St. Francis Yacht Club has selected Felix Weidling to lead its Race Department and serve as Race Director. Weidling comes to San Francisco from Kiel Yacht Club, where he served for a decade as Race Secretary and organized various world and continental championships in addition to Kiel Week, an annual nine-day sailing event that draws 4,500 boats, 1,800 sailors and 300,000 spectators, plus millions of visitors to the city for the festivities. During his time in the role, Kiel Week became part of the Sailing World Cup, in addition to serving as an Olympic Sailing qualifier and a championship event for German and European teams.
With over 140 racing days on the St. Francis Yacht Club regatta calendar, Weidling will now helm one of the busiest regatta programs in the world, at a venue internationally recognized for its impeccable sailing venue, exhilarating conditions and best-in-class regatta management. His ten years managing the complex operations at Kiel Yacht Club should translate well to San Francisco Bay.
Sir Ben Ainslie, one of the most accomplished sailors in the history of the sport and who is currently leading the British team in the 2024 America’s Cup Challenger Selection Series, said of Weidling, “The size of Kiel Week is noteworthy and it attracts some of the biggest names in sailing. Compared to other venues, Kiel Yacht Club has consistently been the best organized and has provided the best experience for all athletes thanks to the direction of Race Secretary Weidling.”
Every year, St. Francis Yacht Club welcomes thousands of sailors racing all types of craft, from large ocean-going yachts, to PHRF sportboats, to one design classes, to dinghies and foil boards. In addition to annual regattas and weekly racing series, in 2023 the club will host the Women’s World Match Racing Tour, the 5o5 World Championships, the inaugural Wingfoil Pacific Coast Championships and Rolex Big Boat Series – the West Coast’s pinnacle regatta.
“For a club of our standing, the position of Race Director requires an individual of extraordinary ability who can rise to the occasion of managing an internationally-recognized organization,” said Beau Vrolyk, 2023 Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club. “Only the best of the best is qualified to maintain the level of detail, planning and excellence that St. Francis Yacht Club requires for its regattas. To that end, it has taken nearly a year to find a suitable candidate. We were searching for an individual who has worked at the highest levels of competitive sailing with experience organizing world-class regattas consistently and professionally. The pool of qualified candidates is quite small and our patience has paid off. We’re looking forward to welcoming Felix Weidling to our shores.”
In addition to bringing top notch skills in regatta planning and logistics to St. Francis Yacht Club, Weidling will also be exporting his expertise in working with a team to develop and launch app-based technologies for registration, race monitoring and management used at Kiel Week. An app for race information tracking systems that improved and expedited race operations during Kiel Week is now used by hundreds of yacht clubs throughout Europe.
“This interest in and ability to innovate is what set Mr. Weidling apart from other candidates and fits within our club’s own tradition of leadership and innovation in the sport of sailing,” said John Meagher, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of St. Francis Yacht Club. “We were looking for someone who’s capable of turning the traditional challenges of race management into opportunities to excel and bring a new level of professionalism.”
A native of Kiel, Germany, Weidling grew up competing in dinghies, eventually graduating to larger ORC boats and crewing an IMX 38, Farr 40 and 12-meter. During his racing career, he competed in the 2007 America‘s Cup in Valencia for United Internet Team Germany, crossed the Atlantic from Newport, RI to Hamburg, Germany, in the HSH Nordbank Blue Race, was Vice European Champion in 12mR class in Barcelona and was world champion in the X-99 one design class. After a decade as Kiel Yacht Club’s Race Secretary, in 2019 he took a position in the real estate industry to try something different and have more free time on the water. He enjoys cruising and sailing recreationally, often with his stepson, Cedric, son, Bo, and wife, Jennifer, who will all be relocating with him to San Francisco. “I’ve participated in and managed regattas all my life and I’m looking forward to the challenge of doing what I do well in a new city, a new country and at a club with such an exciting history and future,” he said. “I am very thankful for the Executive Race Committee at Kiel Yacht Club. Without their support I would not have the opportunity to be here.”
Weidling will commence his new role in March, just in time for the start of the 2023 regatta season at St. Francis Yacht Club, which typically averages a race every two days and culminates in the Rolex Big Boat Series, scheduled for September 13-17 when conditions on San Francisco Bay are ideal for multiple days of racing across multiple fleets.
“Rolex only sponsors the most prestigious regattas in the world,” commented Mounia Mechbal, Vice President of Marketing at Rolex. “As the biggest regatta on the West Coast, the Rolex Big Boat Series needs to be planned meticulously, and properly organized to reflect the international caliber of the talent participating in the event and the prestige of the prizes being awarded. It is not an easy role to undertake and it is not for the uninitiated. We are confident that St. Francis Yacht Club’s pick for Race Director, Mr. Felix Weidling, is an individual of extraordinary ability. His experience with world-class events shows he is one of the few people in the world that can take on the mantle of such a prestigious organization and successfully maintain the prestige of the Rolex brand associated with the Big Boat Series.”