38 Superyachts Prepare for Competition in St. Barths

Every sailor knows what a bucket is, but only some are lucky enough to know the true definition and spirit of the Bucket: an annual pilgrimage of sailing superyachts to the French West Indies for a regatta of magnificent proportions. With support from Stewards Perini Navi, Royal Huisman, Vitters Shipyard and Rybovich and 19 industry Friends, the legendary Bucket Regatta is held on the tiny island of Saint-Barthélemy and has placed the French collectivity in the limelight as a serious sailboat racing venue and firmly in the hearts of Bucket sailors – 1500, give or take, each March – who indulge in its magnifique offerings.

This edition of the Bucket will see 38 superyachts, ranging in length from 30 metres to 88 metres, racing in a four-day event that officially starts Thursday, March 16. The bulk of the fleet will enjoy pursuit racing over scenic coastal courses under special rules of World Sailing’s Appendix SY from Friday through Sunday, while six historic J Class yachts will start a day early. The J Class yachts will sail under their own class rules for two days of traditional windward-leeward races and coastal course races with the other superyachts over the weekend.

“That the J Class yachts are here six-strong is huge news,” said Race Director Peter Craig, “but what’s also unique this year is that the fleet is represented, across the board, by true superyachts. In past years, we’ve grandfathered in several boats smaller than 30 metres, but this year we changed the eligibility. It should make for quite the spectacle of beautiful yacht design, engineering ingenuity, and of course, safe, exciting racing.”

This marks the first time that six of the J Class yachts have lined up together since the 1930s when they famously sailed for the America’s Cup. Shamrock V (J3) is the first J ever built, and Velsheda (J7) is an original as well, while the balance of the fleet – Hanuman (J6), Lionheart (J1), Ranger (J5) and Topaz (J8) – are replicas built to original drawings.

“It’s going to be super cool,” said Peter Holmberg, who will skipper Topaz and has sailed in the Bucket on various entries since 2008. “These are the race boats from the days of old with a modern touch to them, including carbon sails and all the fine rigging you could ever want. They may not be the fastest boats on the water but the challenge of sailing them is tremendous. They are hard to turn and they track long, so for a team to execute all the maneuvers takes some real planning. I would equate it with racing classic cars on an oval race track.”

The superyachts in the five pursuit classes will be equally impressive, with towering rigs, massive sails and the sport’s top talent to keep them engaged in battles for class victories and the Chelsea Clock trophies that go with them.

Defending in the five-boat Les Gazelles des Mers (Class A) will be Unfurled, the 46 metre Vitters sloop whose crew certainly knows a good bucket when they see one. On top of their class victory last year, they won the slightly dented bucket that has famously been made into the Bucket Trophy for best overall performance. (Since the Bucket Trophy is so precious, French luxury label Hermès steps in to provide an elegant keeper trophy.)

With a rating differential of just 32 seconds a mile between the first and fifth boat, this class will be highly competitive.

Les Elegantes des Mers (Class B) is the largest of the classes with nine entries, and sure to keep it exciting there will be the Perini Navi sloop P2 and the Vitters sloop Ganesha. The two boats recently made a nail biter out of the Loro Piana Caribean Superyacht regatta, where P2 ultimately prevailed in a dual for first. P2 is defending champion here.

Royal Huisman is represented in this class by the ketch Elfje and the sloop SPIIP, while Vitters is represented by the sloop Ningaloo and the sloop Ganesha.

Les Mademoiselles des Mers (Class C) is a breakout of seven boats that are spirit-of-tradition-like in appearance, meaning their visual profiles are classic, with an abundance of elegant overhangs and sleek sheer lines. Among the fleet are five split-rigs, including the ketch Axia (winner of Les Femmes des Mers class last year); the ketch Huckleberry; the schooner Adela; and the schooner Elena of London. Two Royal Huisman sloops, Action and  Wisp round out the fleet.

Black and white Bucket Regatta racing photograph.The eight-boat class for Les Grandes Dames des Mers (Class D) is Perini Navi heavy, with the ketch Roseheartyback to defend its 2016 victory in this class. Rounding out the Perini Navis are Perseus 3, Zenji, Aquarius and 88-metre Maltese Falcon. A ship-rigged luxury yacht, Maltese Falcon is the largest vessel in the fleet and one of the largest privately owned sailing yachts in the world. Royal Huisman will be represented by the schooner Meteor.

Fulfilling a superyacht racing initiative that has been in the works for two years and is getting rave reviews is a new Corinthian Spirit Class. Following Bucket tradition, that class here has been given a French name: Les Voiles Blanche (Class E). The Vitters sloop KOO will sail against the Perini Navi Bayesian, the ketch Q, and the sloop Escapade.

“Corinthian Spirit racing puts an emphasis on fun, competitive racing with no spinnakers,” said Craig. “It has a single-number handicap that can be adjusted between races if needed, and it requires fewer racing crew and fewer regatta-related expenses.”

Affinity Management Services, Bank of America, Burgess, Camper & Nicholsons International, Dohle Yachts, Doyle Sailmakers, Dykstra, Future Fibres, Marine Pool, MB92, MTN, Newport Shipyard, North Sails, Pantaenius, Pendennis, The Superyacht Report, Tradewind Aviation, Willis Towers Watson, and ZIS Insurance.