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St Barths
2009

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St Barths Bucket: Regatta Recaps

 

2009 St Barths Bucket Recap

In the eyes of the RC, the 2009 SBB had a pretty inauspicious beginning.  We landed in St. Barths heading uphill at the airport, in flat calm conditions – which brought back the wrong memories of no-wind past events.  Fortunately, the breeze found us,  but with it came a “yellow alert”, 4 meter surge that laid waste to all the jockeying, politicking and dock space engineering the fleet and organizers had been engaged in for the previous weeks.  At the end of the day, we ended up with a near empty quay for nearly half of this “most social” regatta – only four yachts alongside to host the fleet open house on Friday night – and the majority of the rock and roll happening out in the anchorage!  If we’d had the foresight to publish this in the Notice of Race, we wonder how many of our 35 yacht record breaking fleet might have opted out? 



At the end of the day, the magic of the Bucket prevailed.  The core of that magic is the 800 owners and crew who showed up for a good time and great sailing in St. Barths.  The primary attribute of the best sailors is adaptability – they work with what the elements serve up and they do so by instinct. The entire Bucket fleet simply rolled with the swells this year creating a great time ashore wherever they lighted, while participating in some of the best and closest superyacht sailing any had experienced, ever.  This year it was all about the sailing.  While the surge brought forward its challenges, it also created a visual feast for the photographers!  In sum, from what looked like a rocky beginning blossomed one of the best Buckets on record.

Thursday night 22 yachts lay at the quay in a 3m surge that made things a little too exciting.  Tom Perkins treated the fleet to the Skippers Meeting aboard MALTESE FALCON, which gobbled up our crowd of 150 with hectares of elbow room to spare and gave us a proper launching to a great Regatta.  This was also the ideal venue for the RC to redouble the focus on safety, reinforcing the fact that these are not Optimist Dinghies, or even maneuverable Maxi’s, but a fleet of ships that need special focus to race them safely.  This was a recurrent – and essential theme for the week as we became victims of our own success in creating extremely close superyacht racing.

As the Skippers Meeting wound down, the Welcome Party was warming up on the Quay.  Each year this is the party where you realize that you’ve landed among a big crowd of everyone you’d ever want to see from the world of sailing. It is always a great reunion and through the weekend, it only gets better.  With so many past and present pals in the neighborhood, you simply can’t share it all in one night!

At the party’s zenith, George Sekellaris and the entire crew of AXIA showed up from deep left field, with a regiment 16 people strong, dressed in full Ancient Spartan Battle Regalia – including helmets, boots, capes, spears . . . and Virgins!  Surrounded by whackos carrying sharp sticks, yours truly listened with rapt attention to their every word.  Their salutation was “Oh Wise One”, which gave comfort that this was headed in the right direction.  They followed up with gifts, from ancient vintage Spartan wine, to olive and other oils, all intended to loosen up the rating wheels to good advantage.  Unfortunately, they had the wrong guy on the sharp end of the stick.  They should have had this pointed conversation with Jim Teeters, our ratings guru with the kevlar vest!  In the realm of ratings, their selected Oracle was a mere vacuous fruitbasket, mostly powerless.  The AXIA crew did however, lay the thickest layer of goodwill and off the wall Bucket Spirit we’ve experienced to date.  They handily won the “Skullduggery Cravat”, a perfectly tied Admiralty Noose, well framed, in recognition of the yacht that best promulgates non- adult behavior.



Friday’s Race was the first of three magnificent romps around the island, with the entire fleet fully powered up in 16 knots of breeze and huge swells that added to the challenge and crashed – spreader high – against the cliffs ashore.  A few spinnakers got washed and in fact, as Hap Fauth lined WHISPER up to pass ANDROMEDA, her stainless steel spinnaker head ring disintegrated leaving the ANDROMEDA crew scrambling to recover an acre of soaked nylon.  When we saw WHISPER’S spinnaker launch itself into the drink 30 seconds later it could only be interpreted as the ultimate sportsmanlike act of compassion!

Along with the drama of the big seas and breeze, the racing was close beyond all expectations.  The north end of Isle Fourchef, where the hills blanket the breeze momentarily – which used to create the perfect opportunity for changing chutes to headsails, this year became a bottleneck where the slower, early starting yachts, were over-run by the performance yachts.  Thanks to good seamanship, the new “bridge to bridge” radio rule for avoiding collisions – and a little luck, there were no altercations.  But without a doubt, this created a serious forum topic for the fleet as refine the Superyacht Racing Protocol, guidelines for avoiding collision when racing these marginally maneuverable yachts in close quarters.



The 51m’ Huisman Schooner, METEOR, in her first ever Bucket race and crewed by a group of accomplished amateurs who had never sailed the yacht together, maintained her lead to finish first, 23 seconds ahead of SHAMOUN, with the 39m Dubois, GANESHA half a minute later, in third.  KALIKOBASS II finished in fourth, then the new “P2’, 38M full performance Perini Navi sloop by Philippe Briand, crewed by a well honed team of professionals bore down on the finish in a virtual dead heat with the owner’s previous yacht, the elegant 49m  Perini Navi, PERSEUS, sailed by her owner and his cast of well focused “Bucket Regulars”.  Stretching for the finish, PERSEUS crossed the line a mere two seconds ahead of P2 in a near photo finish!

With only four yachts capable of coming alongside for Friday night’s “Fleet Open House”, the evening had the makings of a consummate disaster.  Yet again, Bucket Attitude prevailed.  PERSEUS, HELIOS, METEOR and the 46m Holland Jachtbouw Schooner, WINDROSE, shouldered the load for the fleet and entertained the whole gang.  Those visiting METEOR were quickly converted to pirates, with eye patches, bandannas and a ration of “grog”.  PERSEUS was populated by Rock Stars and the group aboard HELIOS and WINDROSE, all cut from Bucket cloth, were sort of halfway between and offering up gorgeous food and fine wine.  With the bar open on the quay and a little background music, few noticed that 22 superyachts had gone missing!

Saturday brought forth another perfect sailing day, with a knot more breeze and plenty of swell to make the Wiggly Course, around the between the Islands, all the more challenging.  The top slots were closely contested among the largest of the Grandes Dammes with the first four finishes within 29 seconds!  PARAISO finished first, 12 seconds ahead of PERSEUS, which had sailed another near perfect race to finish a mere 9 seconds ahead of the 55m Pendennis restoration, ADELA, in third, with the 88m  MALTESE FALCON breathing down her neck to finish just 6 seconds later!

The racing was astoundingly close across the board, with 32 yachts finishing in 13 minutes and our first ever tie, between Perini Navi’s, PARSIFAL III and HELIOS, which both finished at the same instant.  The close racing brought forth competition that was at times. . . a little too close.  We had the same “bottleneck” in the wind shadow of Isle Fourche, and given that the “Wiggly Course” was designed in the days when a 115’ Yacht was the largest conceivable, and today’s fleet averages 40’ beyond that, it is definitely time to take some of the wiggles out of the course for the future!  The racing also got somewhat more aggressive, about which the RC had stern announcements at Sunday Morning’s pre-race meeting.

The Owner’s Party at the Carl Gustaf, overlooking the fleet in Gustavia, was an elegant venue for sharing great camaraderie and conversation about two days of remarkable superyacht racing.  Meanwhile back at the quay, the Bucket Bash was heating up, fueled by an epicurean buffet supper and the music of Papaguyo, which kept the dancing hot, well into the night.

On Sunday, in the same ideal sailing conditions, WINDCREST had her day in the sun.  She started on her numbers, tacked inshore of the Isle de Boulangier then sailed in a private, lifted breeze to round Les Grenadiers ahead of the fleet.  She never looked back and owned the day, beating the Swan 100’ VIRAGO across the line by a full two minutes, then ADELA 12 seconds later in Third.  The middle of the fleet had the tightest concentration of finishes yet, with 27 yachts finishing in 9 minutes.



Many thanks TUMBLEHOME!
We will not share this photo with your insurance company!

For Sunday night, the swell subsided enough to re-invite the Bucket Fleet back alongside for the awards presentation and festivities.  AVALON set the tone for the evening with native grass skirt dancers cavorting about her decks, then a good blast of the “Tommy Gun” in memory of our founder Tom Taylor, to initiate the proceedings.

The first order of business at the Awards was to present on behalf of the Bucket Fleet, a check for €17,500 Euros to the St. Barths High School (College Miriele Choisi) as a donation from the yacht owners and the Race Committee, for purchase of all new equipment for their computer lab. 

Awards were presented for first through third place in both divisions; Les Gazelles des Mers (Racing) and Les Grandes Dammes des Mers (Cruising).  Although our ratings Guru had outdone himself in cultivating close racing, the most reliable handicapping is certainly among the most similar hull and rig configurations.  For this reason, more so than in most regattas, class results are the best true indicator of how closely each yacht sailed to her optimum.

Les Gazelles des Mer
  1. GANESHA
  2. P2
  3. DESTINATION FOX HARBOR
Les Grandes Dames des Mer
  1. METEOR
  2. MALTESE FALCON
  3. WINDCREST
For the Bucket overall top finishers, along with Champagne and the Bucket Trophies, President Bruno Magras presented each crew with the St. Barths Medal as well.  METEOR was the overall winner of the 2009 St. Barths Bucket Regatta, with WINDCREST in second place and ADELA in third.  All the crews accepted hearty congratulations from their peers and our friends from St. Barths.



METEOR’s Winning Crew!


For the Boat builder Awards, METEOR was presented with the Wolter Huisman Spirit of the Bucket Award, not only for an outstanding performance, but because they put forward a huge effort to get to St. Barths in the first place, having only entered a couple weeks prior.  She was also recognized because her Corinthian, non professional crew simply figured the yacht out and drove her fast – to victory, in a great group effort.  MALTESE FALCON was presented the Perini Cup, for the best performance of a Perini Navi Yacht in the regatta.  DESTINATION FOX HARBOR was presented the Alloy Cup as the best performing Alloy Yacht.

DESTINATION’s owner, Ron Joyce, was invited to remain on stage while the Race Committee presented him with a hand crafted 4M Spoon Oar, engraved on the blade with a commemorative “thanks” for exceptional generosity to the Bucket Regattas.  For several years, Ron had volunteered his 73’ Sport fishing Yacht as a VIP boat, and the DESTINATION fare at the Open House parties, is legendary!

Once again, Holland Jachtbouw and The Yacht Report presented the All Star Crew Award, which requires each yacht to vote for the crew with the best professional approach to the job, the best team spirit and which has the most fun while doing the best job.  This year, the All Star Crew, as voted by their Peers, was MALTESE FALCON!  They run a tight ship in every sense of the term.

The Vitters Shipyard Seamanship Award, is presented to the yacht that exercises the best seamanship and sportsmanship in promoting safety on the race course.  This year’s clear choice was the Swan 100’, VIRAGO.  As sportsmen, on Friday they discovered late in the race, that they had neglected to take their engine out of gear at the start, so it had been running at idle for the duration.  In fact, folding props turning at idle may actually slow a yacht down – but aboard VIRAGO there was no question – they did not cross the finish line.  In all races they consistently maneuvered with safety as the primary goal, repeatedly waving yachts ahead and allowing others to round inside at turning marks. They focused on good boatspeed and good tactics to bring them out at the head of the fleet.   This is a clear example of the attitude ALL YACHTS MUST ADOPT in Bucket Racing to guarantee that we maintain our 23 year record of good sportsmanship and no collisions!  Well done, VIRAGO!

In sum, this year’s St. Barths Bucket again passed the critical test. . . once again, the Race Committee had a great time!!  We’ve had many comments about “the best Bucket yet” and the reason remains the same.  It’s the Bucket sailors.  This year we could have handed out a dozen “Spirit of the Bucket” awards, all to yachts that participated fully in the spirit of community.  AVALON, with a boatful of kids,  grass skirt dancing and plain shenanigans; SYMMETRY, the first to volunteer to open up the “suburbs” at the Wall House dock, PERSEUS, HELIOS, METEOR and WINDROSE for shouldering the load for the open house, MALTESE FALCON for hosting the Skipper’s Meeting, AXIA’s Spartan attack; the list goes on and on.  At the end of the day, it was the ability of everyone participating, to roll with the swell and adapt to the conditions that made this year’s Bucket work.  Without a doubt, this year it was all about the best sailing, biggest fleet and closest finishes yet in a Bucket Regatta.