It’s springtime, which means that the mega-motor-yachts, which grace Saint Barth for the end-of-the-year festivities, have headed off to their summer ports of call, allowing the Port of Gustavia to focus its attention on sailing races, such as the St Barth Bucket, which takes place on the last weekend of March. This year, the Bucket fleet will be the biggest ever, with an anticipated 35 sailboats—most of which are over 100’ long—participating in 14th edition of this invitational race. It’s like a beauty contest for nautical showgirls, yet every one is a real winner. Needless to say, their presence creates no small amount of maneuvering around on the docks, but the port staff is certainly up to the challenge. At the end of last year’s race, Bucket organizer Hank Halsted said that the event had come of age as a yachting event designed for, and supported by, the yachting community. And not only has the event reached maturity in terms of sponsorship, size of fleet, and overall organization, but the Bucket organizers are proud that the race is now recognized by the French Sailing Federation (FFV), which makes it an event that is official as well as mature. Another development is that after six years of handicapping the Bucket fleets, Jim Teeters’ VPP based Bucket Rating Rule has been adopted by the Superyacht Regattas of Antigua and Palma (in Mallorca) as the standard for all pursuit racing. As of the 2008 Antigua Superyacht Regatta last December, all Bucket and Superyacht Regattas will be rated by the same Rule, and by the same team, managed by Jim Teeters of US Sailing. This should help streamline the application process and bring parity to the Regatta results. With nearly a hundred yachts already in the system, the Bucket Rule should help even out the playing field. So which magnificent sailboats are heading toward the Port of Gustavia for this year’s Bucket? To begin with, there are nine Perini Navi yachts, a few of which are guaranteed to attract attention. First comes Tom Perkins’ legendary 289’ Maltese Falcon, back for its second appearance in the Bucket, having raced in 2007. The second Perini Navi to keep an eye on is the 125’ P2, a fast sloop designed by Philippe Briand, as a new class of racing yachts combining Perini Navi quality and comfort (let's face it, the magnificent Maltese Falcon is a techno-wonder, but not a speedster!) Next on the agenda this year is a new race that evokes the old days of sailing in Saint Barth, or at least there is a rumor that such a race is in the offing. It’s under the banner of West Indies Regatta Racing with LouLou Magras from St Barth and Alexis Andrews of Antigua behind the idea of racing the traditional wooden sailboats that bring back the sailing history of the island. Those who have been around long enough remember LouLou’s old Saint Barth Regattas, with as many 120 boats competing in the last one of these now mythical races in 1983. So it will be interesting to see what this new event comes up with in May, but anything that keeps the island’s sailing tradition alive sounds good to me.
More to come,