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St Barths
March 22 - 25, 2012

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St Barths Bucket: Regatta Recaps

 

2007 St Barths Bucket Recap

To: All 2007 St. Barths Bucket Participants, Owners, Sponsors & Friends
From: The Bucket Race Committee
Re: Recap

Greetings All:

I think all involved will agree that this year’s St. Barths Bucket was over the top in all respects.

The fleet – to our knowledge the largest fleet of the largest Yachts ever to meet on a race course – was as diverse as it was elegant, from the new paradigm in yachting defined by MALTESE FALCON, to the grandeur of FELICITA WEST, the massive and efficient KOKOMO fresh in from Kiwi Land, to fast and lovely REBECCA and the thoroughbred performance of SOJANA, HIGHLAND BREEZE and VIRAGO, this was the meeting of a fleet to be long remembered.

This year, the Race Committee did a reasonably good job as usual – but they did have one stroke of genius. This has nothing to do with their focus on setting reasonably safe and good courses, or even for their perseverance on Saturday morning after they blew out the fourth printer and bruised the brain on the new computer’s hard drive to the point where one page of start times could only be regenerated by a brilliant nerd (thanks Phil Lee. . .), to be hand written and photocopied for distribution - while 700 people patiently waited for the information. Nor do they merit more than a nod for their subsequent recovery that morning - after discovering a cruise ship anchored in the middle of the starting line. Over all, they did a relatively average job of jumping through the normal hoops of Bucket Committee work.

However after the previous two years of Bucket Racing in light to zero wind, the idea of bringing forward the Navigator’s Fluid at the Skipper’s Meeting aboard MALTESE FALCON, for a toast to King Neptune in supplication for a good sailing breeze, was not only timely - but a generous sharing of a well-guarded deep secret. The Committee has sailed together a lot over the past two decades and the Navigator’s Fluid has never let us down. As all will recall, there was no wind before this year’s Bucket either – in fact, there was barely a zephyr for a practice sail. But with a full glass of fluid over the side at the Skipper’s Meeting and a boisterous salute to Neptune, the wind gods got the message and brought forward what built to a romping breeze over the next few days that left the sailors, spectators and photographers simply dazzled by the wind power harnessed by the fleet. Who ever would have guessed that Neptune has a Grappa habit???

We owe a large thank you to the owners of two of the most beautiful Committee Boats ever in Bucket History; Peter DeSavary’s 127’ Classic Camper Nicholson Motor Yacht SAAVY and Steve Grossman’s new Huisman 118’ Motor Yacht, ARCADIA. These yachts truly match the stature of the sailing fleet and we are most grateful for the opportunity to use them as targets for hit and run accidents twice a day, by a fleet of over 25 Mega Yachts in the far reaches of control. . . Seriously, many thanks Peter and Steve on behalf of the fleet.

Also on a serious note, after this weekend of good sailing in consistent breeze, we’ve seen results from the Bucket rating system that are proving to be very reliable indeed. Do check the start and finish times on the www.bucketregattas.com website – they are astoundingly close! Also, separating the fleet into classes for “Les Gazelles” and Les Grandes Dammes” des Mers also ramped up and leveled the competition.

As you should be aware, the guess-work is pretty much gone from the Bucket system and has been replaced by the Velocity Prediction Program developed by Jim Teeters of US Sailing (the man in the Kevlar vest). Given the inputs from your entry forms along with additional research on each yacht’s design, Jim builds a computer based performance model for each yacht in the fleet that reflects the yachts potential in all wind angles and velocities. Each race is then defined in terms of percentage of upwind, reaching and downwind components along with the input wind velocity.

The weakness of the pursuit race format is that we must predict the wind direction and velocity accurately, prior to the start – as the handicapping is entirely applied by your start time. If we guess the wind speed too low, the start time differences will be expanded – which will favor the slower yachts that start first. If we guess too high, the start times will be compressed, not giving the slower boats enough head start.

Friday’s race was a classic case in point, wherein we underestimated the breeze by about two knots, thus expanding the start time deltas to over 90 minutes for a 22 mile course. We owe VIRAGO a pretty big “sorry” for that one – she was still in sight sailing away from the starting line when MALTESE FALCON rounded Isle Fourche 10 minutes from the finish! These days we only do between race adjustments for “gross anomalies” and both boats certainly got one. Rather than simply throwing PHRF time at the boats however, Jim reviews the Yacht’s design inputs, making a calculated adjustment to further refine the yacht’s individual VPP.

The net result of underestimating Friday’s breeze is that the slower end of the fleet was favored. Consequently, eight of ‘Les Grandes Dammes” finished before the first place “Gazelle”, PATIENT FALCON. Even with the wind slightly under estimated, the finish times for Friday’s race were well compressed, with 23 of 27 yachts finishing within 30 minutes of each other.

After a few foibles getting the fleet underway for Saturday’s race, the sailing and the results were equally impressive. VIRAGO’s start time was adjusted to bring her into the hunt, which worked. MALTESE FALCON’s start time was also adjusted, and with regard to Saturday’s Race we can only say that . . . she’s not an easy yacht to rate! Friday she’d smoked the fleet, winning by nearly a 25 minute margin. Saturday, she got last by 5 minutes. That was some degree of progress. The rest of the results though, were by far the closest Bucket Racing ever! The first five finishes occurred within 54 seconds! The first ten finishes were in just over five minutes, half “Grand Dammes” and half “Gazelles”. In sum, 23 of 24 Yachts finished perhaps the most exciting race in Bucket History in just over 17 minutes.

On Sunday, the clockwise sail around the Island was spectacular, with moderately large seas for great visuals and interesting steering. And we finally got the starting time for MALTESE FALCON right! Jim Teeters crunched the data from Saturday’s race and Sunday, she sailed around the course within 1.5 seconds per mile of her predicted speed – meaning that for a 20 mile course, she finished within just over 30 seconds of her predicted finish time for a well sailed race!!! That was the good news. The bad news is that the lion’s share of the fleet got to experience her massive wind shadow – which is a bit like being passed by . . . Monserrat! Painful as it is, it prolongs the most impressive view this sailor’s seen on the water!

Sunday’s finish times were also well compressed by Bucket standards, with 20 of 25 yachts finishing in the same 20 minutes. But one boat did get away, to win by over 15 minutes. Having placed 13th on Friday and won on Saturday by only 20 seconds, AVALON was certainly under the radar for rating anomalies. Then on Sunday in very similar conditions, she sailed fully 45 seconds per mile faster!! Hmmm. Either they had some extremely lucky breaks, or the crew of long tooth Rock Stars that have been sailing the Yacht together for 20 years finally got the program . . . or perhaps our dear friend Tom Taylor shared that glass of Grappa with King Neptune! But whatever AVALON did to smoke us all on Sunday, was very special indeed! Well done AVALON!!!

We are very grateful to our hosts at a number of “over the top” parties; Tom Perkins, the crew of MALTESE FALCON and ShowBoats International for the Skipper’s Meeting, Peter DeSavary and Port Louis for our Welcome Party and for the use of SAAVY as Committee Boat on Friday. Thanks very much David Ray for use of his magnificent home for the Owner’ Party, and to Holland Jachtbouw and The Yacht Report for a rollicking good time at the Crew Party. Also thanks to the Boat builders; Royal Huisman Shipyard, Perini Navi, Holland Jachtbouw and Alloy Yachts, along with La Cave du Port Franc for a wonderful awards presentation and bubbly libations to match.

And speaking of the Awards Presentations, Jimmy Buffet is a hard act to follow! It would be difficult to express the fleet’s gratitude for his timely tunes – unless one had the opportunity to see collective ear to ear smile of 700+ happy sailors. Thanks Jimmy. Your tunes iced the cake!

Lastly, this year was a photographer’s playground – they were the only ones smiling larger than the crowd during Jimmy’s concert. Check any or all of the sites below for some great shots of great sailing and tomfoolery.

Fair Winds,
The Bucket Race Committee

www.billyblack.com
www.studio6X7.com (Cory Silken)
www.vanderwal.com
www.photoaction.com (Tim Wright)