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America’s Cup streamlines and re-organises staff

March 26, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

America’s Cup organizers announced on Friday, March 23 that the agreement on the verge of being finalized with the City of San Francisco will bring organizational changes as well as staff reductions at the America’s Cup Event Authority, the commercial arm of the sport, due in part to downsizing of the event footprint in San Francisco.

34th America´s Cup

34th America´s Cup

The reductions will impact 14 in San Francisco and another 14 staff at other offices around the world.

“These individuals have been valued members of our team since the start of the Event Authority and have made many valuable contributions to our organization, and we wish them all of the best in their future endeavors,” said Stephen Barclay, Interim CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority. He said severance packages were in place for the departing employees who were informed of the decision of staff reductions today.

“We must ensure that our expenses match revenues. We made these changes to create efficiencies necessary to ensure that we deliver an exciting and important event for both the world of competitive sailing and San Francisco,” Barclay added.

He said the America’s Cup Event Authority was pleased it had reached a new agreement with the City of San Francisco, and hopes the Supervisors affirm the Agreement next Tuesday. The financial package is “not what we had anticipated or planned for but we are moving forward because this sailing event will be fantastic for the teams, sailors around the world and all San Francisco.”

Racing is set to kick off this year with the America’s Cup World Series events the first of which will be in Naples, Italy in April 11-15th followed by events in Venice, Italy (May) and Newport, Rhode Island (June).

4 Dykstra designed J Class Superyachts started the J Class Racing Season

March 26, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

St. Barths Bucket Regatta was the venue as well as host of the first J Class superyachts´ gathering and racing event of this year. It has been the first time that four Dykstra Naval Architects designed J’s competed together since 75 years.

130´ charter yacht Endeavour

130´ charter yacht Endeavour

Dykstra Naval Architects is proud to be the designer and re-designer of all 4 J´s that raced the J Class Exhibition Race. The 130´ charter yacht Endeavour, the 129´ sailing yacht Velsheda, the 138´ superyacht Hanuman and the 41.55m charter yacht Ranger competed and showed their beauty and performance to all yacht and J Class lovers. Endeavour crossed the line first and won the race, followed by Velsheda 2nd, Ranger 3rd and Hanuman 4th.

Charter yacht RANGER Image by Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Charter yacht RANGER Image by Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Endeavour recently completed an intensive refit; Dykstra Naval Architects have been instrumental in the design of the new sail plan, deck layout and structural engineering. In total 7 vessels designed by Dykstra Naval Architects are racing the St. Barths Bucket 2012: the 55m superyacht Adela, the 67m megayacht Hetairos, the 52m charter yacht Meteor, the 130´ charter yacht Endeavour, Velsheda, Hanuman and the 41.55m charter yacht Ranger.

52m charter yacht METEOR - Photo Credit Royal Huisman

52m charter yacht METEOR - Photo Credit: Royal Huisman

Some of Dykstra crew will be joining the yachts as well, Thys Nikkels (Managing Director) will race on Meteor, Jeroen de Vos (Naval Architect) on the charter yacht Endeavour and Erik Wassen (Naval Architect) on the sailing yacht Hetairos.

St. Barths Bucket Regatta 2012: What A Difference A Day Makes!

March 25, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

Race Day Two offered another fantastic day at the Saint Barths Bucket. In a sharp contrast to yesterdays’ wash out, Saturday dawned hot as well as sunny, with but a few dark clouds to reminded everybody what they weren’t missing.

St. Barths Bucket Regatta 2012 Photo by Tim Wright

St. Barths Bucket Regatta 2012 Photo by Tim Wright

“Today might be one of the epic Bucket Races of all time” exclaimed Bucket Founder and Antara guest helmsman Capt. Ian “Crash” Craddock. Truer words have never been spoken! By now, after a few days of working and partying hard, everyone is feeling a little tired, but judging from the huge crowd, and extremely happy faces at the Bucket Bash BBQ, the sheer thrill of viewing and participating in such a phenomenal race kept spirits way up. Or was that the endlessly flowing spirits keeping spirits going? Either way, there was a lot of celebrating on.

Besides the sunshine, a steadily freshening breeze brought this massive fleet just what it needed to move around the “Not So Wiggly” course at a quick and exciting clip. Capt. Timmy Laughridge, another Bucket Founder, and for this race driving Perini Navi superyacht Parsifal III, commented on the spectacular start.  “A downwind start, with a good breeze is a great way to start a race, we don’t see that much! In Les Grandes Dames, Parsifal III again brought in a solid first in class, and is in now in fourth overall.  The charter yacht Panthalassa edged into 2nd place, while the charter yacht Axia, showing their usual indomidable spirit, hung in there at 3rd place.

Sailing yacht Parsifal III at the St Barth's Bucket

Sailing yacht Parsifal III at the St Barth's Bucket - Image courtesy of Perini Navi

Les Elegantes had a hell of day. None of this thirteen-strong class, a beautiful mix of modern and older classics, which included the sailing yacht Athos, the luxury yacht Adela, the charter yacht Whisper, the William Tai superyacht and the charter yacht Meteor, could have been more excited than the crew on the luxury charter yacht This Is Us¸one of the many lovely Hoek designs here, built by Holland Jachtbouw. Highly experienced yacht regatta veteran and guest helmsman Patrick Wetter was visibly elated –as well he should be – sweeping to first place in both class and overall a full five minutes a full five minutes ahead of 34m Alloy sailing yacht Blue Too, a design by the always classic Ron Holland. In a surprising move, one of the smallest Bucket boats, sentimental favorite Olin Stephens design, Bequia brought in a solid third.

Les Mademoiselles class,dominated by a clutch of gorgeous Dubois designs, were also in their element. It was another battle for the top spots, but the 43m Vitters sailing yacht Lady B swept her class again, while dropping to third place overall. Tony Mitchell, who comes all the way from New Zealand several times per year to race in the Salperton III superyacht,  was “very happy for the owner”, yacht regatta veteran Barry Houghton. Salperton III, and her sister ship the charter yacht Ganesha, both built at New Zealands’ Fitzroy are still proving highly competitive, with Ganesha nipping at Salperton’s heels to come in a close 3rd.

Beautiful superyachts designed by Ron Holland

Beautiful superyachts designed by Ron Holland

The Not So Wiggly Course offers multiple opportunities to view this spectacular fleet up close and personal, but the sights to be seen at the top mark were especially thrilling, with up to eight of these seriously big yachts abreast at one time. Part of the thrill as either competitor or guest is the inevitable fear factor of what could happen if anyone made a mistake – but so far, so good. As Capt. Crash put it, “this race is a testament to the seamanship capabilities of the whole fleet.”

As could be imagined, Les Gazelles had a field day, storming through the rest of fleet in her longer course. What a sight to behold, with the sailing yacht Velsheda, the Unfurled superyacht, the charter yacht Ranger, and the luxury charter yacht Endeavor and the charter yacht Virago battling it out. The results in winning order were the charter yacht Mari Cha III, the charter yacht P2, and the luxury yacht Firefly. It’s still an incredibly thrilling experience to see these J’s up close and personal, yet competing with the rest of her class. Wow, Wow, Wow!

Tom Hutchinson of Future Fibers, another veteran Bucketeer, sailing on the This Is Us yacht, summed up this wonderful day perfectly, saying “sometimes you race well without a good result, and sometimes you race well and get the result you want. Today was about as good as it gets – good racing and great results!”

Today, Saint Barths Bucket race day three, is the ‘Round the Island the Other Direction” course, and with a good breeze already freshening, and more brilliant sunshine brightening everything up, should make this another great day out on the water. Tonight, the Prize Giving should be as epic as the Bucket has been.

St. Barths Bucket Regatta 2012: Day 1 – Natures Deck Wash

March 24, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

Today’s very rainy St. Barths Bucket yacht race featured unseasonable – even cold – all day´s rain falling in buckets that even brought wind. So Day One of the Saint Barths Bucket proved to be very interesting indeed, a dramatic start to an always amazing racing spectacle.

Beautiful Caribbean charter yacht location - St. Barths

Beautiful Caribbean yacht charter location - St. Barths

To begin with, this incredible fleet, featuring 47 of the world´s most impressive sailing yachts, hailing from every yacht building nation on earth, with a LOA of close to two kilometers in length total is mind boggling to any normal human being, even us hundreds of die-hard Bucketeers. Add in a new, fourth ratings class, and the ever-present discussions which surround the Bucket Ratings System, and the stage is set for a lot of excitement.

Day One as usual featured the ‘Round the Island Race’ clockwise. The races here are based on the pursuit racing theory which has yachts begin at staggered times based on predicted performance, which when figured correctly (as if this were possible with a fleet of this breathtaking diversity), and counting in slightly differing courses for some of the classes – could, or should result in all of the yachts coming across the finish line at the same time. Great concept, and there’s doubt that no one does it better that our ratings guru Jim Teeters, but can you imagine the fear factor in that amount enormous, and hugely valuable fleet of floating assets bearing on the same finish line at the same time? Needless to say, it rarely happens just that way.

Today´s Bucket racing proved about as good as it gets, despite the unseasonable weather. Most of the yachts had great starts, with many of them right on the money, or bare seconds behind their allotted times. Throughout the race, which was either 20.8 or 24.5 miles depending upon your class, there was some seriously thrilling sailing. The finishes – proving that the years of data crunching behind the Bucket Ratings system actually does produce results – were in a few cases almost too close. The final mark proved a bottle neck, which saw several encounters of the heart-stopping variety, including a couple of clusters of Perini Navis coming within drink-sharing distance of each other. A definitely too intimate meeting of the charter yacht Whisper, the superyacht Rebecca and the sailing yacht Salperton – which came very close to producing the seriously frowned-upon protest – was averted at the last minute by the usual gentlemanly discussion. No T-bones today!

Luxury charter yacht Parsifal III at the St Barth's Bucket

Luxury charter yacht Parsifal III at the St Barth's Bucket

These yachts, although increasingly built to perform on the race course, are still at heart cruising vessels, and invariably, the rarely seen stresses that racing places on the yachts can – and does – cause some damage. Depending on who you spoke to, there were anything from four to eight spinnaker sails shredded, including those on Barracuda and Meteor. Most seriously damaged was the largest yacht in the fleet, the very impressive 67m Baltic Yacht megayacht Hetairos, designed by one of hottest current yacht design collaborations possible, Dysktra and Reichel/Pugh. She unfortunately hit a submerged rock and did quite a bit of damage to her keel – yet finished the race to the bitter end.

This was a race where experience really counted. The gorgeous classic 43m ketch Rebecca, which was designed by German Frers, and built at Pendennis Shipyard, has participated in many yacht races worldwide. Their well-rehearsed team, composed of experienced former and current yacht skippers, has brought them onto the winners’ podium at numerous Buckets. They chose the conservative route, carrying up on deck and rigging three different spinnakers, and in the end, although they could have chosen a more aggressive approach, went with a heavier sail, but at least, brought it back on deck safe and sound. From my point of view riding on board as an ‘extra’, the swath she cut through the eleven vessel Elegantes de Mer class, with a start as second-to-last place, and finishing right in the middle provided a fantastic view of the entire fleet as we chased and caught up with most of the yachts on the course today.

The newly formed Mademoiselles de la Mer class, dominated by no less than ten Dubois designed beauties, saw a very excited Ed Dubois chortling over his very first ever Bucket race win on the sailing yacht Lady B, snagging both first in class and first over all. The charter yacht Ganesha and the charter yacht Salperton IV came in at 2nd and 3rd place respectively. With the vast quantity of yacht owners they make happy year after year – not to mention the aesthetic satisfaction they bring to their legion of fans worldwide – they deserve lots of prizes. Congrats to him and his great Dubois team!

Sailing yachts at St. Barths Bucket 2012

Sailing yachts at St. Barths Bucket 2012 - Photo: Mark Charlton of Real Media Travel

In Les Grandes Dames, a/k/a the Perini Navi class, there was a battle of titans, as two of the Bucket founder captains, Tim Laughridge and Ian Craddock did guest helmsman duty on the charter yacht Parsifal III and the charter yacht Antara. The light variable winds did not at all favor these elegant, stately beauties, yet that did not stop them from battling mightily all throughout the race course. Capt. Timmy snagged a First in class with some quite aggressive driving. The charter yacht Axia, with her multi-generation family team, their dogged hard work, and long-time Bucket participation, well merited their close 2nd in class. The sleek charter yacht Panthalassa rounded out 3rd place in Les Grandes.

Adela, another long-time favourite Bucket boat, swept to first in Les Elegantes, with the sailing yacht Blue Too and the charter yacht This Is Us chasing them closely. Overall winners were Lady B, the superyacht Adela, and the charter yacht Mari-Cha III. The newly instituted daily prize givings were well-attended by many still soggy Bucketeers.

The rain stopped just in time for the chamois to be wielded, the champagne popped, and hors d’oeuvres to be prepared for the Yacht Hop, which due to some serious security measures, remained very civilized. Very popular were the charter yacht Bliss, the sailing yacht Barracuda and the charter yacht Parsifal III, but as usual – the party winner favours always go to those dancing fools on Antara. Their theme this year was Motown, and they had the sound system, the tunes, the bling and the hairdos to carry it off in style.

The sun is out for Day Two of the Saint Barths Bucket 2012. Everybody is  looking forward to enjoying another great day out on the water.

2012 St Barths Bucket Regatta: Impressive first day win for the J Class sailing yacht Endeavour

March 23, 2012

Written by Eva Belanyiova

Luxury yacht builder of New Zealand, Yachting Developments, marks a historic day today. For the first time ever, the four J Class sailing yachts; Endeavour, Hanuman, charter yacht Ranger and sailing yacht Velsheda, lined up and competed against each other in the St Barths Bucket Regatta being held this week in the beautiful Caribbean.

Yachting Developments charter yacht Endeavour

Yachting Developments charter yacht Endeavour

Fresh off the ship from her mammoth two year refit at Yachting Developments yard in New Zealand, charter yacht Endeavour showed the fleet her pedigree with an impressive first race win.

J Class finishing order:

1st. Endeavour

2nd. Velsheda

3rd. Ranger

4th. Hanuman

Yachting Developments would like to congratulate the owners and crews for making this historical milestone possible.

St Barths Bucket Regatta 2012: Something Old, Something New, Something Refit, Something Blue — J Class yachts

March 23, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

When speaking about the ‘match race’ for J Class yachts today, St Barths Bucket Race Committee Chairman Peter Craig said it just right in but a few words: “it was quite a sight!” An understatement if there ever was one, for to see four of these simply amazing yachts out sailing on the fabulous Caribbean waters was probably closer to a holy experience for anyone who has any interest in the history of yachting. In this environment, with St. Barths packed with many magnificent yachts, and passionate yachtsmen as well as women thick on the water and the docks, there were plenty feeling that beautiful big J vibe.

St.-Barths-Bucket-Regatta-2012-Photo-by-Tim-Wright

St. Barths Bucket Regatta 2012 Photo by Tim Wright

J Class Yachts have a special place in yachting lore, which still resonates today thanks to the efforts both some dedicated yacht owners and the J Class Association which since 2000 has worked tirelessly to bring these floating legends back to life. Only ten of these graceful bohemoths were built to race in the America´s Cups during the 1930’s with several more designed and tank tested, but only three survived being scrapped during the WWII. There are now seven sailing today, with one more under construction, and three in design, including the recently announced “Super J” Cheveyo, a collaboration between S&S and Spirit Yachts, which will proudly carry the designation J 1.

On Wednesday, those of us fortunate enough to witness this incredible race were treated to seeing four J Class beauties racing together in an excitingly close race, carefully orchestrated the day before Bucket racing begins in earnest tomorrow. They will also be sailing again in days ahead as part of the Bucket  fleet– all leading up the much anticipated J Class races happening this summer on the Solent, to be held throughout  June and July, culminating in the new Hundred Guineas Cup (which would later become known as the America’s Cup, the oldest sporting trophy in existence). Today´s race is itself an historic occasion, bringing together four J’s for the first time in over 75 years.

Many of us have for many years already been enjoying watching the charter yacht Ranger in action, with her tight teamwork and a very loyal crew who have gathered at regattas worldwide since her launch several years ago as the first  new J, based on the plans of the original Ranger. Newport-based yachtswomen extraordinaire Elizabeth Myers rescued the hull of the charter yacht Endeavour in the 1980’s, and her re-launch in 1989, after a complete re-build by Royal Huisman helped spark renewed interest in these classic remnants of yachting days gone – but quite obviously not forgotten.

Sailing yacht LADY B

Sailing yacht LADY B

Endeavour has just returned to the Northern hemisphere after a total overhaul including new masts, decks and other major refit items in the sailing mecca of New Zealand – looking even more beautiful than ever. Black hulled sailing yacht Hanuman, built for another extremely serious yachtsman, Jim Clark, was also a new hull, built as required to conform to the original J Class designs. Truly spectacular J superyacht Velsheda, yet another of the rare remaining originals has also been totally refit, and re-launched in her full glory just in time to start this exciting J Class racing season.

It wasn’t just the sight of these historic phenomenons sailing together that raised the heart rates of the many observers out enjoying the show – for this was a real race. For those of us fortunate enough to be invited to view the spectacle in style from the deck of the committee boat Rena, just the sight of four Js coming across the starting line within seconds of each other was already incredible, but then for two hours, over a 19 mile course, they continued to battle in close formation, finishing again within bare minutes of each other, with the finish in winning order: Endeavour, Velsheda, Ranger, and not even one boat length behind, the Hanuman superyacht bringing in fourth place. A worthy and exciting race in any regatta, but this fleet obviously made a special day even more breath-taking.

Sadly, a serious injury one of the crew members of the luxury yacht Velsheda cast a sad spell over this festive day, but in true sporting style, he apparently insisted that Velsheda finish the race before he was whisked off the hospital. Our prayers go to this brave crewman for a speedy recovery, and to his fellow crew and owner to help him in this tough journey ahead.

Today, Friday is Bucket Day One. Everything has changed, for in a surprise move, the Bucket Committee, in consultation with the Big Five builders, skippers and owners, decided to add a fourth class.  So today the 47 vessel strong fleet will be broken up according to Jim Teeters Bucket Racing System as Grandes Dames, Les Gazelles, Les Elegantes or Les Mademoiselles de la Mer. So far, early in the morning, there’s not a puff of breeze, but hopefully along with the predicted rain, we’ll also see some wind.

The kick-off event on the docks last night attracted a couple of hundred sailors, ready to commune and celebrate with like-minded friends from near and far. The Owners Soiree, held for the first time at La Plage, was also extremely well attended – so everyone is properly lubricated for a great day of racing ahead!

As the Bucket co-founder, Hank Halsted says: “Let’s  call up the Wind Gods to bring us some breeze.”

BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival to start on Monday!

March 23, 2012

Written by Eva Belanyiova

With only three days to go, the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival starts on Monday 26 March, with the competition organisers busy getting ready for a week of exciting racing and legendary parties. The Sailing Festival is celebrating her 10th anniversary this year and a record entry of yachts from all over the world will be taking part in the event. The British Virgin Islands are well known for the pristine blue waters and heavenly weather, as well as the stunning archipelago of islands, offering one of the most picturesque settings anywhere in the Caribbean.

The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival starts on Monday 26 March Credit Todd VanSickle:BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival 

The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival starts on Monday 26 March Credit Todd VanSickle: BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival

The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival provides a myriad of fantastic sailing; breathtaking coastal racing, renowned buoy and round the islands racing. Undoubtedly the fastest yacht competing will be Paradox, skippered by Frenchman, Olivier Vigoureux. The 63′ multihull is capable of ballistic speed, hitting a mind boggling 38 knots during this year’s RORC Caribbean 600. Probably the fastest monohull will be American Bill Alcott’s STP65, Equation.

The Farr designed speed machine is a past winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and Alcott has a highly accomplished team on board visiting from Miami. Bill Alcott won the first BVI Sailing Festival and he has been coming back ever since.

A huge variety of yachts will be competing including the legendary Whitbread Maxi, Rothmans. Bill Erixon and his Swedish team is celebrating a world sailing tour and chose the BVI Spring Regatta for their Caribbean adventure. From Los Angeles, California, a Wild West duel is likely between two one design Farr400s. Mick Shlens’ charter yacht Blade should be evenly matched with Dougie Baker’s Magnitude. From Trinidad, Peter Peake will be campaigning his new charge, Peake Yacht Services. The Reichel Pugh 37 is a real pocket rocket and a former winner of the Cape Town to Rio Race. British entry, sailing yacht Diamonds are Forever skippered by Annie O’Sullivan, should prove to be one of the more colourful entries. The all-girl sailing school has a reputation for consistent form at regattas, by partying as hard as they sail on the water!

The BVI Spring Regatta Race Village on Nanny Cay Beach - Credit Todd Van Sickle:BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival 

The BVI Spring Regatta Race Village on Nanny Cay Beach - Credit Todd Van Sickle: BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival

The Sailing Festival kicks off the week long festivities and starts with an awe-inspiring passage races from Nanny Cay to the Bitter End Yacht Club in beautiful Virgin Gorda. With small bays and hidden coves, the British Virgin Islands are a wondrous sight and winding through the pristine chain of islands is every sailors dream. Beyond doubt the BVIs are a tropical paradise and there is ample opportunity to explore the delights of Virgin Gorda on Lay Day. The return passage race down the channel, to Nanny Cay Marina will complete the Sailing Festival, bringing the fleet back to Tortola in time to join the party for the BVI Spring Regatta.

Nanny Cay Marina will already be buzzing with excitement; Wednesday and Thursday 28-29 March, Nanny Cay will play host to the GILL BVI International Match Racing Championships. Two days of exciting duels between IC24’s on tight windward leeward courses. Eight international teams will battle it out in an ISAF sanctioned Grade 3 match racing event. With expert race commentary, spectators can follow the drama as it unfolds from the shore of Nanny Cay.

The BVI Spring Regatta attracts the largest fleet at the event and runs from March 30 – April 1. With three days of world-class racing action and famous beach parties at Nanny Cay Marina, the regatta is not to be missed. The action off the water includes the annual bikini show on Saturday and stilt walking Moko Jumbies on Sunday night, so there’s plenty to entertain racers and spectators alike. Every evening,video footage from the day’s event will be broadcast in the Race Village and there will be daily results and race reports with awesome pictures of the sailing action and evening festivities.

Nautor’s Swan 100 charter yacht VIRAGO – Winner of the 2012 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

March 23, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

On a beautiful, sun-splashed day with solid easterly tradewinds coursing over the deep blue seas surrounding the fabulous Caribbean island of St. Maarten, a spectacular fleet of 202 yachts in 15 separate divisions hoisted sail on Friday, March 2 to start the 32nd edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

Nautors Swan 100 charter yacht VIRAGO

Nautors Swan 100 charter yacht VIRAGO

On the first day the breeze was sharp and steady. On the second day of the annual Caribbean sailing festival, it blew harder still. On the third and final day of competition, the wind gods truly unleashed their power. And the result was one of the more stirring, sensational days of racing in the grand and storied legacy of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

When the racers crossed the finish for the third and final race of the 2012 running, a new roster of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta champions was crowned.

Winner on the final race day in CSA 2 was Klaas van Duuren, but in the overall standings, it was too little, too late, to overcome Bill and Carolyn Titus’s magnificent Swan 100 charter yacht Virago, which earned a second today—along with two firsts in the previous two contests—to record a comfortable win in the “Big Boat” division. Klaas even missed the post to 2nd place, narrowly beaten by Kip Curren’s Swan 90 charter yacht Nefertiti. And yet another Swan claimed 4th place; Tomek Ulatowski’s Swan 100 luxury yacht Varsovie.

CSA 5 was another back-and-forth affair, which came down to two boats: a local boat and Jack Desmond’s Swan 48 CR yacht Affinity. The windy weather, and a fair bit of local knowledge, favoured the local which wrapped up the division title with a victory in the deciding race. Affinity finished in an impressive 3rd place.

CSA7 saw one of the closest battles in this year’s event. Valerio Bardi’s Swan 46 yacht Milatno, was nipped to top position by just one point.

The 2012 International Rolex Regatta to start today

March 23, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

Hundreds of sailors on 68 teams are getting ready for the next three days of racing at the 39th International Rolex Regatta, starting today. The wind conditions, however, seem to be quite challenging.

The 2012 International Rolex Regatta starts today

The 2012 International Rolex Regatta starts today

Right out of the box will be Stephen Murray, Jr.’s Carkeek 40 yacht Decision, which has been designed to the newly developed HPR (High Performance Rule) and will headline in one of two CSA classes here that has no less than six other 40-footers “raring to compare.”

“There is no rating rule promoting the light (displacement) grand prix racing boats as a continuum between 30 and 70 feet,” said Sean Carkeek, the South African designer who has been working for a year on the rule as part of a technical committee developed specifically to fill this void.

According to Carkeek, the HPR will change all that when regattas eventually adopt dual scoring under the widely used IRC rule and HPR in classes where it needs to apply. At the International Rolex Regatta, the likes of Michael Shlens’ (Palos Verdes Estates, California) Blade and Doug Baker’s (Long Beach, California) Magnitude 400, both Farr 400 yachts, are sure to spice up the competition among the 40 footers.

In addition, two Class 40 yachts, which typically are outfitted for short-handed offshore sailing, are competing with accomplished skippers aboard. Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Conn.) will take the helm of Icarus, while Berry Lewis (Mill Valley, California) will steer 40 Degrees.

In IRC, it will be a trio of 52 footers – Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay’s (MON) Highland Fling XII, Ashley Wolfe’s (Calgary, AB, CAN) Mayhem, and Peter Cunningham’s (Georgetown, Cay) PowerPlay – and a Cookson 50, Ron O’Hanley’s (Newport, R.I.) Privateer, that are likely to stand out, while the reborn 65-foot Rosebud, now called Equation, will be out for a first showing since bought by Bill Alcott (St. Clair Shores, Mich.).

Among the power names onboard these boats are America’s Cup notables Peter Holmberg, Mike Toppa, Tony Rey, and George Skuodas. As well, Great Britain’s Brian Thompson, who layed to waste previous around-the-world speed records with his recent circumnavigation aboard the 130-foot trimaran yacht Banque Populaire V, will be skippering the Safe Passage company’s Andrews 72 Safara, which is the largest boat competing here.

Willem Wester (Zeeland, The Netherlands), with Volvo Ocean Race veteran Boewe Bekking (NED) calling tactics, will attempt to repeat his IRC class victory from last year, sailing the Grand Soleil 46 yacht Antilope. With today’s winds expected to be between 15 and 20 knots, Bekking says this may be hard to recreate, however. “When it’s windy the lighter displacement boats in our class this time should be going better,” said Bekking, “but if it’s light we can have a pretty fair race.”

For the USA’s Olympic medalist Charlie McKee (Seattle, Wash.), who is serving as tactician aboard Mayhem, it is mostly about the experience of being here for the first time that has him “expecting crazy, wild, mixed up racing that’s super fun!”

The International Rolex Regatta is a cornerstone of the spring Caribbean racing schedule, and as such attracts top programs from around the world for its mix of buoy and point-to-point races. It also distinguishes itself by having multiple races a day for all classes. “It’s all part of a unique mix of island-style fun and hard-core IRC, CSA and one design racing,” said Regatta Co-chair Bill Canfield, pointing out a massive, specially-constructed stage rising out of the water on the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s own beach. It is where a band will play today´s and Saturday´s nights and where the Rolex Awards will wrap up the event on Sunday, when winners in select classes win coveted Rolex watches.

Spectators will get a treat today when all classes sail to Charlotte Amalie Harbor for their first race, then return to St. Thomas Yacht Club for their second (and some classes may have a third race). On Saturday, spectators can watch IC 24s and Beach Cats sail as many as eight buoy races in Great Bay, while other classes sail longer courses on the south side of St. John. On Sunday, while the IC 24s sail up to six races in Jersey Bay, all other classes will sail two “Pillsbury Sound” races.

The Naples America’s Cup World Series to start on April 11, 2012

March 23, 2012

Written by Zuzana Bednarova

The first championship races in 2012 in the America’s Cup World Series are due to start in less than three weeks, on April 11, on the waters off Naples, Italy.

The America’s Cup World Series Naples, April 11, 2012

The America’s Cup World Series Naples, April 11, 2012

As the crews make their final preparations, ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill, who has previously raced for the Italian Luna Rossa team from 2004-2007, says he thinks the Italian fans will be blown away by the new-look America’s Cup – with short course racing in exciting and fast wing-sailed catamaran yachts, all within shouting distance of the crowds on the shoreline.

“The Italian fans are some of the most passionate in the world. They are devoted, emotional, die-hard fans who really enjoy the competition,” he said. “I’m very excited about getting there and experiencing it again… I think people will really enjoy the show. It’s a new game, it’s a lot more exciting and I think the Italians will love it.”

Today, a revised format for the event has been issued which provides a balanced schedule of match racing, fleet racing and speed trials across the five days of competition that climaxes on Sunday April 15 when the winner of the Naples Fleet Race Championship is crowned.

Two things stand out in the new format – each fleet race, at 35 minutes, is longer than in prior events, and the Fleet Racing Championship will be determined by performance across all nine scheduled races, as opposed to the previous, winner-take-all race on the final Sunday.

With all of the fleet races counting towards the final score, teams will need to be at the top of their game from the first start gun. Each race is critical to remain in contention for the Championship heading into Sunday’s big finale.

Regatta Director Iain Murray issued the changes to the format: “The fleet race on the final Sunday (April 15) is the most valuable race on the schedule in terms of points, with the scoring heavily weighted to that last race. But now, all of the other fleet races will also count towards determining the overall Fleet Racing Champion in Naples. We think this strikes a good balance between rewarding consistently strong performances over the five days of racing, as well as energizing the crews and fans alike with a critical final race on Sunday.

“And although the individual fleet races are longer in duration, the race courses themselves will remain very tight, placing a premium on boat-handling and crew work,” Murray explained. “The race may last longer, but the pressure on the crews remains intense.”

The match races will remain short and sharp with a target time of 15-minutes. Teams will race for three days to advance through to Saturday’s one-race showdown for the Match Racing Championship. But here too, the format is unforgiving – crews must win to advance. With a single loss meaning elimination, upsets could be on the cards.

Meanwhile, the construction project necessary to accommodate the event in Naples is proceeding on schedule, with the infrastructure expected to be ready for the first week of April, when some of the teams will begin sailing ahead of ‘open training’ over the weekend of April 7-8. The Championship racing starts on Wednesday April 11th. Shore side, the public Race Village in Naples will be open from April 7 through 15, with public entertainment each night.