Sportsmanship, beauty, drama, and adrenaline: Nothing—absolutely nothing—beats the annual St. Barts Bucket Regatta for breathtaking visuals, thrills and fun. This year, the annual Bucket, which took place March 21-24 on the French Caribbean Island of Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts), was no exception.
What is a Bucket regatta, you may ask? Long story short, the Bucket dates back to 1986 in Nantucket, when a handful of guys decided to organize an informal gentlemen’s sailboat race birthing the Nantucket Bucket. Perhaps the origin of the name Bucket referred to the bucket of champagne that was proffered to the winner or possibly the name derived from one owner referring to another owner’s boat as an “old bucket,” or maybe the name stuck because it rhymed with Nantucket. In any case, the Bucket concept of super sailing yacht regattas took hold.
While the Nantucket Bucket ceased after a run of 15 years, some of the original bucketeers commenced a St. Barts Bucket in 1995. It is now firmly etched into the annual calendar of global sailing regattas. The buzz in St. Barts before, during and after the famed Regatta is big. It is one of the island’s largest-revenue events of the year, second only to its legendary New Year’s Eve celebrations when the most prestigious yachts in the world vie for dock space. During the Bucket, the port of Gustavia and the outer harbor are replete with the racers and a vast spectator fleet of sailing and motoryachts alike.
The Bucket is an invitational regatta offered to cruising sailboats whose length is 100 feet (30.5 meters) or greater or those that meet the 90-foot Class criteria. This year there were 34 participants competing in seven different class categories. Each yacht is rated and handicapped by a team of race experts based on a displacement, draft, sail area, etc. Veteran race chairman Peter Craig and his team run a tight ship. Given the size of the yachts, safety is of primary concern.
Participants come from around the world. With no engines allowed—these 100-plus-footers are propelled by wind, waves, currents and smart sailing. Classic gaff-rigged schooners require muscle, might and more, but even the newer performance sailing yachts cannot rely on carbon fiber and technical controls alone. The human factor is key.
Sailing skill is absolutely essential. Some owners hire America’s Cup tacticians, others bring on experienced local knowledge. All count on well-orchestrated teamwork involving the owner, his permanent crew plus extra race crew.
The stewards of the St. Barts Bucket are Netherlands-based yacht builders Royal Huisman and Vitters Shipyard, Italy-based builder Perini Navi as well as the US-based Rybovich Superyacht Marina and refit facility. There are also many longtime sponsors (“friends”) of the Bucket who contribute their support. The event is billed as noncommercial and established for the enjoyment of the sailing yacht owners who participate.
There are daily winners and winners overall in various categories. There are also special awards for sportsmanship, seamanship, spirit, best start, and such. This year’s overall winner was the 218-foot (59.9m) S/Y Hetairos built in 2011 by Baltic Yachts with naval architecture by Dykstra Naval Architects and Reichel Pugh Yacht Design.
Clearly, the Bucket transcends racing. It is a celebration of all things yachting—wind, water, design, elegance, luxury, freedom and unadulterated fun.
For more information, visit bucketregattas.com.