2007 St Barths Bucket Recap
All 2007 St. Barths Bucket Participants, Owners, Sponsors &
Bucket Race Committee
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.
The Bucket Race Committee