It was a beautiful day for sailing, with clear skies and 25 knots of wind creating brisk breezes for the 10th annual St. Barth New Year’s Eve Regatta, or around-the-island parade. A total of 36 beautiful sailboats of all sizes, ranging from the 21′ Noa Noa to the 155′ Hyperion, were divided into three classes, 50′ and under, up to 100′ and 100′ and over. Within each class, staggered start times create a very casual handicapping system. With the high winds, only a few of the smaller boats hoisted their colorful spinnakers as the parade made its way from Toiny toward Flamands.
Class 1, for the largest boats, had nine entries. The last boat to start was also the overall winner: Hasso Plattner’s high-tech Visione, a 147′ Baltic, matriculated in Germany, completed the around-the-island race in just one hour, 32 minutes and seven seconds. This makes Visione the first boat in five years to set a new record, beating the time of one hour, 53 minutes set by the 117′ Extra Beat in 1999. Visione set sail at 12 noon while the smallest boats started out at 10:00am.
Within Class 1, the first three boats to actually cross the finish line were Hyperion, then the 112′ sloop Titan 14, and Visione. The 15 boats in Class 2, ranged from the 57′ sloop, Surfing Sapphire, to the 89′ PK Boo. The first three to cross the finish line in Class 2 including two boats that spend every winter in St. Barth. First was Lone Fox, a restored 65′ ketch built in 1957, whose skipper, Randy West, is a longtime American ex-pat resident of St. Barth. Second was the vintage 72′ Hereshoff ketch, Ticonderoga, a beautiful wooden boat that ties up to the main dock in Gustavia every winter, and whose skipper, Tom Reardon, is well-known on the island. Third in this class was the 76′ Wild Horses, a W-Class sloop designed by Joel White and built in 1998 by Donald Tofias, using contemporary materials to create sailboats the evoke the look of older, classic boats.
In the smallest class, the first place winner was Starlight, a 46′ Swan. The first five place winners in each class won a trophy, presented by Mark Del Giudice, one of the organizers of the race and skipper of the 65′ Meriten, Mischievous, owned by Trey Fitzgibbons, who generously donates the trophies. The event is organized in conjunction with the St. Barth Yacht Club, represented by Finnish sailor/sailmaker Markku Harmala, and The Port of Gustavia, represented by deputy mayor Michel Magras, and Harbor Master, Bruno Gréaux. The Port provided champagne and beer on the dock during the informal awards ceremony at sundown, as well as at the race briefing on Friday December 30.
“It was a great day for racing,” says Del Giudice, who stresses that this event is held just for fun. “The conditions were excellent and the wind had shifted to the east meaning we had gentle seas and good speed. Visione is one of the fasted high-tech boats out there and makes a nice comparison to the classics like Ticonderoga, Juno, and Lone Fox.” Del Giudice also reported that many of the boats made a donation of one dollar or one Euro per foot (of its length) to the St. Barth Yacht Club in support of the club’s sailing program for children.