After a nice winter break, my racing resumed with the Bucket in St. Barth in March. The Bucket is the largest regatta for Superyachts, defined as yachts over 100 feet, and it has become an annual must-do event for all the top superyachts and sailors in the world. Being held on the quaint French island of St. Barths doesn’t hurt either. Unless you are the owner and picking up the tab! This year I was invited to fill-in as tactician onboard WISP, a 58m Hoek design. I knew a few of the crew so it was a pretty easy adjustment to get familiarized with the team and the boat. We were in a tough class with some other very well sailed boats, the tradewinds were blowing 20+, so the racing was exciting. Unique to this event is that we race in a pursuit format, where they calculate handicaps in advance based on the conditions and course length, and then start the lowest rated boats first, and the faster/higher rating boats later, and theoretically all should finish at the same time. It therefore becomes a pursuit by the faster boats to catch and pass the smaller/slower boats. Fun stuff! There is different strategy and tactics to this style of racing, so it can be quite challenging. It can also be quite exciting since all the boats tend to converge as the race progresses and the finishes can be very close. We sailed well and scored two 1st and a 2nd and ended up winning our class. I really enjoyed the event- a great team, a very nice boat, and the regatta organizers did a first-rate job.
My next event was a training session on the J Class TOPAZ in Palma Majorca in the Mediterranean. This session was to look at some new sails, trial some new crew, and test our speed in advance of our first event of the season, which is the Rolex Maxi Worlds in Sardinia in late August. Joining us for this session was SVEA, who won all three J Class regattas in 2022, so an excellent reference and training partner. It turned out to be one of the best training sessions I’ve ever had; SVEA was a great team to work with, we got the full range of conditions, the new North Sails looked great, and we were pleased with all the changes we made during the off-season. We will now study a few possible modifications to the boat and then will have several days of training there in Sardinia just prior to our first event.
Next year will be a big one for the J Class, with several events leading up to our World Championships in Barcelona that coincides with the start of the Americas Cup. And so in addition to aiming for good results this year, we are also looking to refine our boat and team with next year in mind, to be at our very best for the Worlds.