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St Barts Bucket

Tucked away in the heart of the Leeward Islands, surrounded by the brilliant aquamarine waters of the Caribbean, lies a little French jewel: St. Barts. First claimed in 1648 by the French, the tranquil and semi-arid St. Barthelemy exudes an unmistakable charm à la française. Its stylish boutiques, delicious restaurants, superb art galleries, and luxurious hotels attract tourists from all over the world year round, yet each March the island outdoes even itself. The St. Barts Bucket draws yacht owners, crew and sailing enthusiasts to its superyacht-packed harbor for the ultimate regatta experience.

apporaches in the world. As you come in for a speedy landing, the mountain looms just below. There's nothing like an adrenaline rush to cure jet lag!

The best way to arrive in St. Barts is (of course) by yacht, but if that isn't an option, arriving by plane is an exciting alternative. Hop on an 8-seater for one of the most thrilling rides of your life, and St Barts Airport is one of the most exciting runway apporaches in the world. As you come in for a speedy landing, the mountain threateningly looms just below en route to the runway. There's nothing like an adrenaline rush to cure you of your jet lag!

When I was assigned the task of covering the 2009 St. Barts Bucket I couldn't pack my bags fast enough; while I've been to St. Barts in the past for a little fun in the sun, this was my first visit for the world-renowned regatta and I couldn't wait.

Once safely landed, I was free to concentrate on the task at hand: the 2009 St. Barts Bucket!

Held annually amidst the sunshine and winds of March in the packed and spirit-filled Gustavia Harbor, the Bucket is an invitational regatta that embodies the Corinthian spirit. All sailing yachts must be at least 100-feet to sail in the event, unless invited under the Grandfather Clause. This year's guest list was 34 strong, including 8 Perini Navis, a handful of Royal Huisman, a pair of Alloys, Holland Jachtbouw, J Boat, Farr, Vitters, and 2 Nautor Swans. The largest yacht in the fleet was none other than the Maltese Falcon, a 209-foot megayacht owned by Tom Perkins that was sure to be a crowd pleaser, and I was no exception. The anticipation of seeing that yacht sailing to its peak potential was enough to make my head swim.

and I was no exception. The anticipation of seeing that yacht sailing to its peak potential was enough to make my head swim.

The St. Barts Bucket is a pursuit race, meaning each yacht is assigned her own starting time with slower yachts beginning first to level the fleet. With proper handicaps, the fleet is allowed the opportunity to finish in close proximity, ensuring an exciting finish. Jim Teeters, Founder of the Bucket Rating System, uses his Velocity Prediction Program to adjust the ratings, and this years race proved the system works. Here's a breakdown of the races from my up-close and personal vantage point aboard a Hydra-Sports boat.

The first day of racing started off with a bang! With 15 knot northeasterly trade winds and a "yellow alert" warning for heavy seas and swells, the Around the Island course was an exciting opening race. The big winner of the day was Meteor, a Royal Huisman designed by Dykstra. Holland Jachtbouw's Shamoun finished only 23 seconds behind, and in third place was Ganesha, the new Dubois.

Day two was windy and spectacular! The Wiggley Course goes around and between the islands to the north and east of St. Barts on a 20-nautical mile round trip adventure. With 17 knots of sailing breeze, this proved

Race 1: "Around the Island"

big winner of the day was Meteor, a Royal Huisman designed by Dykstra. Holland Jachtbouw's Shamoun finished only 23 seconds behind, and in third place was Ganesha, the new Dubois.

Race 2: "The Wiggley Course"

proved to be one of the most magnificent days of racing in the Bucket's history, although one of the more dangerous as well. Besides a handful of blown-out spinnakers, most yachts escaped unharmed. To make for an exciting finish, 25 yachts crossed the finish line in a 10-minute period of time, and the first four finished within seconds of each other with Alloy's Paraiso leading the pack.

The last race did not disappoint with another day of consistent 15-22 knot winds. The fleet was charged and the race was remarkably close. Windcrest, of Hogdon Yachts, finished first, and just over two minutes later Virago, a Nautor's Swan, finished with Pendennis' Adela closely following in third place.

Race 3: "The Other Way Around" or "Around the Island Clockwise"

just over two minutes later Virago, a Nautor's Swan, finished with Pendennis' Adela closely following in third place.

The jovial atmosphere in Gustavia Harbor attracts a lively crowd - and boy, do they like to party! Evening after evening there is some new social gathering to attend, and after a week of them all I needed a vacation. But who's to complain? After all, the mission of the Bucket has always been, "Sail safely first, then fast. Win the party!"

Fleet Welcome Party

This little gathering kicks off the Bucket. On the day before racing, cocktails are served under the marquee at the quay in Gustavia Harbor. An added bonus is the opportunity to catch a first glimpse of the participating yachts docked stern to as the sun sets on the glowing harbor.

Fleet Open House

Time for everyone to get better acquainted! To celebrate the first day of sailing the participating yachts are encouraged to extend their gangways and welcome aboard fellow Buckateers for the Fleet Open House, or what I like to refer to as the “Yacht Hop.” It’s a chance for owners, crew and friends to mingle from yacht to yacht, and I loved meeting the yachting professionals at ease on the yachts they race.

It’s a chance for owners, crew and friends to mingle from yacht to yacht, and I loved meeting the yachting professionals at ease on the yachts they race.

Captain's Party

By invitation only, this party allows four representatives per yacht, plus a handful of press and special guests. This year, the party was held at Hotel Carl Gustaf, perched up on a hill overlooking Gustavia Harbor.

Bucket Bash

As the Captain's Party is ending the Bucket Bash is just getting fired up! Scheduled on the eve of the last day of racing, the Bucket Bash is THE PARTY of the St. Barts Bucket! Cocktails, light fare, live music, and dancing into the wee hours of the night attract well-known artists like Jimmy Buffet for performances on the quay.

Awards Presentation

& Cocktail Party

The last event of the weekend! Ron Holland was recognized for his achievements in Yacht Design (pictured below). The short, sweet and light-hearted award presentation is a reflection of the fact that the Bucket is more about having fun than winning.

The St Bart’s Bucket is a guaranteed good time with glorious sailing, perfect weather, fabulous people, and great parties. As I boarded my flight for the return trip home and reflected on all that had happened in a mere four days, I couldn't help but carry with me the true spirit of the Bucket: it’s not about winning the race, it's about winning the party!