St. Barths Bucket Regatta

St. Barts (St. Barths or Saint Barthélemy) ranks among the Caribbean’s signature sailing destinations. No surprise that this legendary isle in the French West Indies is a host to high-profile yacht races. Among the best-known, without question, is the St. Barths Bucket Regatta.

This four-day, invitation-only race typically falls in mid-March, drawing sailing superyachts from all over the world. Inspired by a Nantucket event, it benefits greatly from the unique nature of the coastline of St. Barts: the coves and headlands, the reefs and offshore islets, and steady tradewinds. 

In this guide, we’ll dig into the unique spirit of this regatta, break down its rules and categories, and reveal how sailing enthusiasts can appreciate it firsthand — from onshore viewpoints to WIMCO-facilitated “ride-alongs.” 

Bucket Regatta along the shores of St Barth © www.bucketregatta.com

And, by the way, save the date: the 2023 St. Barths Bucket Regatta will be staged from March 16th through the 19th.

What Makes the St. Barths Bucket Regatta Unique?

From its inception, St. Barths Bucket Regatta has always been an invitation-only event, and one targeting sail boats classified as superyachts: that is, classic sailing boats exceeding 100 feet in length at the waterline. (The main overall length [LOA] cutoff is 30.5 meters. As we’ll explain, though, there is a category for shorter sailcraft.) 

This St. Barts regatta has also always emphasized spirited yet gentlemanly competition. There’s no prize money at stake, no advertisements or sponsorships involved. The only honor regatta participants strive for is the chance to win the prized “Bucket Cup” itself. 

Bucket Regatta Awards Ceremony © www.bucketregatta.com

Why do competitors and onlookers alike value the St. Barths Bucket Regatta?  

Besides the perfection of the island itself, there’s the singular pleasure of seeing the globe’s priciest and most impressive sailing boats square off against each other — for honor and sheer enjoyment of competing rather than for treasure. 

It’s the job of the Race Committee to convince the most competitive boat owners on the planet that having fun is more important than winning.

There’s also a charitable element to the St. Barths Bucket Regatta. Every year, organizers funnel part of the entry fees into a donation to a local non-profit on the island. 

In 2022, for example, the regatta supported the Youth Sailing Program at the St. Barths Yacht Club as well as the Territorial Fire & Rescue Service of Saint-Barthélemy.

St. Barths Bucket Regatta Rules & Yacht Classification

The racing event plays out along the coast of St. Barts and among its offshore isles. Its rendezvous point for participating yachts lies just outside Gustavia’s postcard-perfect harbor.

Racing taking place just outside Gustavia Harbor © www.bucketregatta.com

The following are the Bucket Regatta’s basic rules:

  • The Bucket Regatta is a pursuit race with multiple categories. Smaller and slower yachts may start first. Fore more on how the boats are handicapped by the race committee, see the section below.
  • The first yacht to cross the finish line in any category is the winner of the category.
  • In starting, all yachts must rely on sail power only. The one exception is when power is needed to steer clear of other yachts or obstacles.
  • If any yachts start ahead of time, five minutes will simply be added to their elapsed time, as recalls are not allowed.
  • Those who maneuver and handle their yachts outside of the congenial spirit that defines the regatta — meaning they are being too competitive and aggressive — will be excluded from the race.

Handicapping St Barths Bucket Regatta boats to insure a fair race

The organizers divide the participating boats into categories based on how similarly they perform in the water. Each yacht is rated and handicapped by a team of race experts based on displacement, draft, sail area, and other characteristics. 

These assessments take into account various factors, including Displacement/Length Ratio (DLR), Sail Area/Displacement Ratio, race-series ratings, and Furling Jibs When Tacking, to define class breaks. 

Each year, the regatta organizers publish class breaks based on these analyses and consultation with the race’s managers: the Superyacht Racing Association (SYRA) and the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC). 

The breakdown of classes varies from year to year based on which (and how many) yachts enter. In addition to the conventional Superyacht Pursuit classes (ORCsy), the regatta may also include a Corinthian Spirit (ORCcsp) class. 

The Corinthian Spirit category exists to allow less-optimized superyachts to race under looser requirements and a different handicapping system. 

The 2022 Bucket Regatta also featured the debut of a 90 Foot class, welcoming sloops below the standard 30.5m LOA cutoff to participate. 

© www.bucketregatta.com

  • Class A (Gazelles): This “performance-oriented” group includes yachts with the fastest ratings. They boast a “deep draft, low DLR, high Sail Area/Displacement ratios, and a tight rating  band.” 
  • Class B (Elegantes): These ketches — mainly what the regatta organizers describe as “modern classics” — are only marginally slower than the Class A boats. Most have a significant overhang. 
  • Class C (Mademoiselles): This group includes larger sloops characterized by “relatively high DLR and low upwind and downwind SA/Disp ratios.” In 2022, all Class C yachts but one ranged between 33- and 37-meter LOA and needed to furl in tacking.
  • Class D (Grandes Dames): The heaviest yachts with slow ratings and low Sail Area/Displacement Ratios fall in this class.
  • Class E (L’esprit): This is the aforementioned Corinthian Spirit class. Its 2022 group in the Bucket Regatta included “a very disparate group of yachts” that “for the first time include[d] entrants with and without spinnakers.”
  • Class F (Petites Dames): Class F includes the 90 Foot Class yachts, which, as we noted above, were allowed into the Bucket Regatta for the first time in 2022. 
  • Class J (J Class): These are the single-masted “J-boats” defined under Universal Rule criteria.

The structure of the 2022 Bucket Regatta was typical of the event. J-boats began a day before the rest of the fleet in their own competition. The remainder of the yachts sailed in class-determined pursuit racing, with about five to 10 minutes separating the staggered finish times of each class. 

© www.bucketregatta.com

This staggered format, taking into account wind speed, handicapping, and other factors, enhances fairness and safety. It also helps separate the pursuit-racing classes from the 90 Foot yachts judged under the conventional fleet-racing format.

How to Enter the St. Barths Bucket Regatta

The Bucket Stewards decide which yachts get an invitation for the regatta each year. You can request an invitation by getting in touch with the Race Committee Event Manager at jeanne@bucketregattas.com

Those yacht owners who land an invite receive an entry application and Notice of Race in October. They need to file their entry application by mid-December, then pay the entry fee by the first of the year. 

Whether a given year’s regatta will feature Corinthian Spirit or 90 Foot classes depends on whether a minimum threshold for entrants in those categories is satisfied. 

St. Barths Bucket Regatta – A Brief History

The invitation-only St. Barths Bucket Regatta kicked off back in March 1995. 

That inaugural year, a mere four yachts composed the fleet: 

  • 131-foot S&S ketch SARIYAH
  • Tom Taylor’s 108-foot Ron Holland ketch GLEAM
  • Nelson Doubleday’s 130-foot Palmer Johnson ketch MANDALAY
  • 127-foot Alden Designs ketch PARLAY.

The roots of the Bucket Regatta, though, extend back further in time. The original iteration of the event was held on Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts in August 1986

That contest came about thanks to a Nantucket birthday party hosted by Nelson Doubleday. There, party-goers vigorously debated the hallmarks of the perfect yacht design, plus how various individuals’ seamanship stacked up against one another. This sparked the idea for an entirely impromptu race to be held the next day. 

Seven sailing superyachts thus squared off along a speedily schemed 15-mile Nantucket Sound course. The agreed-upon prize was yearlong bragging rights, but a bucket was spontaneously fetched — and filled with champagne — to additionally award the winner. This marked the birth of the Nantucket Bucket Regatta, which continued until 2001. 

While the Nantucket regatta ended up moving to Newport, Rhode Island, and continued there for a number of years more, the St. Barts event today is the main torchbearer for the Bucket Regatta tradition. 

The St. Barths Bucket Regatta has certainly grown since that four-yacht fleet of 1995. In recent years, 40 or more super sailing yachts have gathered to compete for the coveted St. Barths Bucket.

© www.bucketregatta.com

Keeping up with the original spirit, there still isn’t any prize money at stake: only the glory of winning.

The boat race was held in March for 23 consecutive years up until March 2020, when the closure of the island due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns forced its cancellation. The regatta also didn’t happen in March 2021, when the island of St. Barts was again temporarily closed. 

In March 2022, the race made its glorious return, with the superyacht HETAIROS the Overall 2022 Bucket Winner.

The current stewards of the St. Barths Bucket Regatta are Netherlands-based yacht builders Royal Huisman and Vitters Shipyard, Italy-based builder Perini Navi, and the U.S.-based Rybovich Superyacht Marina and refit facility. Several longtime sponsors (“friends”) of the Bucket including WIMCO Villas and Tradewind Aviation also contribute their support with in kind donations relating to accommodations and travel.

The Social Side of the St. Barths Bucket Regatta – Things to Do

© www.bucketregatta.com

Not only does this four-day regatta feature world-class racing but there are also plenty of festive post-race social activities in Gustavia’s waterfront race village. 

Anyone visiting St. Barts during the sailing competition can walk down to the main quay in downtown Gustavia and see the spectacular superyachts up close. 

The race village in Gustavia features activities and live music each night after the races. You’ll find all of Gustavia’s Harbor energized by the event during the Bucket Regatta week, especially after sundown. 

© www.bucketregatta.com

Among the defining social happenings during the Regatta are the boatowners and Bucket Steward dinners

The regatta’s closing ceremony is definitely a well-attended party too. Along with trophies for each competing class (and the overall winner), organizers hand out a variety of special awards.

Here’s the social calendar for the St. Barths Bucket Regatta in March, 2023:

DAY

TIME

ACTIVITY

Thursday, 16 March

5:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Bucket Bar Open (BMQ)

 

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Fleet Welcoming Party (BMQ) Music by Zig Zag

 

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Owners’ Reception - Invitation Only (Location TBA)

Friday, 17 March

4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Bucket Bar Open (BMQ)

 

7:00 PM – 7:10 PM

Daily Awards Presentation (BMQ)

 

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Bucket Bash (BMQ) Music by the Tanya M. Quintet

Saturday, 18 March

4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Bucket Bar Open (BMQ)

 

7:00 PM – 7:10 PM

Daily Awards Presentation (BMQ)

 

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Bucket Yacht Hop – Invitation Only

Sunday, 19 March

4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Bucket Bar Open (BMQ)

 

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Final Awards Ceremony and Party (WHM)

Note: ‘BMQ’ is the Bucket Marquee on the Quay; ‘WHM‘ is the Wall House Museum across the harbor.

Where Can I View the Boats Competing in the St. Barths Bucket Regatta?

© www.bucketregatta.com

Watching the spectacular boats sail around St. Barts is a popular pastime during Bucket Regatta week. During the day, sailing fans gather at hillside villas or on coastal roads in Gustavia, Pointe Milou, Colombier, Toiny, and Flamands to see the passing fleet. Fort Carl in Gustavia is another popular vantage.

Anyone interested in taking in a few minutes of the racing can pull over at any number of spots to see the boats as they circle the island. 

However,  if you’d like a more up-close and personal view of these elite sailing crafts in action, WIMCO Villas can make it happen. 

We can help arrange a chartered yacht for you to motor alongside the racers. Many visitors choose this absolutely one-of-a-kind way to experience the Bucket Regatta. 

To secure a Yacht Broker Referral for this purpose, get in touch with us at info@wimco.com or via our online Air & Charter Form.

Results From the 2022 St. Barths Bucket Regatta

Winner  CLASS A: Les Gazelles des Mers – HETAIROS

Winner CLASS B: Les Elegantes des Mers – AQUARIUS

Winner CLASS C: Les Mademoiselles del Mers – KAWIL

Winner CLASS D:  Les Grand Dames des Mers – ROSEHEARTY

Winner CLASS E: L' Esprit de Mer – SYMMETRY

Winner CLASS F: Les Petites Dames – FREYA

More information about the results of the 2022 race.

Where Can I Stay During the St. Barths Bucket Regatta?

The popularity of the regatta and its winter break / mid-March timing make St Barths Bucket Regatta week the second biggest tourism week of the year after New Year’s Eve week. 

If you plan to vacation in St Barts during this week, you can rent a villa or reserve one or more rooms at a hotel. Given how popular the event is, you are advised to make your reservations as early as possible to ensure that you get the villa or hotel rooms that best suit your specific needs.

Note:  WIMCO Villas is the official villa rental and concierge services partner of the St Barths Bucket Regatta. Interested in vacationing in St Barts during the Regatta? Browse Villas or contact WIMCO Villas.

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