In parliamentary procedure, one often hears the declaration: “The ayes have it.” But at the St. Barths Bucket in March, clearly the J’s had it. The 2013 Bucket marked the first time in 76 years that five J-Class yachts were in the same place at the same time to compete with one another. The J’s on hand were Hanuman, Lionheart, Ranger, Velsheda and Rainbow. And it is a true testament to a handful of owners’ love of tradition, coupled with insanity, that has led to a resurgence of the J-Class. There was an extra day given over to the J-Class to have their own playing field, and those fabulous, sleek 132-foot (40-meter) hulls and dark sails created a wondrous sight. The Royal Huisman–built Hanuman was the J-Class winner overall. Ken Read, president of North Sails and Volvo Ocean Race skipper, was at the helm. Richard Branson was spied racing on board with owner Jim Clark.
While the J’s no doubt accounted for a big Bucket buzz, the rest of the participants certainly were not slackers. On and around the tony island of St. Barths were some of the most exquisite mega-sailing yachts afloat doing what they were built for: sailing with friends and family and trying to beat up on the competition, all in good fun. “Win the party” has always been the mantra for the Bucketeers. The 2013 edition kept that spirit intact.
While five J’s raced at the 2013 St. Barths Bucket, in point of fact, today actually seven J-Class yachts exist. The two missing from the Bucket regatta were Endeavour and Shamrock V. For the uninitiated, the J-Class has its roots in the early America’s Cup regattas. Ten yachts were built to the J-Class rule between 1930 and 1937, six in America and four in Great Britain. The three that survived—rather, that were painstakingly and lovingly resurrected—are Shamrock V, Endeavour and Velesheda (the latter never served for an America’s Cup challenge). Hanuman, Ranger, Lionheart and Rainbow are all newly built. During World War II, the J’s were, by and large, scrapped because steel and lead were needed for the war effort; a few were left submerged, entombed in mud. After the war, the J’s were deemed too expensive for the America’s Cup, and thus a new international 12m rule was adapted for that esteemed race. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the J-Class revival began in earnest, when Elizabeth Meyer took it upon herself to oversee the refit/rebuild/restoration of Endeavour and Shamrock V. (The terms used to describe work done are a delicate matter and quite controversial as to what was an authentic restoration or a rebuild.)
In 2000, the J-Class Association (JCA) was founded to protect the interests of the present and future of the class, to keep the J-Class fleet and races alive and to encourage new-build yachts to enter the field. JCA established new class rules for the construction of replica rebuilds from original plans. Louise Morton, secretary of the class, was at the Bucket and on the committee boat daily to take care of her “babies” and ensure that the racing went smoothly.
"Win the party” has always been the catch-all phrase for the Bucketeers. It is all supposed to be in good fun. The coordination on the part of all does take some effort. Airplane tickets from across the globe, crews flown in, villas rented, breakfast, lunch and dinner, race team, Peter Craig, Jim Teeters, Jeanne Kleene and the host of volunteers, organizing courses, handicaps, ratings, awards, cocktails—it is a major effort to make the Bucket Regattas successful, safe and sustainable. At the prize-giving this year, J-Class winner Jim Clark made a suggestion. He held his trophy high and announced he was matching what he spent on the regatta, with a substantial donation to “Sail to Prevail,” Newport Rhode Island’s national organization for disabled sailors. While philanthropy is generally a very private matter, he did stir up a bit of a conversation—and conversation is always good, as long as at the end of the day, one clinks his champagne glass (this year, Taittinger was the sponsor) and says “cheers” or, as the French say, “chin chin.” The Bucket is a beautiful thing; superyacht sailing at its finest.
SPECIAL BUCKET AWARDS - 2013
Skullduggery Cravat: WILD HORSES
Alloy Yachts Trophy: GEORGIA
All Star Crew Award (presented by Holland Jachtbouw): AXIA
Wolter Huisman Memorial Spirit of the Bucket Trophy: AXIA
Perini Navi Cup: P2
Vitter’s Shipyard Seamanship Trophy: ZENJI
J-Class 1st Place HANUMAN
2nd Place LIONHEART
3rd Place VELSHEDA
Grandes Dames 1st GEORGIA
2nd Place PARSIFAL III
3rd Place AXIA
Mademoiselles 1st ADELA
2nd place SALPERTON
3rd place ZEFIRA
Les Gazelles 1st UNFURLED
2nd Place P2
3rd Place VISIONE
Overall Winner of the 2013 St. Barths Bucket: ADELA