Ghost, a first-timer in the annual St. Barth's New Year's Eve Regatta, clocked the fastest time around the island at 1 hour, 51 minutes, and 12 seconds, taking top honors in this nautical parade that takes place every December 31 to usher in the holiday festivities. A fleet of 18 boats, 17 mono-hulls (divided into three classes by size) and one catamaran, set sail with staggered starts from 10am to 12 noon, under sunny skies with gusty winds as high as 25 knots and challenging seas with waves as high as six feet. The conditions were better than in the 2009 regatta, when huge winds and raging seas caused more than one boat to turn around and head back to the dock.
The staggered starts were a bit of an issue this year, with perhaps too much of a lag time, as the largest boat, the 188-foot ketch Twizzle, skippered by Gordon Percy, started last, close to noon. Twizzle caught up with only one other boat during the entire race: the 125-foot Perini Navi P2, which stopped for approximately 30 minutes to replace a sail after a fitting broke. The owners and skippers were hoping to sail with the other boats in their class for a more competitive day out on the waves, rather than a solo time trial around the island, noted the owner of the 80-foot Selene, which took second place in Class 2 (boats of 50-80ft). The class was won by Donald Tofias, an annual winter resident in St. Barth, aboard his 76-foot W-Class White Wings.
The all-carbon, silver-hulled Ghost was designed by Luca Brenta for owner Arne Glimcher, who has sailed in prior editions of the St. Barth Bucket, which takes place in March, but not in the New Year's Eve Regatta until 2010.
"We had a great race, really superb," said Mike Hutchinson, the English skipper of Ghost. "We all had grins on our faces. Ghost is a boat that sails well, has a great owner and an interesting program."
Ghost will now have its name inscribed on the perpetual trophy, which remains on display at the Port of Gustavia. As well as winning the silverware, the boat's owner was presented with a beautiful Cartier watch, sponsored by Jean-Marc GrÃ©aux, who happened to be aboard for the regatta.
Class 1, for boats from 30 to 50ft, witnessed a close duel between two 34-footers, Raymond Magras' Speedy Nemo and Raphael Magras' Maelia, the boats coming in first and second place respectively with only one minute separating the two at the finish. It was like a mini-regatta within the big regatta, giving two of the smaller boats a great day out on the water with the lead changing hands as far as the point of Colombier, where Speedy Nemo found stronger wind and nosed ahead to win. Phaedo, the only catamaran in the race, won class 4.
Speaking at the dockside awards ceremony over champagne and hors d'oevres, Mark Del Giudice, marina manager at Forty 1° North in Newport, Rhode Island, said: "What a fabulous way to spend the last day of 2010." Del Guidice came in to organize the race, as he has done since its inception, along with the St Barth Yacht Club and the Port of Gustavia.
The regatta's top time of 1 hour, 32 minutes, and 7 seconds set by the 147-foot Visione in 2004 still stands. Maybe next year one of the powerful yachts will have the perfect combination of wind and sails to break this time and sail into 2012 as the new record holder.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to All At Sea since 2000. She also writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.