Salperton has proven herself to be a good competitor, and Houghton, who is a founding member of the Superyacht Racing Association, insists that regattas are an excellent way for owners of new yachts to learn about their boat. “You’ll learn more in one regatta than you would in a year of cruising,” he says. “It’s fantastic for understanding how the boat works, how the crew work and how to get the most out of her.”
“I love the competition and the excitement,” Houghton admits of regattas. “But I won’t risk the safety of my crew or guests.” Though racing anything is always a risk, the fact that superyachts are designed for family leisure simply makes any injury unacceptable. Houghton’s caution is derived from experience, and he exercised it judiciously on the first day of racing the Dubois Cup this year, when he opted to retire when the winds clocked 30 knots. He would come back on the second day of racing however and take line honours and first place.
“We’re evolving into a better racing system, but there are still things I’d like to see improved," he tells us. "I think perhaps the race committee [that day] should have called off the first race. If we’ve got sustained 25 knots and we’re hard on the wind, that’s my rule to quit.” Indeed, at the prize-giving ceremony that night, Ed Dubois gave Houghton special credit for pulling out, saying, “I think it's somehow poetic justice that Salperton, who retired from yesterday's race because they thought it was getting very marginal out there, came back and won the race today. I think it was actually a very brave thing to do."
“Superyacht regattas are very difficult to get correct handicaps,” Houghton explains. “Racing is getting better and better, and the formation of the Super Yacht Racing Association (SYRA) has certainly assisted that, along with the fact there’s more regattas and more yachts. But I still think we’re basing handicaps on previous regatta performances rather than on the boats.”
As one of the founders of SYRA, Houghton is looking to the future of superyacht sailing, the fairness of the competition and the safety of crew. And for now, Houghton is satisfied with Salperton. His Dubois yacht remains stunningly beautiful amidst an ever-growing fleet of sailing superyachts, and his regatta performances continue to be a source of real fun and excitement for him. It’s a happy partnership of design and performance, of a life in yachting and a vision for tomorrow.