This morning, dockside at The Bucket, it sounded rather funny for sailors to be talking about a 'not so wiggly course' with such reverence, but when the day was done and a second of three races had entered the 2014 regatta history books, it was quite clear why.
Mademoiselle, Elegante and Gazelle classes took on the long version (27.1 nm) of the course, which started on the west side of St Barths and wound its way around smaller islands and rocks to the north, while the Grande Dames sailed the shorter version (22 nm) in winds that were a few knots less than yesterday's yet just as feisty. The 'not so' in the course description was obviously tongue-in-cheek, as the 38 superyachts -ranging in size from 27.5m to 66.7m - zigged and zagged more than the usual number of times while crews executed numerous sail changes as well as spinnaker hoists and takedowns, alternately winding their charges up to gain advantage, then dialing them down to safely share close quarters at rounding marks with their magnificently sized competitors.
Leading in the Elegantes class after finishing third today and combining that with a first from yesterday is the 54 m Vitters ketch Marie, whose tactician Tony Rey, in describing his day, was beaming like a little kid who had just gotten away with something bigger than he expected: "Anybody who says superyacht racing is champagne and cocktails and taking it easy hasn't been to The Bucket," he said. "It's an absolutely spectacular exercise in teamwork to get these things around the track."
Rey said he was pleased with Marie's start and the first third of the leg but then encountered the classic situation of gaining so much that suddenly the team was in the mix with way more boats than he was comfortable with. "It was just mildly terrifying, which is a typical feeling in the afterguards at Bucket Regattas," said Rey, who counts this as his fifth Bucket Regatta aboard Marie. "This means we're having a good day."
Marie's crew had a few missteps with its manoeuvres (including "breaking a spinnaker and putting it in the water"), but others in the class did, as well, and six boats were abreast coming around Roche Table.
"It was absolutely spectacular; there were 40 meters on each side," Rey concluded, alluding to the International Superyacht Rule that requires boats to leave 40m in all directions between themselves and their competitors. "I didn't need sun screen because there was shade from all the sails."
Seahawk, in Grande Dames class, hit the rocks off Roche Table but was able to clear itself and sail to fifth, nevertheless, claiming the top spot on the leaderboard for a second day.
When Clan VIII briefly lost its steering at the same spot, it infringed on the rights of Zenji, causing Zenji to miss a turning mark, but, as is the case in most such Bucket instances, the Clan crew gracefully accepted its penalty and no doubt plans to supply some drinks to the Zenji crew at the Bucket Bash later this evening.
"This was the kind of day that taxes bow and mast teams first because of the physical hoists and drops," said Jonathan Kline, the safety officer aboard Clan VIII. "Then safety officers and tacticians second because of the close quarters of the 'wiggly' course, with the fleets converging and crossing."
Cape Arrow won the Gazelle class today with less than six minutes separating her from second-place finisher Nilaya, but the two are inverted on the overall scoreboard for Nilaya's advantage going into tomorrow's final race.
Moonbird has the most consistent finishes (2-2) in Mademoiselle class to lead overall, with Bequia having fallen to second from first yesterday.
Major sponsors for the St. Barths Bucket are Alloy Yachts, Holland Jachtbouw, Perini Navi, Royal Huisman and Vitters Shipyard.
Supporting sponsors are Burgess, Camper & Nicholson, Doehle Yachts, Doyle, Future Fibres, Newport Shipyard, North Sails, Pantaenius, Pendennis, Rybovich, Skuld Yacht, the Superyacht Report, Tradewind Aviation, US Trust, and ZIS Insurance.
Photos by Carlo Borlenghi / www.borlenghi.com