In 2014's St Barths Bucket, there was one story that really captured the ‘spirit of the Bucket’. Holding her own against brand new Perini giants like the 58m Seahawk and 40m State of Grace, the 1996-built 29.4m Sparkman & Stephen’s sloop Altair won her class with her owner at the helm. Angela Audretsch speaks to owner Bob Eichler about joining the regatta circuit and the 'pleasure and pain ratio' of ownership.

Altair anchored off Santa Catalina Island, California.
(credit: Tompkins Webber Photography)

Eichler purchased Altair eight and a half years ago as an upgrade for his 24m Don Brooke-designed ketch and he spent the first four years exploring the waters of the Northwest Pacific. “My most favourite place in the whole world is probably the Princess Louisa Inlet, in British Columbia,” he says. “It is spectacular. I mean, British Columbia overall is just incredible for cruising. To give you an idea, I have never been to Alaska, because it is so beautiful closer to home, I have just never got further than BC.”

That is not to say that Eichler and Altair haven’t been exploring. For the last five years, Altair has been on the East coast of North America, allowing her owner to explore new regions like Nova Scotia and New England. This year he even used her as his metropolitan crash pad, mooring her up in New York’s Upper West Side marina, the 79th Street Boat Basin.

For the last five years Altair has been cruising the East Coast,
visiting places like Maine.  (credit: Tompkins Webber Photography)

A love of adventure is what Eichler says makes him a staunch sailing yacht owner. “I always say that even sitting on my boat at the dock is an adventure,” he declares. And his most recent adventures on board have led him to get involved in his first superyacht regattas, something he has taken to with zeal.

“I’ve always done a lot of cruising, Altair is not really a race boat, but the chance to get involved in some of the regattas that welcome cruising boats seemed like an opportunity to try something new and exciting,” he says. “I like to have new adventures.”

Owner Bob Eichler with a furry friend in Santa Catalina Island, California.
(credit: Tompkins Webber Photography)

The St Barths Bucket committee bent the 30m rule a little bit when they invited Altair to race, and though she wasn’t the smallest in the Bucket, she was the smallest and most mature lady of the Grand Dames class. After three days in the top three of her class though, Altair lived up to her namesake, one of the brightest stars in the galaxy, and was crowned the overall Grand Dames winner.

“I certainly don’t think that the professional racers need to worry about me being competition,” he says. “But it was so exciting. I was at the helm racing for the first time – venturing into the racing world was scary but a thrill.” He recalls the tension of tight finishes and the rush of all hands on deck.

Bob Eichler at the helm of Altair during St Barths Bucket.
(credit: Angela Audretsch)

For Eichler, ownership comes down to what he calls “the pain and pleasure ratio” – yacht ownership is expensive and at times a big responsibility, but as long as the pleasure outweighs the pain, they are burdens he is willing to take on.

“If someone asked me whether they should buy a superyacht, I would tell them that smart people have friends with yachts,” he laughs. “But really, even though ownership isn’t cheap, there is a pride of ownership that brings value. Owning my own boat as opposed to chartering is just such a good feeling. It’s another home. Yes, the cost of owning is high, but there are a lot of rewards.”

Images kindly courtesy of Tompkins Webber Photography.

A full interview with Bob Eichler appears in Issue 15 of The Superyacht Owner. Subscribing members can access it online here. To become a subscriber, click here.

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