“Without a doubt, participating in a regatta is one of the most exhilarating experiences any yachtsman can have,” says Fiona Maureso, charter manager at Northrop & Johnson (N&J). “Being part of a race crew in a competitive regatta means working together as a team; it is hard work but a real thrill, providing a truly memorable experience.” If you don’t own your own racing yacht, or perhaps are thinking of becoming a sailing yacht owner, chartering at a regatta, although not extremely common, is a great way to get a feel for the racing experience. But it is not something to be taken on lightly. Expensive and rather more involved than a traditional charter, there is much to take into consideration when booking a racing charter. While your broker will do most of the legwork, it helps to understand what goes into planning one.
Choosing an event
"I personally think the St Barths Bucket is an amazing race to charter at," says Barbara Dawson a senior broker at Camper & Nicholsons International (CNI). "Great atmosphere, very relaxed, so good for regatta newcomers and a fun balance of competition and camaraderie." There are a plethora of great events to participate in, whether you are after challenging competition or a friendly sail with friends (read our regatta dates for your 2015 diary here). One regatta known for its uniquely friendly atmosphere and energetic competition for example is the Rolex Swan Cup. Held for the last 30 years in at the Yacht Club Costa Smerelda in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, it attracts sailors of all abilities to sail. “My wife Tina and I had a fantastic time in Sardinia and Porto Cervo,” says Steve Cucchiaro, a former US Olympic sailor who chartered the Swan 60 Petite Flamme for the Rolex Swan Cup 2014. “I’ve described it like going through the gates of sailing heaven. It is just so nice there. And the racing was tremendous.”
Finding a yacht
“Finding a yacht is often very hard to achieve, much harder than finding a cruising yacht to charter,” says Tony Teale, a yacht skipper who often coordinates regatta charters for private clients and has helped Cucchiaro with his regatta charters. “You have to find a boat that is going to be competitive, in good racing condition and with the correct racing sail wardrobe with all sails in good condition. On top of that it must be in the right area for the regatta you want to do. For popular regattas like the Swan World Cup, generally owners with well-prepared racing Swans want to do the regatta themselves, so there are very few good boats available to charter. To find a boat I will identify the actual boat or the class of boat that I think will be suitable and then approach the boat or the boat manager directly. Often the boats will not really be advertised for racing charter.”
Racing is all about the team you race with. As a charterer you will obviously want to bring friends along for the ride, but it is absolutely imperative to have a skilled crew of professionals as well. “A regatta charter can be done with an inexperienced owner or client, but they will need many more professional sailors to keep everything safe and competitive,” says Teale. “The pros will often do the jobs such as: bow, trimming, tactics and navigation.” You obviously have to be prepared to pay for a good crew too, which doesn’t come cheap.
As well as hiring professional crew, you will need to organise travel board and lodging for them. “Typically, you will need to rent a whole villa,” says Dawson, who also suggests hiring shore crew, like a chef and someone to help coordinate things on land. “These are all things your broker can do for you.” Part of Teale’s role in organising regatta charters is sorting out things like crew and accommodation: “Generally I will sail as crew boss and co-ordinate everything to do with the boat and the accommodation and entertaining.”
Insurance and liability
When it comes to insurance, it is typically up to the yacht's owner to take out an insurance rider on his or her own insurance policy, allowing the boat to race while under charter, but this is paid for by the charterer. It is important to note though that any damages to sails are uninsurable will have to be repaired or replaced at the expense of the charterer. “The contract has to be adjusted as well for racing and sailing,” says Dawson. “There are a lot of sections of a regular charter contract that need to be modified, it needs to outline who is in charge and whose responsibility it is if something happens, protecting the owner and charterer in case of damage.”
“There is no feeling quite like racing in these events,” Cucchiaro says, explaining that he first charter at the Le Voiles de St Barths in 2013. “The first time we chartered was a test to see what it was like, and we loved it, so came back to Les Voiles in 2014 and then did the Rolex Swan Cup.” Cucchiaro admits that race charters can be tricky. Not only is finding a boat with an owner who wants to charter it out to race a challenge, but finding a boat that meets your criteria for a competitive sailing yacht is also not simple. “It takes a lot of research,” he says. “It would be a shame to travel a great distance, pay a lot of money and show up to an event to race a yacht that will not be competitive.” For him this means finding someone you can trust to advise and coordinate with, who has the knowledge of what is available, is even more important.
Read our pick of the regatta dates for your diary in 2015 here.