It is an unusual sight indeed to see a fleet of 30 sailboats, almost all over 100′ in length, sailing together! But in Saint Barth, that incredible sight has become an annual highlight of the sailing season as the fleet for the St. Barth Bucket has become more and more impressive over the years.
“It is rare to see a fleet of yachts this large racing together,” said Hank Halsted of Northrop and Johnson Yachts, who chairs the Bucket committee. This year, the head of the fleet in terms of sheer size and technical wizardry was the 286′ Maltese Falcon, Tom Perkins’ newest yacht that is not even a year old; the Bucket was just its third race.
The 12th edition of this invitational regatta had great sailing conditions on March 30, 31 and April 1, after a disappointing experience last year when all three days of racing were cancelled due to a lack of wind. The wind was calm but sufficient enough for the first day’s race around the island—but things really picked up with 25 knots average on Saturday and Sunday for some great sailing. With spinnakers unfurled on Sunday as they raced around the island in the opposite direction from Friday’s race, the boats in the regatta were quite a sight out on the water.
“We had a wonderful day out there on Sunday,” said Dayton Carr, who was aboard Sojana with owner Peter Harrison. “The winds were pretty steady, we had a lot of fun and some really good sailing.”
Not only was the racing spectacular, with staggered starts to ensure close finishes and good handicapping, there is also a great sense of camaraderie among the crews, skippers, and owners. On hand was Mike "Sparky" Beardsall, former skipper of the J-Class Endeavour, back as the skipper of Rebecca, and winner of the Cool Crew award for the second year, as well as the Churchill Corinthian Cup for seamanship in the spirit of yachting, which says something about Sparky’s leadership.
Tim Laughridge was back in a freelance capacity as the helmsman of the overall Bucket winner, the 126’ Palmer Johnson sloop, Kaori, the boat formerly known as Mandalay when owned by Nelson Doubleday, one of the creators of the original Newport Bucket. Laughridge was happy to see Kaori win the Bucket, especially as it was not only the first win—but also the first race—for its new owner Mike Panter.
The Port of Gustavia was filled for the weekend with magnificent boats, crews, skippers, owners, and guests, all in a festive mood for the regatta and a round of social events, including a surprise concert by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett at the awards ceremony on the dock.
From the skipper’s briefing aboard Maltese Falcon to the owner’s party at David Ray’s fabulous home above the Port of Gustavia, to the Boat Hop on Friday night, the events surrounding the regatta added to the fun. The Dubois-built yacht, Destination Fox Harb’r, lent its 68’ fishing boat, Too ReJoyce, as a press boat, allowing local and international photographers to take thousands of photos of the boats during the three days of racing.
Bucket history continues to be written with more awards, more sponsors, more big boats, and a great “Bucket” spirit. Halsted was extremely pleased that the Bucket “hit stride this year, and was sponsored by the yacht industry from the inside.” All sponsors are listed on the Bucket’s website at www.bucketregattas.com, where a history of the Bucket can be found.
The local organizing committee (led by Melanie Smith) works closely with the Port of Gustavia and the St. Barth Yacht Club to ensure smooth sailing for the large Bucket fleet. And with the beautiful island of St. Barth as the dramatic backdrop for the regatta, The St. Barth Bucket has become an event to be seen, on land and at sea!