March and April have become hot months for sailboat racing in Saint Barth, with The St. Barth Bucket and Les Voiles de Saint Barth attracting a fabulous array of boats, a cadre of top-notch sailors, and some pretty serious sailing.
The 21st St. Barth Bucket Regatta took place March 17-21, with three days of great racing under sunny skies and steady winds. “The race committee introduced many new course options this year— courses that challenged crews with their sail handling, and the afterguard with strategy and tactics,” notes race chairman Peter Craig.
This year’s overall Bucket winner was the 46m (161ft) yacht, Unfurled, she was also the winner in Les Gazelles des Mers class, beating last year’s winner Visione. Launched in 2016, Unfurled is a new high-performance aluminum sloop that marks the first collaboration between the Dutch shipyard, Vitters, and renowned Argentinean racing yacht designer Germán Frers.
New rules for the Bucket stipulate that the overall winner must be one of the pursuit class winners, all of which are superyachts over 30m (99ft) in length. The class winner, who prevails in the ‘most competitive, closely contested class’, is the overall winner. This year there were five classes for the first time, making the racing more competitive in each category.
Other class winners include the Perini Navi sloop P2 (Les Elegantes des Mers), the Palmer Johnson ketch Axia (Les Femmes des Mers), the Nautor Swan sloop Freya (Les Mademoiselles des Mers), and the Perini Navi ketch Rosehearty (Les Grandes Dames des Mers).
Three fabulous J-Class boats—Ranger, Topaz and Velsheda— put on quite a show, competing against each other in a race within a race, after a solo course the first day. After four races, Velsheda nosed past Ranger to take top honors for that handsome threesome.
The Bucket also awards a few special trophies and this year’s winner of the The Wolter Huisman Memorial Spirit of the Bucket Trophy went to the Pendennis ketch, Rebecca. Alice Huisman presents this award each year to the yacht that best exemplifies the spirit of the Bucket Regattas. The Vitters Seamanship Trophy went to Alexa of London, as the yacht that demonstrates the best seamanship and sportsmanship in the interest of promoting safety on the race course. The Perini Navi Cup went to P2, as the Perini Navi yacht with the best race results. Meanwhile, the All-Star Crew Award was presented by Rybovich to Seahawk, for the yacht crew among the fleet that demonstrates the most professional service in all tasks, while maintaining the best joie de vivre, camaraderie, teamwork and respect among the crew.
The Bucket made its annual donation to a non-profit entity on the island: 20,000 euros to the Saint Barth yacht club to finance new boats for the sailing school. Bravo to The Bucket for its generosity!
The second big spring regatta, Les Voiles de St. Barth, sailed April 11-16, is designed to put the island’s best foot forward on the international sailing scene. A fleet of 61 boats, including some powerful racing machines, were chomping at the bit but action on the start line was slow. The first day of racing brought winds up to 15 knots but this dropped to just five to nine knots on day two. Then, after the official day off on April 14, when the crews engaged in paddle boarding and a general good time at Nikki Beach, the wind died completely and Friday’s race was cancelled. This was unusual as April in Saint Barth usually comes with strong trade winds, but not this year.
After putting the fleet on standby until 11am, the race organizers had no choice but to cancel racing for the day; the first time this has happened in the history of Les Voiles.
On Saturday, the last day of racing, the boats coaxed what they could out of very light winds, as the first-place slots in many classes were still up for grabs. The final race was set at 20 nautical miles for Maxis 1 and 2, CSA 0, and Multihulls, and 17 miles for CSA 1 through 4 plus Melges 24 and Class 40, for a counter-clockwise sail around the island with just six knots of wind.
Skippers had to keep their eyes peeled for slower competitors, while for those ashore it was like watching a leisurely parade of beautiful boats.
In the Maxi 1 class, the contenders were Momo and Proteus, with Momo leading for most of the race. Momo finally ran out of wind near the finish, and Proteus sailed past to victory, taking home the winner’s prize of a Richard Mille RM 60-01 Chronograph Flyback Regatta watch.
Light winds or strong, the prestigious Les Voiles is a tightly organized regatta that puts on a good show ashore as well as during the races.
LES VOILES WINNER’S CIRCLE
Maxi 1: Proteus CSA 3: Corrs Light
Maxi 2: Prospector CSA 4: Credit Mutuel-Maximarine
CSA 0: Vesper Multihull: Triple Jack
CSA 1: Lazy Dog Melges 24: Team Island Water World
CSA 2: Humilidad Zero Class 40: Earandil
For details of the next St Barth Bucket, March 16–19 2017, visit: www.bucketregattas.com/stbarths
For information about the eighth Les Voiles de St Barth, April 10-15 2017, visit: www.lesvoilesdesaintbarth.com
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine.