St Barths Bucket Regatta: Win The Party - Yachts International

St Barths Bucket Regatta: Win The Party

The Bucket has morphed from its casual origin 25 years ago in Nantucket when there were a mere seven boats and it was a low-key gentleman’s race. This year the Bucket organizers decided to cap the event at 47 boats, the largest number ever, and there were at least a half-dozen on the waiting list. Competition is keen, but the Bucket’s mantra has always been, “Win the party.”
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Photography by Dana Jinkins

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The buzz in St. Barths before, during, and after the Bucket Regatta is big—big for the competing sailing yachts, and big for the economy of this tiny jet setter’s enclave in the French West Indies. The St. Barths Bucket is one of the island’s largest revenue events of the year, second only to its legendary New Year’s Eve celebrations when the world’s most prestigious yachts vie for dock space. During the Bucket, the port of Gustavia fills up with stunning yachts, which spill out to the outer harbor, replete with racing yachts and a varied spectator fleet. Every one of the island’s bakeries gears up to quadruple its output, with pre-order for French baguettes reaching mind-boggling levels. Think 47 megayachts, each one supporting anywhere from 25 to 40 owners, guests and crew. There is a certain practicality to proffering foil-wrapped baguette sandwiches for lunch at a 45- degree heel, rather than, say, lobster bisque. A racing program requires keen and adept organizational skills. Provisioning aside, all the yachts are dealing with a load of logistics—flights, ferry reservations, villa and car rentals, and dinners ashore. Even if owners and guests are perfectly comfortable aboard their yachts, the America’s Cup tacticians have to sleep somewhere. Then there are the occasional boat bruises and casualties: ripped sails that have to be repaired into the wee hours of the night, and such—all part of the program. Competition is keen, but the Bucket’s mantra has always been, “Win the party.”

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In the days leading up to the regatta, the energy is high and the mood around town is ebullient. Owners meet other owners, compare notes, visit each other’s boats, renew old friendships and make new ones. There are five-hour lunches at popular bistros such as Do Brazil, Nikki Beach, Le Plage, and Eden Roc with cobalt-blue magnums of Clos Beylesse rosé flowing like fountains.

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The Bucket has morphed from its casual origin 25 years ago in Nantucket when there were a mere seven boats and it was a low-key gentleman’s race. This year the Bucket organizers decided to cap the event at 47 boats, the largest number ever, and there were at least a half-dozen on the waiting list. Veteran event director and race chairman, Peter Craig and the entire Bucket committee insist that safety is key. With such big boats racing in close proximity, this is of paramount importance.

The organization of the several different classes at this year’s event was superbly orchestrated with the usual staggered start, typical of a pursuit race. There are always a few complaints about Jim Teeters’ ratings and handicapping, but a few said the handicapping was the best ever.

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With such a large fleet, it often comes down to each boat having a particular nemesis. For instance, for Twizzle it was Lady B; for Panthalassa, it was Parsifal III. And back at anchor, if you can’t beat you nemesis, you get out the slingshot and send your water balloons flying. The usual antics, costumes, pranks and puns, abounded. What was exceptional this year was that for the first time, there were four J-Class yachts competing. In fact, the day before the official Bucket, there was a J-Class-only competition among Hanuman, Endeavour, Velsheda and Ranger. It was a magnificent sight to behold.

While the Bucket Regatta itself is certainly a focal point, and getting more competitive every year, the phenomenon of the Bucket has transcended racing. It is giant commotion and celebration of all things yachting—wind, water, elegance, luxury, freedom and unadulterated fun. It is not uncommon for owners’ wives and their lady-friends to ditch the race and head ashore for a beach lunch and shopping. And why not? The entire scene on St. Barths during the Bucket is dripping in charm with red-tile roofs, steep hills and commanding views surrounded by sparkling water. On the racecourse, the exciting starts, the side-by-side sailing and downwind panoply of spinnakers are breathtaking. For the cognoscenti, it is no surprise that the shore-side prices are breathtaking too. Yet, for this one magical week, the real world be damned. Yachting rules. St. Barths is the “it” place and life is good. Salute! Cin Cin! Prost! Skol! Cheers! A votre santé!

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For more information, visit bucketregattas.com

Jill Bobrow, Dana Jinkins and Alessandro Vitelli have collaborated on a new book celebrating 25 years of Bucket Regatta. “The Bucket Book, A Celebration of Megayacht Racing” is available on the Bucket’s site bucketregattas.com/25thbook.html

St. Barths Bucket Race Results:

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GRAND DAMES

Rank

PARSIFAL III

1

PANTHALASSA

2

AXIA

3

ELEGANTES

Rank

THIS IS US

1

BLUE TOO

2

WINDCREST

3

MADEMOISELLES

Rank

LADY B

1

GANESHA

2

TWIZZLE

3

GAZELLES

Rank

MARI-CHA III

1

FIREFLY

2

P2

3

J CLASS

Rank

ENDEAVOUR

1

RANGER

2

VELSHEDA

3

YACHT

TIME

PLACE

ENDEAVOUR

1:49:44

1

VELSHEDA

1:52:38

2

HANUMAN

1:53:03

3

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