the Melges 32 Class, and the Farr 30 Worlds. In 2012, the regatta hosted the US-IRC North American Championship and in 2013, it directly succeeded the 34th America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay, serving as the HPR National Championship, the J/120 North American Championship, the IRC West Coast Championship and the pre-worlds for the Melges 24 Class.

2014 was a marquee year for Rolex Big Boat Series: the 50th Anniversary. Ninety-nine teams competed in ten classes and the event showcased another year of incredible racing. 2015 doubled as the J/105 North American Championship and also marked the 10th anniversary of Rolex Watch U.S.A. as the title sponsor. In 2016, Rolex Big Boat Series set a new record for largest fleet, welcoming 125 boats to the regatta.

St. Francis Yaght Club

Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club is steeped in over 90 years of yachting traditions. Through the years, the Club has always served the sport, and anchored the international game of yachting on San Francisco Bay. From the beginning, the St. Francis Yacht Club’s membership roster has included many of the Bay Area’s most prominent citizens and greatest sailors. Today, sailors such as Paul Cayard, John Kostecki, John Bertrand, Stan Honey, Morgan Larson, Johnny Heineken, Daniela Moroz, Paige Railey and Nicole Breault continue to keep the St. Francis in the forefront of sailing.

The Club’s annual regatta schedule is one of the most active in the world. Part of the attraction of racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club is the excellent and challenging year-round conditions unique to San Francisco Bay. Both physically beautiful and naturally demanding, the Bay provides a racer with the ultimate in wind, current and weather conditions for truly competitive, exciting sailing. The clubhouse provides a boating and social venue for members and their guests featuring deep-water guest docks, outstanding dining and incredible vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The second-floor Race Deck is the premier location to view yacht racing on the renowned City Front. With the skyline of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, St. Francis
Yacht Club prides itself on providing visitors with every comfort and amenity while dazzling them with spectacular surroundings.