On the eve of the St Barths Bucket, owners, captains, yards, designers and industry professionals gathered for the Superyacht Racing Association’s (SYRA) Annual General Meeting.
The ORC superyacht handicap rule (ORCsy), now a year in existence, appears to have produced positive results. Chairing the meeting, Executive Director Peter Craig pointed out that issues remain, however, with yachts getting the right ORC certificate, explaining that there are often cases with incorrect declared data. He highlighted the importance for yachts racing two or three times a year to get measured by the ORC committee.
Peter Craig - photography by Tim Thomas
The committee then requested thoughts on participating yachts with owner-drivers, which make up just under 50 per cent of the fleet at many of the regattas. The question was posed as to whether there should be a handicap credit given to those boats with owner-drivers, but this was met with some scepticism due to the huge difference in sailing ability between the owners. What was suggested was that future SYRA regattas included a separate prize giving for these boats.
Next on the agenda was how to grow superyacht participation at regattas – one of SYRA’s main goals for the next year. Craig commented that, while short-term data suggests a slight upward spike in regatta participation, if you look at numbers from the last seven years, the numbers don’t look quite as promising. “We now need to focus on retaining owners and captains and attracting more,” he said.
There appears to be a consensus on trying to attract yacht owners and captains who may be overwhelmed by what superyacht racing has evolved into, and owners who participated in the past that no longer race. Craig asked for suggestions for how to maintain fair and safe racing, but also remove barriers for first-time captains.
This led to the discussion of a creation of a new ‘Spirit of Superyacht Racing' class, which would focus on the fun element of superyacht racing. Once the association establishes eligibility criteria, class features, and handicapping policies, the goal is to have the concept ready to introduce at Palma’s Superyacht Cup in June.
One very positive discussion point was the evolution of safe racing, which Craig explained is much less of a concern for the organisers due to the increased safety of the boats and professionalism of the crew on board. “Ten years ago the medical boat used to be way too busy,” he says. “Now it is rarely used – a credit to the yards, designers, programme managers and race crews.”
The AGM exemplifies SYRA’s evolving and all-encompassing nature and the importance of constant feedback from all those involved in the regatta circuit.