It is, by geographic standards, a tiny island but in terms of impact, it is huge. St. Barthelemy, the eclectic French collectivite tucked into the Leewards of the Caribbean, maps only 24 square kilometers, perhaps nudging to 25 at low tide. In terms of people, places, and things, however, it is miles beyond destinations ten times its size.
Every March, an elite group of sailing yachts gathers here for a spirited race, The St. Barths Bucket Regatta. Conceived by handful of Nantucket sailors in 1986, the event was nurtured by a cast of many into a spectacular celebration of superyacht racing. The St. Barths edition, loosely christened in 1995, found solid navigation through its own managerial tactician, with guidance from local authorities. The result is this magnificent race that draws fans from around the globe to an unforgettable event, surrounded by a reef of wit, skill, technology, fascinating people, and a beautiful island.
Impressive New Ownership
The affable spirit of the event continued in 2015 through a change of ownership to loyal sponsors and industry icons Royal Huisman, Perini Navi, Vitters, and Rybovich. Seamlessly taking charge, the group wisely retained seasoned Event Director and Race Chairman Peter Craig. The agreement also embraced the Newport Bucket, held each August in Rhode Island.
Ocean Racing Congress superyacht rules were welcomed into the mix this year, initiating a new era of the Bucket while preserving its historic character. Regarding the rules change, primarily intended to improve the handicap process, tactician Mike Sanderson of Royal Huisman's Elfje summed up the emphasis on numbers measuring boat length, hull shape, and sail size, among others: " ... if you do a nice job with the variables, you should be able to win no matter which boat you've got, and that's a really cool thing."
The 46m Elfje debuted this year at the Bucket, earning a second in Les Elegantes des Mers class. The four classes of yachts, all over 30 meters save for Les Mademoiselles, saw 35 exquisite boats off on three days of superb racing.
Three Routes in Three Days
The first day found yachts navigating a 20-25 nm counterclockwise course in typical St. Barth perfection: flat seas with easterly 13-16 kt trades. Vitters Yachts Ghost Tactician Tom Whidden appropriately assessed, "If you didn't like today, you don't like sailing." Day two put the yachts on a "Not So Wiggly" course, and day three, a "Wrong Way Around" course. Complete results can be found on the St. Barths Bucket Regatta website.
Out and About St. Barths
Something old, something new, the Bucket recalled the Texas Flying Legends to perform entertaining aerial maneuvers from Gustav III's interesting air strip, and engaged Sailors for the Sea's Heather Rathrum to suggest further improvements for the regatta's already-conscious environmental footprint.
In and around Bucket Central overlooking the massive yachts deftly docked bumper to bumper, guests joined in Thursday night's fleet welcoming party, Friday night's yacht hop, Saturday night's Bucket Bash, and Sunday night's awards celebration. Successful networking and generous smiles exchanged between industry titans and deck hands were the norm. Enhanced by a mandatory tuck into the Baz Bar to log bucket time, a stroll through Gustavia's interesting streets, some culinary indulgence, and a little shopping therapy, the St. Barths Bucket Regatta is a many-faceted sailing event with heady appeal for an infinite list of reasons. What's yours?