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St Barts Bucket

April 1, 2015

by Greg
At anchor, the lagoon, St Martin

Last race finish viewed from Ft Oscar above Gustavis, St Barts.
Saba in background.

Here's a tip: the A-OK sign means something completely different to French speakers than it does to Americans.

As mentioned earlier, we sailed from St Martin to St Barts to see the St Barts Bucket Regatta. (We've since sailed to Saba and then back to St. Martin. More on that later). The Bucket Regatta is a "congenial" race specifically for boats over 31 meters (102 feet) and by invitation only. These are big sailboats. One of them, Lady B, had 36 crew plus 36 guests for every race.

Parsifal III. Now that's a large sailboat.
They took third in the Grandes Dames class.
The rules of this "congenial" race emphasize prudent seamanship, safety, and racing in a "corinthian spirit" vs. aggressive win-at-all-costs sailing. Protests (of rule infractions, a frequent occurrence at normal races) are allowed, but here it is suggested that one bring champagne to the protest hearing. Congeniality aside, the owners here have a definite desire to win, and they hire top professional sailors from all over the world to help the regular crew sail the boat competitively (for example, Robby Doyle and Paul Cayard).

The elegant Marie, complete with cannon and baby grand piano.
Last year's Elegantes class winner, third this year.

Most of the boats here are not racing machines but rather luxury sailboats. Some are modern in design, others capture the spirit of the past. Whether sleek and modern or traditional, most could be called elegant, and even the names of the four racing classes suggest the elegance of the event: Les Gazelles des Mers, Les Elegantes des Mers, Les Mademoiselles des Mers, and Les Grandes Dames des Mers.

As with all sailboat races, there are good after-parties, and this was no exception. But in keeping with the reputation
of St Barts, the attendees at the shore events often include celebrities. David Letterman and Uma Thurman were spotted this year.

The beautiful Adela. First in the Elegantes class (tied with Elfje)
Bucket competitors at the dock at night
We spent every morning in our small dinghy near the start line watching the starts. The first day's start, having the highest wind and being an upwind start, was the most exciting. We as well as all the other spectator boats were crowding the starting buoy to get a better view and better pictures.  There were two safety boats whose job was to keep the line clear. I can assure you that nobody on the entire planet is more interested in my not getting hit by a 184' sailboat than I, so I was careful and alert. Nonetheless, these safety boats were there to make double-sure of it. Call me naive, but I was surprised to discover that they could not possibly do this without profanity. ("Get the @$% out of here, you &%$@%#!"). This to the many dinghies that had kids aboard. This from a race that emphasizes congeniality and corinthian spirit.  Guess that spirit doesn't apply to the safety boats.

However, I did find out that earlier some friends of ours from M/V Capricorn, when asked to move by the safety boats, gave them the A-OK sign as a way of acknowledging the request. (They are American.) In response, they got a raised middle finger from the safety boat. Perhaps the safety boat took the A-OK sign in the French way (despite the fact that they cursed in English very well). Apparently to the French, this gesture means "you're a zero."  Or worse. It's apparently pretty insulting. 

We've been camera-impaired lately (they just die, one after another), so our pictures here are not great, but there are many great photos and videos out there of the St Barts Bucket if you're interested. And there are a few more of our pics below.

After St Barts, we sailed to Saba and did some hiking, which exhilarated us all and utterly exhausted us adults. More on that in a later post.

Sail fast, live slow! 

Adela under sail

Adela dousing her spinnaker

Race buoys

Some race participants stern-to at the dock

Seahawk's transom. Red carbon-fiber standing rigging, too.
Although this transom looks pretty clean to me, shortly after this photo, two crew spent an hour or more washing it.

Seahawk's mat

Meteor, one of my favorites.
She saved 4-1/2 tons aloft by using carbon fiber standing rigging.

Bequia. In this Bucket she's the only wooden boat, the only yawl-rigged boat, the only boat built in Maine.
First last year in Mademoiselles class, second this year.

Elena of London, the only competitor with a traditional gaff schooner rig.
Built to the lines of a 1910 Nathanael Herreshoff design.

Elfje, a "new classic" launched summer 2014. Tied for first in the Elegantes class.

The race committee boat.

Rainbow, built in 2012, is part of the resurgence of the old J-Class from the early 1900s.
This class was that era's America's Cup class, and there are several of the originals still sailing.
There will be a J-Class regatta at the 2017 America's cup with both originals and modern builds competing.

J-Class yacht Shamrock V in 1934. Still sailing today.