Posted by: yachtcrewsing | March 21, 2012

Practice Days for the St. Barths Bucket Superyacht Regatta 2012

Practice has now officially begun for the St. Barths Bucket 2012 superyacht regatta! With an astounding 47 entries, most amongst the world’s most prestigious yachts, it promises to be a truly spectacular event; three days of hundreds of race crew maneuvering over half a billion dollars worth of boats around the exclusive island of St. Barths. And with many motor yachts and non-participating sailboats around the island to spectate, the harbour of Gustavia is bustling with vessels and full of life.

Today was our yacht’s second day of practice with our 30 race crew. Despite the main sail and our jibs being electronically set by controls in the helm station (oh, the mechanization of sailing), a surprising amount of physical manpower is required to properly race the vessel. After factoring out the captain, safety officer, tactician, electronics overseer and navigator, there are many jobs remaining both on the fore and aft decks. The main manpower is required for our enormous 1,600 square metre spinnaker (!) which is hoisted via deck winch and is covered with a large casing, resembling a stretched out sock (called a snuffer). Once we have changed course to downwind, then the snuffer is pulled up and the spinnaker majestically unfurls itself to harness the wind power (ideally). When we gybe, it requires the entire bow team of about 15 people to heave on the spinnaker sheet to pull it around before the wind violently rips the line out of our hands. As physically demanding as this is, it is nothing compared to the maneuver required to bring in the spinnaker. We haul the snuffer downwards to re-encase the spinnaker and begin lowering the 150-foot long cloth sausage onto the deck. During this we have to madly grab at the material left whipping in the wind down the side of the boat, bringing it in before it touches the water. Afterwards, everyone flops on the high-side of the boat, dangles their legs over the cap rail and takes an extremely necessary break.

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   Along with being a practice day, today was the J-Class Exhibition Race. The J-Class yachts are the old Americas Cup racing yachts from the 1930s, the modern ones of which some are replicas and some have been refurbished. Of this fleet of boats 4 were racing today, with the winner being Endevour, fresh out of a multi-year extensive refit. This, along with multiple social events, cocktail parties, and an antique warplane airshow, is one of the many facets that make the St. Barths Bucket the main event of the superyachting calendar.

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