Vive le Bucket! – A Racing Phenomenon
Posted March 21, 2012, 4:04 p.m.
Vive le Bucket! – A Racing Phenomenon
By Norma Trease
In twenty-five years of Bucket Regattas, this large-yacht racing phenomenon has come to represent the best of the yachting world, showcasing beauty afloat, creating exciting new technology, and offering an entire yachting community a reason to celebrate and congregate together in a spirit of camaraderie and competition.
Is it possible that twenty-five years have passed since the concept of large-yacht racing was dreamed up on the foggy island of Nantucket? Those many years ago, five intrepid yacht owners who only wanted to sail against each other, went on to create not only Bucket racing, but eventually an entire industry devoted to their vision. Today, there are plenty, maybe too many, yacht regattas to choose from, on continents spread across the globe, but few will ever rival the very special joie de vivre that characterize the Bucket Regattas – and none can ever claim their unique place in yachting history as these regattas can. In March of 2011, the international brother and sisterhood of loyal Bucketeers gathered together on the verdant isle of Saint Barthélemy to celebrate, honor and simply enjoy the very special magic that is a quarter century of Bucket Racing.
Bucket races always showcase a wildly diverse fleet, and this years spectacular selection, numbering 40 yachts, representing close to three kilometers of yacht building excellence afloat, displayed an amazing variety. Ranging from 30 to 88 meters, the St. Barths Bucket 2011 attracted the crème de la crème of yacht builders from every sailing nation, with several builders boasting multiple entries, including no less than six Royal Huismans, six Perini Navis and all the way from New Zealand, four Alloy Yachts. The fleet was this year divided into three classes. Grande Dames raced alongside Gazelles and the newest Bucket class, Les Elegantes des Mers. Competitive racers such as P2 and Leopard ran with classic Herreshoff schooner Elena of London, to the ever-magnificent sight of Maltese Falcon with her three Dyna Rig sails unfurled, “J” yachts Ranger and Hanuman, racing machines Leopard and Sojana, plus a slew of sleek Dubois beauties.
Many yachts racing this year were Bucket veterans including Perini Navis’ Antara, Parsifal III, P2, Helios II, and Klosters, as was the Holland Yachtbouw, Windrose; White Wings and Bequia from Brooklin Boatyard, joining Royal Huismans Meteor, and Hyperion; never forgetting the Bucket veterans sailing onboard the Pendennis Rebecca and S&S Axia. Yet you cannot field a fleet of this magnitude without always having a few newbies, and they always add an extra level of excitement – sailing against the unknown! In fact, of the 40 yachts sailing this year, an impressive 15 were new to the fleet. Decorating the water was the brand-new 55m Vitters Maria, whose sleek black rig and hull added a definite touch of elegance, while the 58m Royal Huisman Twizzle showed both her distinguished pedigree and her modern technology in one gorgeous package; while rounding out newly-launched Dutch excellence was the Holland Yachtbouw This Is Us. Third in the Kokomo series, at 58m the largest yacht built in New Zealand by Alloy Yachts, and designed by eternal favorite designer Ed Dubois, was another new yacht gladly welcomed to Bucket racing.
Bucket Regattas have always emphasized safety, and enjoy an enviable record and history of safe racing over the last twenty-five years, yet handicapping a fleet this large, and of such incredible diversity is not a job for amateurs. Establishing Bucket Ratings is a science, painstakingly developed over the course of several years by racing ratings guru Jim Teeters. The Bucket rating program is so sophisticated and successful that several other races have adopted the same system, including Palma’s Superyacht Cup. Yet this year, on the final day of racing, in a spectacular downwind finish, over 24 yachts finished in just over twenty minutes, with the rest of the pack closing in not too far behind, so obviously Teeters has the right stuff. Joining the Bucket team this year as Race Chairman was international racing veteran Peter Craig, into whose capable hands the future of Bucket Regattas has been entrusted, and judging from his first race in charge, all looks like smooth sailing ahead.
No matter how exciting the event, or how memorable the history, at the end of it all, there are still winners to be named. The awards, first through third, are presented for the best performance overall for combined results, in all classes, for all races. For the 2011 St. Barths Bucket, in their respective classes, the overall winners were Virago, Hanuman, and Symmetry. Bringing in firsts in their classes were: in Racing Class (Les Gazelles), again Virago, for Cruising Class (Les Grande Dames) Axia, and for the Classics (Les Elegantes), Rebecca brought home the honours. Winning the coveted Escargot Cup was Gloria, while The All-Star Crew of Rebecca entertained the crowd with a chicken dance in honor of once again winning this popular prize. The Wolter Huisman Memorial Spirit of the Bucket Award was given to the very charming owners of Maria, who showed that they truly do embody true Bucket spirit, by sponsoring the amazing daily air show by four vintage WWII fighter planes, the Texas Flying Legends, brought all the way from their hometown of Houston. Talk about entertaining the crowd in a big way every day! Needless to say, night and day, throughout this magical week, there were an endless series of fêtes and soirées enjoyed by the many beautiful people of yachting.
Without a doubt, congratulations must be given to those five bold yacht owners who originally conceived large-yacht racing, and to a fantastically successful series of regattas organized under the careful stewardship of captains Hank Halsted, Tim Laughridge and Ian Craddock. For the last twenty-five years, Bucket Regattas have exerted an incredibly powerful and positive influence on the large sailing yacht world, offering owners a valuable ‘raison d’être’ to enjoy their vessels as they were meant to be used, and bringing recognition, a creative spirit, and increased prosperity to this glamorous yachting microcosm. But, in the end, each and every one of us lucky enough to celebrate the 25th Anniversary Season in St Barths are all winners – until the Bucket tops itself again. So hope to see you in Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Cowes – or of course, Saint Barthélemy, all touted as locations for still more joyous and competitive Bucket Regattas in years to come.
Norma Trease has followed the yacht racing circuit for decades, indulging her passion for yachting and sailing all over the world. You can read her daily blogs from the Bucket Races, and see complete race results at www.bucketregatts.com