Doug Wilhelm’s WILCO wins 51st Rolex Big Boat Series

September 17-20, 2015 – San Francisco, US – Rolex Big Boat Series - the regatta, one of many in Rolex’s international portfolio of sailing events, was hosted on September 17-20 by St. Francis Yacht Club. In Melges 24 class among nine teams Doug Wilhelm’s WILCO dominated the event since the beginning and won with a finishes of 2-1-1-1-5.

Duane Yoslov’s Melges 24 LOOPER took one bullet from the final race in addition to two seconds and finished the regatta on second position. Steve Boho’s THE 300 followed with a series of 1-3-3-2-8 as third.

Rolex Big Boat Series 2015 - Melges 24 - photo Kurt ArrigoRolex Big Boat Series 2015 - Melges 24 - photo Kurt Arrigo

Duane Yoslov’s Melges 24 LOOPER - photo Kurt Arrigo

Duane Yoslov’s Melges 24 LOOPER - photo Kurt Arrigo

Full results

It’s easy to describe the Rolex Big Boat Series as the West Coast’s premiere event where regional, national and world champions fill the ranks and Rolex timepieces are awarded along with six historically significant perpetual trophies stewarded by host St. Francis Yacht Club. But when one looks past what is now so obvious after 51 years of this regatta making a name for itself, there is something much deeper to be found. It is a profound spirit of adventure mixed with passion for achievement that is reflected here, as it is at all Rolex-sponsored events around the globe, whether in yachting, motor sports, tennis, golf, equestrianism, the arts or exploration. 

Rolex clock at the St. Francis Yacht Club with the Golden Gate Bridge in the bacRolex clock at the St. Francis Yacht Club with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background - photo Kurt Arrigo

“It’s cool to be around these really professional sailors and actually be able to compete with them,” said Josselyn Verutti, a 16-year-old main trimmer for Ian Collignon on the Melges 24 M1 from Santa Cruz. Because of her age, Verutti isn’t your typical Rolex Big Boat sailor, but neither is Collignon, who skippers M1, nor Olivia Beers who tends M1’s bow. Collignon and Beers are only 17 and 16, respectively, but their young team has quickly gained respect here from their older counterparts due to consistent mid-fleet finishes in what even the most veteran of racing sailors call testing winds. (M1’s scoreline is currently 4-7-5-5, putting them fifth overall among nine boats.)

The M1 team’s talent has developed because Collignon’s father, Dave Collignon, who also sails aboard M1, saw the passion his son had for sailing and bought M1 in time for Ian to skipper it in the 2013 Melges 24 Worlds, where he sailed in Corinthian division to finish 11th. Last August, Collignon’s team tied for 10th in Corinthian division and finished 20th overall out of 36 teams (including pros) at the Melges 24 North Americans held at the Columbia River Gorge, also known for its challenging winds.

“At the Gorge, it was not that people didn’t expect much from us,” explained Verutti, “but by the end of the regatta they actually had a higher level of respect for us, because we could compete with them.” 

As for M1’s performance here, Collignon says teamwork and tactics are sound but boat speed needs improvement. It doesn’t faze him that Doug Belham’s Wilco and Steve Boho’s The 300, currently sitting in first and second, are irreproachable; some day he will be right up there with them. “They are really good teams of pros, all well knit together, so they are hard to sail against,” he said, with Verutti not hesitating to add: “We’ve paced next to them and proved we can stay with them; now we just have to carry it out.”

As for the Melges being the smallest boat here at 24 feet, it is still a keelboat as opposed to the “dinghies” (without keels) that Collignon and his young teammates sail on their high school teams. “These are world-renowned boats sailing in Europe and elsewhere with pro teams, so in my opinion they are ‘big boats,’” said Collignon. 

Such are the colorful stories that come out of the Rolex Big Boat Series experience every year.

Video: Tyler Baeder, Wilco Tactician

Photo galleries by Kurt Arrigo

Event's website 

Ian Collignon's M1 - photo Kurt Arrigo

Ian Collignon's M1 - photo Kurt Arrigo