A frisson of excitement rattled the dock in Gustavia on the morning of December 31 2102 – the weather was perfect, the big yachts were lined up at the dock, and tenders were scuttling back and forth taking crew and supplies out to the boats that would compete in the annual New Year’s Eve Regatta.
Sunny skies and winds of 12-15 knots were enough for the 18 boats on the start line, including Visione, Hasso Plattner’s beautiful Reichel/Pugh designed 147-footer, which holds the record for the fastest time around the island in this event of 1:32:07, set in 2004. Would Visione be able to break its own record?
Lloyd Thornberg, defending his own record of 2:06:13, set December 31 2011 aboard his speedy Gunboat 66 catamaran Phaedo, offered some potential competition. However, Visione was the overall winner and tops in Class 1 for the largest boats, clocking in at 1:40:15, eight minutes shy of their own record (conditions were different in 2004). Phaedo finished second.
What makes this regatta special is that it’s open to boats of all sizes and this format allows smaller local boats to compete along with those that arrive from St. Martin to take part. This year the St. Martin contingent included the winner of the class for the smallest boats—Frits Bus’ Melges 24, now sailing under the colors of Island Water World.
“Conditions this year were almost perfect, enough wind, yet not too much wind. Since many yachts don’t come with their professional racing crews and many are there for the fun and cruising, that’s the best we could have,” says Bus about the race. “Also the swell was moderate, which can sometimes be treacherous at the east and north side of the island.”
As for the competition in his class, Bus says, “We had some great competition this year, we passed the last boat in our class just before the finish and we had the same type of boat, the other Melges, close on our heels.”
Bus travels to St. Barth annually for this regatta. “I come for the race, because I like it and it’s a great thing to do on the last day of the year,” he explains. “You race against boats that you normally wouldn’t, because some really special boats—like Endeavour and Velsheda—come to visit and participate for fun. Then I like to stay in St. Barth for the party, as I like the atmosphere with the dancing on the dock.”
Bus adds: “To attract more boats, if necessary, they should at least try to make the ratings fairer, or make the starting times better by studying the results of past races. Maybe have someone with knowledge look at it. It was good a few years ago but now the finish times are way off.”
Adjustments to starting times and ratings aside, this regatta, organized by Mark del Giudice, the Saint Barth Yacht Club, and the Port of Gustavia, is the perfect way to sail into the New Year.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine. She writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.