Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

St Barths' Bucket. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

St Barths' Bucket. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Kinship

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

Camaraderie, competition and adrenalin-fuelled celebrations as the world’s superyachts go head to head.

By Dominique Afacan | 27 June 2019

Sailing yachts are impressive enough floating majestically on their own, but witnessing ten or twenty of these colossal machines powering through the water at once is a real spectacle. No wonder the superyacht community loves a regatta. And there are plenty to choose from – all in spectacular locations.

The Superyacht Cup, which took place in Palma earlier this month, is the longest-running regatta in Europe. Famed for its laidback vibe, the yacht races take place over three days, with owners and crew letting off steam at the end of every day in the regatta village. “The first chilled beer or glass of wine ashore after a good race is most people’s highlight on a hot Palma afternoon!” says Kate Branagh, event director.

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

Superyacht Cup in Palma. Photo: Claire Matches

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

Superyacht Cup in Palma. Photo: Claire Matches

Thankfully, regattas aren’t just for just die-hard racing enthusiasts and in recent years, proactive efforts have been made to loosen the reigns and make room for more casual competitions. The Superyacht Racing Association recently added a new class – the Corinthian Spirit Class – aimed at newcomers who might be more about the fun than the furious competition.

With its sheltered position in the Bay of Palma – the Superyacht Cup couldn’t be better placed to cater to this type of owner. “We know yacht owners who love the regatta scene, but aren’t all about the racing,” says Branagh. “Providing them with an alternative that doesn’t require excessive race preparation, while still enabling them to participate and compete has already been very well received.”

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

The Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

The Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Sailor Angus Johnstone has taken part in countless regattas over the years, racing for both new and experienced owners. “I’ve raced on yachts with 40-plus people on board, including crew, family and guests,” he says. “Some of them just sit back and enjoy the ride and some get hands on.”

Whichever it is, he loves the sense of teamwork a regatta brings. “I have been fortunate enough to sail with one boat over the past four years,” he says. “It has had the same race crew every time, bringing with it real camaraderie. The owner sees us as his sports team, and we’ve had enough time on the boat to make faultless manoeuvres time and time again.”

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

St Barths' Bucket. Photo: Ed Gudenas

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

St Barths' Bucket. Photo: Ed Gudenas

His favourite regatta is the Bucket Regatta, a much-loved race on St Barths with a 30-plus year history. It tends to attract a lot of yachts, as well as visiting motor yachts who come along to spectate. Competition is fierce – but that’s only half the story. “The social side is important too, not only between the race crew but with the owner as well,” says Johnstone. The famed Yacht Hop sees lively parties taking place on yachts lined up side-by-side in the harbour. Crew, owners, guests – everyone takes their shoes off, jumps on board and lets their hair down. If you can’t win the race, as they say, you can still win the party.

Of course, the island, with its low-key luxury and beautiful beaches is a great place to hang out long after the regatta is over, which is all part of the appeal. And the same could be said for most regatta locations. Take Porto Cervo with its Superyacht Regatta, the Greek island of Spetses with its Classic Yacht Regatta, or the New Zealand Millennium Cup, which takes place in the sub-tropical paradise of the Bay of Islands.

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

Millennium Cup in New Zealand. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Inside the world of the superyacht regatta

Millennium Cup in New Zealand. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

“There’s a pod of dolphins in the Bay of Islands and they can be counted on to join the fleet at the start line or during racing every year,” says Isla McKechnie, who runs the event’s PR. “It’s a moment that sticks in the mind of every visitor to the Millennium Cup, even though it’s a frequent sight for locals.”

It’s just one of many memories for McKechnie, who has long been involved with the regatta. “I remember one year, a yacht called Bliss charging towards the finish with Australian rockers ACDC blaring from the speakers, courtesy of her owner’s taste in music. The boat had the Waitangi Treaty Grounds [where modern New Zealand is considered to have been foundered] visible behind her on one side, and a sheer bush-covered cliff face on the other. It was the perfect combination of all the fun and magic of the regatta in this very special part of the world.”

Regattas – it seems – are much more than a race. These events are about making memories, making friends and having fun. If you win first prize, well… that’s just the icing on the cake.

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