There have been some close calls and a collision in recent superyacht regattas - time for some education?


Some mighty close shaves and a collision in recent big yacht regattas has opened a debate about awareness on the race course and the need to think ‘safety’ not necessarily ‘victory’ when superyachts get into tight corners.

The collision happened yesterday when Velsheda and Ranger were involved in a port and starboard incident during the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta – see the recently posted item in the news section. Velsheda, on port, retired but the fact that both boats came together and there was reported minor damage to rigs and hulls is worrying. Luckily no one was hurt.

In St Barths recently a great Bucket regatta was contested by no fewer than 34 superyachts, but again there were raised eyebrows at some of the behaviour in open water – another very close port and starboard, see above (yikes!) – and other incidents which were accentuated by large numbers of yachts trying to get round marks of the course. The marks in this instance were part of St Barths – ie rock. It got quite sweaty at times?

Bucket organiser Hank Halstead predicted that superyacht racing ‘will die on the vine’ at the first collision and he was very quick to quiz captains about how the regatta went for them. He’s gathering people’s thoughts with a view to making changes to preserve safety.

Halstead continues to emphasise the need for caution and uses the mantra that ‘safe sailing and winning the party’ must be uppermost in competitors’ minds. But human nature being what it is tends to ignore that call for safety when people get behind the wheel of a $US 20 million superyacht weighing 200 tons blasting along at 15 knots.

It’s one hell of a buzz but anticipating the next move and committing to the right course of action are crucial if people aren’t going to get hurt. Some pundits think it’s all getting too professional but Hank Halstead strongly believes the opposite and that superyacht racing needs the hot shots who know what they are doing, can anticipate what’s going to happen next and can pass on their knowledge to the less experienced – “they can see situations before they occur” as Hank put it. Surely he’s right – how else do we learn?

And talking of learning, how about a superyacht regatta seminar, something that is open to all crew and even owners and captains who are not quite up to the rules of the road when it comes to racing? Any takers? Watch out for the next issue of Yachting World for a more detailed look at this subject.