St. Barth’s Bucket 2010

So much for the 40-meter separation zone.

Today over 5,000 linear feet of megayachts will take to the waters off St. Barth’s on Day One of the St. Barth’s Bucket Regatta. For over 20 years this event has attracted some of the most comfortable, well-appointed, and expensive sailing yachts ever built, and for good reason. It’s a chance for owners to see how their boats, which for the most part were never intended to be raced, and crews perform in a racing environment.

Weighing up to and over 400 tons, these boats sail under a racing rule that bears little resemblance to the one that we’re so used to. Instead of ISAF rules, the Bucket relies on Colregs and something called the Superyacht Protocol, which has been refined over the years to allow for safe, fun racing. There’ll be no lee bows in this event, nor tacking duels, or anything that could possibly result in a collision between these immense yachts, something that would spell the end of this type of racing, as the damage would be calculated in the millions of dollars. The race committee, which openly acknowledges its willingness to be bribed with bottles of champagne, also strongly emphasizes that this event is supposed to be fun, and that any boat which sacrifices fun and safety for a win will be heartily penalized and perhaps even suffer the indignity of permanent banishment from this invitation-only event.

To keep the boats and crews safe, each vessel sails with a Safety Officer, whose primary job is just that, safety. That person is responsible for maintaining the race-committee mandated 40-meter separation between each vessel, and, using VHF, AIS, and mobile phones, keep in touch with the safety officers on other vessels to ensure that nothing untoward happens.

We’re firmly entrenched down here in St. Barth’s, sailing aboard Georgia, a 159-foot sloop built around ten years ago in New Zealand. England’s own Andy Beadsworth is our driver, and I’m the navigator and safety officer. A crew comprised of about ten different nationalities will be pulling things up and down. Under new ownership, this is Georgia‘s first bucket, and we’re all hoping for the best. I’ll take and post some images later today, and fill you in on our first day of racing.

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