Sailors couldn't have asked for a sweeter experience at the 2017 Candy Store Cup Superyacht Edition. The event showcased some of the world's most spectacular and technologically sophisticated luxury sailing yachts racing off Newport, R.I. on Thursday through Saturday (July 27-29) and provided three days of wildly varied conditions, courtesy of Mother Nature, as well as a full slate of colorful social events, courtesy of co-hosts Bannister's Wharf and Newport Shipyard, the latter of which was headquarters for the event and home to most of the fleet while not racing.
At Saturday night's prize giving at a Newport estate on Ocean Drive, the 92-foot yawl Bequia was declared overall winner and awarded the silver Candy Store Cup Trophy in addition to its Class B victory prize of a glass vase filled with penny candy. Until then, no one was quite sure who would take the overall honors, due to the close racing that had taken place over three races, held one-per-day and covering from 12 to 26 miles each.
Thursday, in a 23.7-mile race that started off Castle Hill and featured Brenton Point and the Cliff Walk as scenic backdrops, the enormous superyachts struck imposing silhouettes against an overcast sky that every so often allowed the sun to peek through. The mid-range southwesterly winds allowed Bequia to set the pace with a 58-second win over Freya at the finish line, which was set just off Fort Adams as a "first" for the regatta, which debuted last year as a combination of two individual regattas previously known as Newport Bucket Regatta and Candy Store Cup.
When the wind switched to an ever-so-light northerly on Friday, Freya returned the favor by beating Bequia by a mere 43 seconds at the traditional finish line off Castle Hill. With the two boats now tied, it meant that Class B's winner would be determined with Saturday's final race. This was the case, also, in Class A, where Action and Sunleigh had three and four overall points, respectively, and Class C, where Meteor, Whitehawk and Naema were tied with four points each.
On Saturday, a dogs-off-chains nor'easter demanded that the Candy Store Cup winners be especially deserving...and they were. Bequia handled the 25 knots like it was 15 and won the race after Freya was forced to retire with a split mainsail.
"We had a wonderful week sailing against Freya," said Bequia's tactician Tom Whidden at the awards party. "We're quite different boats, but obviously the handicap rule is doing a good job, and we had some really close racing. We felt badly they had a breakdown on the last day; we were looking forward to seeing how we'd do, and I think we would have been very close."
Bequia's overall victory was contingent first on class victory, next by lowest point score among class victors (Action and Bequia both had four points each), and then by traditional sailing tiebreaker rules, but when the latter failed to clarify the winner, the race committee deferred to the regatta provision of "starting prowess" as the final determinant. That trait, it turns out, the extraordinarily well-sailed Bequia possessed in spades.
"How spectacular to have a medium-air, a light-air and a heavy-air race," said Whidden, noting that despite the whipped-up seas on Saturday, the course allowed them to sail in relatively flat water. "They couldn't have planned it better."
Dan Meyers, the Newport/Boston resident who won Class C, skippering his 170' schooner Meteor to finish positions of 1-3-1, agreed: "The first day was a perfectly moderate day, so nobody could complain. Friday, much to our detriment, it was light and a struggle for us but kind of fun to try to keep Meteor going on the track. And Saturday was full-on. A kite up in 30 knots keeps your attention, but it was fun. We had it all!
"This is different than any other superyacht regatta in the world," added Meyers. "It's run by a team of people who know how this is supposed to go; the courses were really well conceived, the classes were really well conceived...They made everything better: the social events are better, the racing is better, the new Thursday-through-Saturday format is better. It's more fun...more friendly, but they don't sacrifice on the sailing."
Ian Walker, tactician aboard Class A winner Action, a 121' sloop, said that for a boat that was built for cruising, Action was raced pretty hard. Action had to beat Sunleigh on Saturday to win, but Sunleigh chose not to sail in the conditions. Ranger had a problem with its mast track and had to retire, leaving Action as the default winner.
"I've really enjoyed this regatta," said Walker. "I love that the boats are so close together on the docks here; it's well supported by sponsors; there is lots of hospitality in a relaxed atmosphere; and obviously Newport is a beautiful place to be this time of year. You couldn't wish for a better superyacht regatta, and in a way the fact that the Candy Store Cup is smaller and more intimate is its unique selling point."
Shore-side parties included an owner's dinner at the famous Clarke Cooke House on Bannister's Wharf; a "yacht hop" on Friday at the Shipyard where hundreds of sailors milled around the M. GEMI pop-up store selling Italian leather shoes and sharing gelato in addition to a food truck that provided a hearty dinner for the hungry sailors. Saturday's prize giving hosted 400 people who got their last thrills of the regatta dancing to an Eagles cover band that could have easily been mistaken for the real thing.
Royal Huisman, Perini Navi, Vitters and Rybovich, which are major players in the superyacht industry and were all stewards of the Newport Bucket, are presenting partners of the Candy Store Cup. Supporting partners of the event are KVH Industries, North Sails, Sentient Jet, Southern Spars / Future Fibres, Willis Towers Watson, The Marshall Islands Registry, and M. Gemi.
Candy Store Cup Newport - Official Race Results Summary
1. ACTION, 121' (37m) Royal Huisman/Dykstra Sloop, 1-2-1, 4
2. SUNLEIGH, 105' (32m) Jongert/Tony Castro Sloop, 3-1-4/DNS, 8
3. RANGER, 138' (42m) Danish Yachts/S&S Dykstra Sloop, 2-3-4/RET, 9
1. BEQUIA, 92' (28m) Brooklin Boat Yard/Stephens Yawl, 1-2-1, 4
2. FREYA, 88' (27m) Nautor's Swan/Frers Sloop, 2-1-5/RET, 8
3. WILD HORSES, 75' (23m) W-Class Yachts/White, 3-3-2, 8
4. AUDREY II, 89' (27m) Jongert Ketch, 4-4-5/RET, 13
1. METEOR, 170' (52m) Royal Huisman/Dykstra Schooner, 1-3-1, 5
2. WHITEHAWK, 104' (32m) Lie-Nielsen/Bruce King Ketch, 2-2-2, 6
3. NAEMA, 118' (42m) Graafship/Hodgdon Yachts G Schooner, 3-1-4, 8
4. ZENJI, 184' (56m) Perini Navi/Ron Holland 4-4-3, 11