Torrential rain, gusty wind and an ocean swell spice things up for the 37 superyachts at St Barths.

I may have had the foresight to pack a lightweight jacket – but was not alone in still being surprised and thoroughly caught out by the conditions on the second of three Bucket race days. With torrential rain greeting the competitors as they woke and frequenting much of the day, St Barths was a washed-out island, but a force five gusting six made ideal compensation for the drowned-rat crews on the race course.
The 27nm ‘Not so wiggly course’ is a cracker – a reach, beat, close fetch, broad reach, beat, short kite leg, and long fetch home – allowing competitors plenty of action and great spectating of, and interaction with, the other classes (apart from the five Js who started earlier and were soon lost to the poor visibility!).

I was aboard the Aussie-owned and crewed Sarafin, the first Oyster 100 and despite being wet through (and, believe it or not, cold) an hour before the gun, still thoroughly enjoyed the race thanks to the hospitality and conviviality of my fellow crew, which consisted largely of around 20 of the owners’ friends who have flown out from Sydney (and certainly get my vote for the Wolter Huisman Memorial Spirit of the Bucket Trophy!)
We sailed well, were brave enough to hoist a big aqua coloured gennaker (in 23 knots true, the strongest conditions for that sail yet) to pip rivals Symmetry, and consistently made over 13 knots boatspeed. But our Mademoiselles class includes several seriously grande boats, with five other Dubois designs including two 45m Lady B (Mike Golding aboard), and Salperton IV (Shirley Robertson), which would prove impossible to fend off. But it was the 55m Pendennis schooner Adela that again showed her class, romping home a clear five minutes ahead of closest rival Athos, and now sitting pretty for the overall Bucket win.


Cape Arrow below our bows

On the midway beat around Ile Fourchue we were overtaken by Unfurled and Cape Arrow who seemed to be locked into a tight battle, with the former, a 34m Frers sloop suiting the lively conditions more and taking the Gazelles class ahead of the endearingly stunning Rebecca.
The Maroon coloured Alloy sloop Georgia meanwhile beat the nine Perinis home in the Grandes Dames class, while Hanuman secured her third straight win by again choosing a bold and different lane from the gun, and in so doing, sewing up the J-Class in three out of four races. Rainbow apparently had to retire with two split kites, while Velsheda took second.

With a clockwise race around the island predicted for Easter Sunday and a stronger breeze still, fingers are crossed for some trademark (hopefully dry) Caribbean conditions – and with top five places still within a couple of points in the Grandes Dames and Mademoiselles classes, Easter Sunday will be a big deciding day.

For the official news and results see here

For more on the J-Class visit the J-Class Association website here