ROLEX BIG BOAT SERIES
The J/120s were a tough fleet once again; inset, from left â€” Barry Lewis and his 'weekend tactician' Doug Nugent almost had a race to spare.
bigger boats with ease. But one 52 stood out from the rest of the crowd: Vesper. "We had an incredible year," said project manager Ken Keefe. "It was especially gratifying to Jim for a number of reasons. This was his third Big Boat, and the first two [with a Swan 601 and a Melges 32] didn't go as well we would have liked." Swartz had invested a considerable amount of money and effort into developing and commissioning an STP 65, Moneypenny, which like many other Reichel/ Pugh boats built at the time, experienced problems with upwind balance. Faced with having to effect a massive redo, for a class that was failing to gain critical mass, Swartz elected to donate the boat instead (See this month's Sightings). In its place, he picked up the '08 Audi MedCup winner and went out to face some of the top programs in the Carib-
bean and on the East Coast, racking up an enviable race record that included a whole bunch of wins. "The Moneypenny experience left him with a sour taste about the sport because he'd done all the right things," Keefe said. "So, to come back and have such a successful year in a tougher class, is just that much more rewarding." Vesper started off the week with a 1-3, before rattling off a 2-1-1-1-1 to finish five points clear of former Bay Area resident Peter Cunningham's Power Play and take the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy and a new watch. But the final point totals were a little misleading, because the only boat that was anywhere near Vesper during many of the races was Canadian Ashley Wolfe's much-improved, Bay Area-based Mayhem, which pushed Vesper hard all week. Were it not for being a little more ragged around the
Scooter Simmons, top left, and the 'Blackhawk' gang took their first Rolex BBS win, and wrapped up their second J/105 season championship in three years.
corners, Mayhem could have won the regatta. "Mayhem was just a couple months behind us sailing as a team," Keefe said. "It's embarrassing how many spinnakers we dropped in the water at first. At Big Boat, our sail repair expenses were only $120, which was a personal record!" A big part of sailing so cleanly is having an owner who can drive, and according to Keefe, Swartz is just that. "What's amazing is that Jim is getting close to 70, and he steered the boat every second of every race," he said. "The thing is camped on 21 knots all the way down the Bay and we're trying to just survive, but we never had to worry about Jim. He's extremely hands-on. He's disappointed if he can't make it out to go sail testing with us." Swartz, Wolfe, Cunningham, Moshayedi and Team all drove their own boats, although there's no owner-driver rule for the class. "That's how we're going to grow the sport," he said. "There are very few people willing to pay a full crew and sit on the side of the boat. We have to 'Team Premier' didn't get much of a work-up before the event, but it looked awesome with the hammer down; inset â€” this was their only wipeout that we saw, and it was actually pretty gentle.
The October 2011 eBook issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.