Superyacht regattas offer the opportunity for sailing yacht owners to use their boats in a completely different way, adding fun and enjoyment to their ownership experience. The evolution of the St Barths Bucket – the most popular regatta on the superyacht circuit – is surely testament to this. As more owners have caught the racing bug, what began in 1995 as a one-day race with four boats and a few extra crew that were more interested in socialising on the dock than winning, has turned into three highly competitive races with an average of 30 to 40 superyachts and professional crews taking part.
As the Bucket has evolved, however, organisers have been careful to maintain the original, non-commercial nature of the event. But with its dramatic growth and recent change of ownership, participation and sponsorship from the industry has been inevitable. While the Bucket’s priority will always be the owners’ and their guests’ enjoyment, with many clients and potential clients in attendance each year, the opportunity for brokers, designers and builders to stimulate interest in the sailing yacht market cannot be denied.
Held this year from 15 to 18 March, 2018, the Bucket hosted a smaller participating fleet than usual, which has been largely attributed to Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Caribbean season. Regardless of the fewer numbers, however, designers and shipyards have conveyed the event’s success, both in enjoyment and business terms.
“We are perhaps a little old school but do not think that the Bucket should be viewed commercially in terms of clients and potential clients,” reflects Henry Hawkins, CEO of Baltic Yachts. “However, all of the regattas provide an opportunity to informally catch up with owners, designers, suppliers, crew, etc. and get a feel for the current climate; what is new and who is doing what. St Barths this year was no different.”
“The Bucket is always a good event to meet the owners and all the other people that are involved in the superyacht industry."
Ruurt Meulemans, managing partner at Hoek Design also upholds the valuable networking aspect of the event. “The Bucket is always a good event to meet the owners and all the other people that are involved in the superyacht industry,” he concurs. “It is also a good opportunity to speak to other clients or people from the industry that you have not met before, build up a relationships and exchange ideas for future projects.”
Similarly, the Royal Huisman team views the Bucket as a chance to catch up with existing clients, and to meet owners of the remaining fleet, but agrees that the event is not to be used a sales platform. “In the near future, some of the participants of the Bucket will consider building a new yacht, but of course it is not our goal to sell a yacht during the regatta,” explains Jurjen van 't Verlaat, marketing and communications. “The main thing is for everyone to have fun.”
Given that the sailing yacht market has experienced a decrease in new build orders since pre-2012, sailing yacht-centric events such as the Bucket also provide an important opportunity for the market to showcase what it has to offer owners and prospective owners, and hopefully inject some renewed energy into the market. Just participating in the Bucket, for example, is a doorway into an exclusive community that cannot be replicated by the motoryacht sector. The 2018 Bucket provided some optimism in this respect.
“There were several new boats and new owners regatta sailing for the first time, which was fantastic to see,” continues Hawkins. “We were able to take a few people out sailing on the DSS-equipped Infiniti 46 while in St Barths to showcase the DSS foil that is being incorporated in the Baltic 142 currently in build. This certainly generated interest and further questions.”
Just participating in the Bucket is a doorway into an exclusive community that cannot be replicated by the motoryacht sector.
Perini Navi always draws a sizeable fleet to the Bucket, and Bruce Brakenhoff, president of Perini Navi US, noted the enthusiastic atmosphere this year. “You could really feel the energy: we had clients and potential clients in attendance who managed to enjoy a less intense Bucket in great weather, despite the light wind conditions,” he adds. “A first-time owner decided to attend the Bucket with a new performance sailing yacht and entered in the Corinthian Class.”
With higher performance sailing yachts being launched every year, and maxi-yacht technology trickling into the superyacht sector, superyacht racing is becoming more competitive. At the other end of the spectrum, however, the introduction of the Corinthian Class at all major superyacht regattas has seen a move back to basics, with yachts able to participate with just minimal crew and more relaxed rules.
Hawkins sees both sides of the racing as a positive for invigorating superyacht regattas. “The Corinthian Class is starting to gain some traction and I think this will be vital in encouraging more owners to join the regatta scene without fear of spiraling costs from race crew and gear, not to mention preparation time,” he comments. “At the same time, some close racing at the sharp end of the regatta means that competitive racing is still viable and will always attract boats.”
Germán Frers, on the other hand, foresees more of a focus on fairer and tougher competition. “I think eventually as the racing gets more serious we will see each class starting together without such stringent safety restrictions,” he predicts. “This will make it more of a racing game and there will be less need to edit the results.”
Whatever direction the racing takes, the importance of the Bucket and other owner-focused events for the sailing yacht sector will remain constant. While the Bucket is traditionally a non-commercial event, the increasing involvement of industry sponsors means that it’s evolving. Of course, the main focus will always be owner enjoyment, but with more clients and potential clients in one place than most boat shows, the opportunity to entice, excite and inject new energy into the sailing yacht market is considerable and cannot be missed.
Images: Racing by Cory Silken and Dock party by Ed Gudenas
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