In spite of steady squalls, high seas, and winds gusting at 30 knots, the 15th annual New Year's Eve Regatta took place on December 31, 2009 on St. Barth. With only 16 boats crossing the finish line, the fleet was smaller than anticipated. The fastest boat to complete the modified around-the-island course was the 137-ft J-Class replica, Hanuman, a replica of Endeavour II built in 1937. Hanuman (named after the Hindu monkey god) was designed by naval architects, Dykstra & Partners, built at the Royal Huisman shipyard, and launched in March 2009. But with a time of one hour and 55 minutes, even the mighty Hanuman did not beat the record for mono-hulls (set in 2004 by the 147' Baltic yacht, Visione, which completed the course in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 7 seconds).
"I've sailed 10,000 miles on Hanuman and this was the most exciting day of sailing we've had on this boat," said Bruce Preston, Hanuman's captain, who participated in his first New Year's Eve Regatta and will see the name of the boat engraved on the winner's trophy. "The owner, Jim Clark, was at the helm for the entire race," added Preston, who joined Hanuman four months ago. "We got up to 14.6 knots of speed, with a crew of 14 for these very challenging conditions." The boat sails with a permanent crew of six.
None of the boats were able to raise spinnakers due to the rough conditions, and several boats did not finish the race. Donald Tofias, owner of the 76-ft W-Class White Wings, winner of Class 3, commented: "The seas were confused with 12' to 15' waves near Toiny, swells from the north and high winds from the east. You have to remember that this is a wet water sport, but as I always say, yachting is the winner and we had a great day out on the water. It was very exciting at the finish when we were weaving through the megayachts and some of the guests were out on the deck cheering us on. When sailing, you have to be ready for whatever conditions present themselves."
This year, the conditions were certainly more challenging than usual, but the staff from the Saint Barth Yacht Club, the Port of Gustavia, and race founder organizer Mark del Guidice took it all in stride. The 15th anniversary of the New Year's Eve Regatta will be an event to remember, with such special guests as Alistair Harrison, the new governor of Anguilla, sailing with Robert Towbin aboard the 1914 Fife ketch, Sumurun. Harrison noted that this was his first opportunity to visit to Saint Barth, where he met president Bruno Magras informally on the dock at the award ceremony for the regatta.
Winners 2009 New Year's Eve Regatta
Fastest boat: Hanuman (1h, 55m)
Results by Class:
1. Corban, Swan 40 2. Iznogoud 3. Magic Carpet
1. Merlin 2. Puffy 3. Orzo
1. White Wings (W-Class 76') 2. Lone Fox (65' ketch) 3. Fearless (Alden 70')
1. DSK, Swan 90 2. Hanuman, J-Class replica 3. Selene, Swan 80