Big Wins, Close Finishes
20 Mar 2017| St. Barths Bucket Regatta | Barby MacGowan – It’s hard to remember a Bucket Regatta where so many trophies were at stake going into the last day. As it was, today’s one long race, running clockwise around the island of St. Barths and punctuated by a colorful downwind finish, determined podium finishes for the best of 38 superyacht teams competing here. They sailed in six classes, with five of them racing “pursuit style” for three days, and one – for six historic J Class yachts – enjoying a traditional fleet-racing format over four days after having started their series a day earlier than the rest of the fleet.
When all was said and done in the J Class, Hanuman won on a tied point score with Velsheda, which had started out strong with victories in three around-the-buoy races sailed by that fleet over its first two days. Even finishes for third and fourth place, between Lionheart and Ranger, had to be decided by a tiebreaker, epitomizing the tight, exciting racing that marked the J Class action and coursed through every other class as well.
The Royal Huisman sloop SPIIP won Class B for Les Elegantes des Mers and the coveted perpetual “Bucket Trophy” for best overall performance among all the pursuit classes, taking home an elegant keeper provided by Hermès.
SPIIP’s tactician Tom Whidden revealed that the yacht lost its hydraulics today, making it a struggle to manage a third-place finish, but that was enough to secure the overall class victory. “We had a big lead at one point today,” said Whidden. “We went way offshore after the start and came back right on lay line. I’d like to say it was skill, but it was a little bit luck when the wind went left. Then we lost the hydraulics about two-thirds the way up the beat on the backside of the island. We couldn’t let the mainsail out and had to trim the jib by hand, heading the boat into the wind to pull in the lines because we didn’t have a winch handle.”
Whidden’s feelings about the competition were shared by many here this week: “This was a great regatta, with standard beautiful Bucket conditions and great race committee work” said Whidden. “Anyone who doesn’t come to this regatta when they have that choice is crazy. It’s a great place to come, and the level of sailing is amazing; it’s shocking how well these big boats are being sailed.”
The Royal Huisman sloop Wisp won Class C for Les Mademoiselles del Mers, and the team’s tactician Andy Horton said it was extra special to win after some difficulties earlier in the week. “We had a couple of practice days where we broke some things, but when it was time to go racing everything fell into place.” This is only Wisp’s third regatta in three years, since the yacht is regularly chartered. Nevertheless, Horton said, “It’s fun to see the same group of people evolve into a team from one year to the next. The owner loves pushing the yacht hard and seeing what we can achieve with it.”
The Perini Navi ketch Rosehearty also had difficulties during practice this week but went on to successfully defended in Class D for Les Grandes Dames des Mers. Today she held off her closest competitor, Meteor, by taking a course closer to shore than Meteor’s on the windward side of the island and tacking to cover her as she began getting closer. On the downwind run to the finish, Perseus^3 blew out her spinnaker, resulting in a third-place finish behind Meteor for the race as well as the series.
Rosehearty also won the Perini Navi Trophy for best performance by a Perini Navi yacht.
In the new Corinthian Class, Class E for Les Voiles Blanche, the Vitters Sloop KOO won after taking over the lead yesterday from Q. “We started five minutes ahead of them today, and they caught up with us a bit but had traffic with divisions behind them,” said KOO’s Captain Brendon Crawford. “They had to take a few tacks up the beat to clear their air, so that probably cost them.” This is KOO’s fourth Bucket, and the team has been racing non-spinnaker every time, so it’s as if this new Corinthian Class was created especially for them. “We’re getting in before the beer tent opens, so we’re pretty happy about that” said Crawford.
Another leader from yesterday, Unfurled, looked to be an overall winner after racing today in Class A for Les Gazelles des Mers, but a protest by WinWin resulted in a disqualification for the team and they wound up third overall behind second-place Visione, while WinWin was declared the overall winner. “The whole series it was tight racing with all three of us,” said WinWin’s tactician Mark Sadler. “In this last race, we were close together with Unfurled all around the race course. It was fantastic racing, and we finished 11 seconds behind them in second place, but Unfurled unfortunately broke the 40-Metre Rule, which is a superyacht safety rule. It was great competition, and it was so down to the wire, it’s unbelievable. That’s probably why the guys were pushing so hard.”
Crews gathered for an awards ceremony this evening on the docks of Gustavia where it was announced that the popular event will return in 2018 over March 15-18.