A glorious start for the 26 superyachts competing at the St Barths Bucket 2018
St Barth did what it does best and turned on the perfect conditions for Bucket racing around the outlying rocks and islands surrounding this idyllic island. And in return for the welcoming hospitality and weather, 26 superyacht owners and their armies of crews helped bring some much-needed glitz and tourism back to an island still finding its feet after the devastation of two hurricanes last November.
A Force 4–5 (15 knot average) trade breeze, cloudless skies and sparkling seas gave the competitors the ideal conditions to open the three-day regatta with a counter-clockwise race around the island. It was pursuit racing at its best, with the yachts in multiple classes split by seconds on the finish line after 20-25 miles of racing – bravo to the ORC Superyacht Committee.
I sailed with Farfalla for that first race, a Southern Wind 102 that is being increasingly campaigned, including at the recent RORC Caribbean 600. With a competent owner-driver and a highly experienced afterguard, she sailed a very clean and very enjoyable race.
Ian Budgen’s tactics and Nacho Postigo’s wily navigation (taking the shortest route where possible and making use of our slightly lower draught) combined to help us sail through three of the five in our class.
And the final beat, trading tacks with the slightly larger 112ft Frers Spiip (the former Unfurled and current holder of the bucket), provided the exciting finale. Just two boat-lengths separated us on the line.
These performance 32-35m yachts, which includes Nilaya, Farfalla, Danneskjold, Sojana, and Spiip at the Bucket, show how well these designs can adapt to superyacht racing and why its an increasingly popular size for new builds. They are manouvrable enough for a tight-nit racing and fun for the crews to hoist code sails and A-sails, keep a sweat on between marks and earn their keep.
It is a rousing sight to see the incomparable 78m sloop M5 (ex Mirabella) racing for the first time at a Bucket. And the Js, always a magnet for the spectating boats and the crews on the rails, are enjoying some close racing.
There are only three Js this year, the two newest in Svea and Topaz, and the 1934-built original Velsheda. Again, just seconds separated the boats in the first three races.
A success story of this edition is the six strong corinthian class, a white sails only fleet that is also enjoying some close racing despite a variety in ages and sizes of yachts. The top three boats, Koo, Q and Missy, were separated by just 30 seconds in the opening race.
I joined Missy for the second race and enjoyed the triumphant feeling of starting last and finishing first as we managed pick off the larger competitors on the final beat. The new Malcolm McKeon designed 33m fast cruiser was designed for family world sailing but is competing in her first regatta.
She certainly has a turn of speed to match her sleek looks. A first victory in that race will doubtless encourage her owner to enter her in more friendly racing events.
The traditional ‘Yacht Hop’ after the first day’s racing cemented the friendly nature of this event and reinforced how the assembled owners are here to support an island in need.
It’s an event unlike any other – all crews and guests of the bucket are invited to join drinks parties aboard those yachts docked stern-to in Gustavia. I cannot even imagine such an event taking place anywhere else – only in St Barth!