Finishes at The St Barth's Bucket were extra close today and decided some class wins by mere seconds. The third and final day of racing of the three day series presented winds that again enabled a quick pace around the race course, this time in a 'wrong way' (clockwise direction) around the island that measured 24.5 miles for the Gazelle and Elegante classes and 21 for the Grande Dames and Mademoiselles.
Perhaps most dramatically, the Perini Navi Clan VIII finished a mere five seconds ahead of Seahawk in the Grande Dames class, preventing another Perini Navi Seahawk from snatching victory overall and allowing Altair to slip in and take the top spot on the scoreboard.
"If it had been the other way around and we had finished ahead of Clan VIII by five seconds, we would've won the class," said Seahawk's captain Robert 'Johnno' Jonstone, who called it a roller coaster day, "so exciting, but so draining."
Right at the start, his team's giant spinnaker, with over 1000sqm of sail cloth, filled before it got to the lock at the top of the mast, and the halyard broke. "We crossed the line dragging it in the water," said Jonstone, "but we pulled it out and wooled it up; then while sailing on the backside of the island, we sent someone up the rig to sort things and change the lock over-it was an amazing effort."
The Seahawk team then mustered the confidence to hoist the spinnaker again on the relatively short downwind stretch to the finish line, but bad luck was still riding with them. "We had 500 metres to go to the finish, and when the halyard went up it wouldn't jam in the lock."
Clan VIII and Seahawk crossed the finish line in third and fourth, with the Perini Navi Silencio and Altair taking first and second, respectively. In final cumulative scoring, Altair was one point ahead of Seahawk, with Silencio falling into third and Clan VIII finishing sixth.
The Vitters-built Marie also had a tantalisingly close finish with Royal Huisman's Unfurled and Varsovie to win the Elegantes class and, in addition, overall honours, based on turning in the best cumulative score (6 points on the merit of a 1-3-2 scoreline) from among all classes.
"We had to win today, or if Varsovie won (which she did), we had to at least beat Unfurled," said Peter Wilson, who managed Marie's build and served as her safety officer here. Marie finished second to Varsovie, and Unfurled finish third, close enough to Marie that when Wilson was asked how far she was behind, he laughed and said, "40.1 meters!" It is 40 meters that must be left between these superyachts at all times while racing in order to insure that no collisions occur, and it is because of this international superyacht rule that safety officers have great say in all decisions made by their afterguards.
Wilson said decisions had to be made quickly, especially on the backside of the island where the wind got very shifty. "We got in the traffic of the Perinis and that was an enormous part of our strategic plan for what happened next," said Wilson, explaining that his team helped force Unfurled into the bad air of the Perini Navi Parsifal III, which caused Unfurled to have to gybe away and lose precious time.
Nilaya finished fourth today in the Gazelles class, and that performance, combined with two second-place finishes from Friday's and Saturday's racing, was strong enough to give her class victory. The largest yacht here at 66.7m, Hetairos, won today's race, with Visione taking second, landing the latter yacht in runner-up position overall.
For Mademoiselles, it was Bequia that made the power play to knock Moonbird from her first-place perch secured yesterday. Again, it was down to the wire at the finish, with the Alloy Yacht Blue Too, Bequia, Moonbird and Sarafin, in that order, finishing within five minutes of each other.
"The take-away is that I don't know if there has ever been a better-weather Bucket than this," said Event Director and Race Chairman Peter Craig. "It was 15-20 knots, moderate-to-upper-end for three days, which was challenging for sailors and fabulous for spectators. Sailing to the superyacht rule can be a burden to get used to, but the level to which everyone sailed... you'd think you were at a conventional regatta."
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.
Taittinger Champagne and Barbeyrolles Rose are official suppliers.
The four class winners will each receive a beautiful, handcrafted Ship's Bell Clock from Chelsea Clock.
Photos by Carlo Borlenghi / www.borlenghi.com