Big breeze and big swell for the big boats on the first day of the St Barths Bucket 2014

(Caption: A busy afterguard on Nilaya during a fast and furious downwind leg on the first race of the St Barths Bucket 2014).

The spectacle to beat all spectacles began in the utmost style today as St Barths turned on idealistic conditions for the first race of this year’s Bucket.
With 20-25 knots blowing over the startline, the upper limit for racing the 38 superyachts in this year’s Bucket, ‘safety first’ was the motto. “The most important thing is to get around the track safely,” said Dutch Volvo Ocean Race skipper Bouwe Bekking in our crew’s pre-race brief this morning. Now that’s not to say the competitors couldn’t and didn’t have maximum competitive fun. I was sailing on the 34m Reichel Pugh design Nilaya, Filip Balcaen’s super slippery carbon sloop from Baltic Yachts. She arrived at St Barths fresh off the back of winning the Loro Piano regatta in the BVIs. And seeing the experienced team in action, a mix of top pros and experienced friends, it was easy to see why.


 (Tactician on Nilaya, Bouwe Bekking)

An anticlockwise course around the island was set (between 20-24nm depending on the four classes) – and duly completed by most in only approximately two hours. Surfing aboard 112ft superyacht in 3m seas at a steady 16 knots as if she were a dinghy was an exhilarating highlight. Bekking’s veteran experience came into play as we gybed inshore around the top of the island, slipped inside the large fleet ahead and, crucially, on starboard. We came out smelling of roses and leading the class as we rounded the bottom mark/rock. There was no holding off the 10 metres of superior waterline of fellow Baltic Visione on the final fetch, but Nilaya came in a credible second. A job expertly done and in exhilarating conditions.


(Pro bowman Gerd-Jan ‘Johnny’ Portman on Nilaya’s foredeck)

The conditions were certainly testing for the first race though, the largest entry perhaps feeling it the worst. The competitors all expected to see the 66m green Baltic Ketch Hetairos come scorching through the fleet, but she had to retire soon after the start with damage to her foresail. After leaving part of her keel on a rock here when she last competed in the Bucket two years ago, it seems luck is not on Hetairos side at this event.

Elsewhere the first 60m Perini ketch Seahawk enjoyed her premier race, winning the big ‘Grand Dames’ class, before putting on arguably the biggest ‘yacht hop’ party of all in the fleet open house event that evening
Fellow large ketch Marie, a 55m Hoek design, scooped the Elegantes class ahead of Varsovie and Unfurled. And the beautiful 27.5m Brooklyn built yawl Bequia did well to win her class just ahead of Moonbird.

Pictures courtesy of Clare Matches

Full results and news on the official website here