The St. Barths Bucket is recognised as one of the world’s top events in yachting, and the dinged and dented bucket trophy is one of the most coveted! And as this year’s event is extra special with the Bucket celebrating its 20th anniversary we take a look at how this race has become one of the regattas not to miss!
It all started during a particularly boozy evening ashore in Nantucket in 1986 when debate raged between the Captains of yachts Volodor, Flying Goose and Mandalay as to what each yacht and crew could bring about, and the stage was set for bragging rights!
So in between the clinking of glasses and the ordering of more drinks it was decided to settle the score the following day: seven yachts sailed a fifteen mile course in Nantucket Sound – marking the very first of the Bucket Regatta’s..
Between 1986 and 2001, the Nantucket Bucket boomed, becoming one of the leading big boat regattas attracting the planet’s most prestigious sailing yachts to sail in the sunny spirit of bona fida camaraderie and wholesome competition.
The first St. Barths Bucket was sailed in 1995 with a fleet of only 4 yachts. Just a handful of super yachts showed on the start line in the early years which was a pretty informal event – note: fishing played a big part of those first few races!
The turning point came during the year of the infamous LeMans start – With the fleet at anchor in Colombier, one of the crew would down a cocktail on the beach, jump in the tender and hightail it to the yacht to sail her off anchor. Then at the end of the race, sail back onto anchor, again dive in the tender to full throttle it back to the beach for another daiquiri. Wehey! This was the first and last time the “LeMans” start/finish took place although we can’t for the life of us figure out why.. 😉
But it is after this event that the sailing became a bit more serious and the event more polished albeit without losing those bucketesque shenanigans.. Think spinnakers packed full of feathers, so when it was hoisted, there were feathers everywhere, or crew arriving to their yacht to find it completely wrapped in police tape or even with a toilet placed on the foredeck, complete with a blow-up doll positioned on the seat!
Last year 38 super yachts including seven new launches making their bucket debut competed during which “The finishes were extra close, and class wins were decided by just minutes, if not seconds, on the last day” said event Director and Race Chairman Peter Craig. Combined with a consistent 15-22 knot trade winds -epic sailing conditions- it was Bucket racing at it’s best!
This year sees the bucket sailing towards it’s 20th anniversary and while yachts are making their way to their berth in swanky St Barths as we speak we’ll be able to look forward to seeing some great sailing in what’s known on the super yacht scene as the world’s leading super yacht regatta where ‘the fun comes first’. I mean, which other regatta awards the Golden Pineapple for “Win the Party” hospitality or The Skulduggery for “non-adult behaviour”?
Apart from acres of colourful spinnaker, nail biting finishes and post regatta partying until well after the decks have been washed down, this particular regatta is also one of the racing calendars best events to both bump into old friends you haven’t seen in ages and meet new sailors and super yacht professionals, as seasoned sailors, newbie crew, owners and designers all crowd around the same bars to enthusiastically talk boats, slap each other on the back and congratulate each other on a job well done.
This year promises to be an equally grand event with no less than 33 sail yachts signed up ranging from the 56m Rosehearty which weighs a whale-like 500 tonnes to the sleek and slippery, Southern Wind carbon bullet Windfall.
Although we won’t be able to tell what the weather will do and how the racing will pan out one thing is surely certain: All crew members of the 33 strong fleet will wear the same ear to ear sun-cracked smiles after racing! Team Brunel’s Bouwe Bekking hit the nail on the head last year when he said: ”The racing is completely different,” it’s wonderful because you see so many friends and other beautiful yachts on the water, but of course you still try to do well. You always want to look back and say you did your best job or ‘what can we do better?,’ but the priorities here are (in this order) to sail safely, have fun and then do a good job on the water.”