At this year’s St Barths Bucket, Silencio’s race crew is made up of 50 per cent women – a rare sight for a male-dominated industry. Forming part of the team is America's Cup sailor Dawn Riley as tactician and Volvo Ocean Race competitor Samantha Davies as helm. Sailing on board Silencio during the event, we spoke to the women about their views on professional race crew and the superyacht regatta circuit.
On board Silencio with Dawn Riley and Samantha Davies
How do you view the role of professional race crew?
Dawn Riley: Having professional race crew is important – these boats are basically ships that are racing, so you need people who can understand the mechanics, the emergency situations in terms of sailing, and the loads. You can see here that we have a new team on board Silencio and that means that we have to spend more days practicing.
Sam, this is your first superyacht regatta, and first time sailing a Perini, what are your initial thoughts?
Sam Davies: It’s an honour that the permanent crew take a step back for us during this event. I know from racing around the world solo that it’s really hard when people come on the boat and put sheets and other things in the wrong places. But to work on these boats you must be really passionate about sailing and at the same time I can imagine it must be really fun for the permanent crew to actually push the boat more than they normally do and have enough people on board to get the spinnaker up.
Samantha Davies on the helm. Image credit: Karina Jaworsky
Dawn, has the superyacht regatta scene changed since you became involved?
Dawn Riley: It’s definitely getting bigger – there are a lot more boats. And I think that every time a new owner or yacht gets involved they are always surprised by the professionalism of it. I am really happy to be on the Silencio programme because the owner and team work so well together, whereas it can be quite different on other boats.
How do you think superyacht regattas will impact the industry?
Sam Davies: From seeing all the different boats out here, I can imagine it can tempt owners to change the idea of what they want in a boat. It seems like there is a bit of an arm’s race for who can build the most high-performance superyacht. But that is defeating the point of having these regattas a bit, because they are designed so that owners can bring any boat and race it fairly.
Dawn Riley: I wouldn’t want to see an arm’s race because then you are spending a lot of money and it is still sail boat racing – there is luck involved. I would always counsel an owner that they only probably race in three regattas a year, so get a boat they want for their downtime and we’ll figure out how to race it –that’s what the handicap system is for. If you are that serious and competitive about racing, then buy a TP52 or another one-design boat.