April 23rd 2013. By Diane Byrne.

J-Class Spectacle: 5 Yachts Line Up at St Barths Bucket Regatta

The annual superyacht pilgrimage to St Barths in the French West Indies for Bucket regatta had an additional shine this year with the arrival of five J-Class yachts. Not since 1937 has this number of J-Class America's Cup contenders lined up on one race course. Photographer Ingrid Abery captured the magnificent J-Class Yachts as they met to race.... even Sir Richard Branson put in an appearance. Individual sailing programs make herding this fleet of Js to a single venue difficult, so this superb exhibition off the waters of Gustavia was a one-off.


J class fleet with spinnakers

As one J-Class captain commented his team had a lump in their throats during the J-Class exhibition race. After pulling out of the Antigua Classic regatta a few years back citing the two other Js had gunwale to gunwale professionals, Hanuman this year arrived in St Barths led by pro helmsman Ken Read.

St Barths yachts line up

Jim Clarke's JK6 Hanuman joined the seasoned J Velsheda, the 10-year-old Ranger and two recent launches Lionheart and Rainbow. Thirty six "gazelles, mademoiselles, grandes dames" and J-Class yachts flocked to the the French West Indian island of St Barths for the famed St Barths Bucket. It was a sight to behold as they lined up in Gustavia harbour.

Sir Richard branson goes J-Class sailing

In contrast to the understated J-Class owners, one guest aboard Hanuman was happy to soak up the limelight. British buisnessman Sir Richard Branson might have been a good luck charm for Ken Read and his team, as they took a flyer that paid off to round the second windward mark six minutes ahead of their rivals. Hanuman went on to win the exhibition race by three minutes.

Five J-Class boats at St Barths

After trailing for two races JK5 Ranger pulled out a lead ahead of the fleet at the first turning mark of Les petites Roches on the southern end of St Barths. Second at this stage was the two year-old Lionheart followed by Hanuman, Velsheda and the most recently launched Rainbow.

St Barths day three

The Bucket delivered a mixed selection of conditions to test these superyachts. Light winds gave way to more thrilling opportunities and the four-day event unfolded. Lighter conditions earlier in the regatta gave way to more tempestuous weather on day three. Here we can see the only original of the Js, Velsheda, chasing Ranger up the first beat. These two have a history of rivalry.

Velsheda

Day 4's 26 mile 'wrong way around' race pushed the J-fleet to the limit. With wind speeds hitting the mid-20s in deep swell, staying onboard was tough. Two crew were washed overboard, only to be picked up by beady-eyed support vessels. Here Rainbow, with Velsheda in the distance, puts in a tack as they shaved the island's western corner. Sailmakers were kept busy overnight.

Ranger

JK5 Ranger (2002) was built to the lines of the original 1930's America's Cup yacht owned by Harold Vanderbilt. Here she powers off the waves in the around the island race. Professional sailors were aboard many of the boats, including America’s Cup co-skipper Peter Holmberg from the Virgin Islands, Chris Dickson, Dawn Riley, Bouwe Bekking and Dennis Conner, to name just a few.

JK6 Hanuman

JK6 Hanuman, the one J helmed full time by a full-time professional sailor (double Volvo Ocean Race skipper Ken Read), leads the fleet off the start and westabout the island in the final day's race. Hanuman dominated the week winning all four races.

Salperton IV and Maltese Falcon

Thrilling racing was enjoyed in the three other Bucket divisions. Double Olympic medallist Shirley Robertson helmed the Mademoiselles class Salperton IV to a win in the final race, finishing second overall. In the Grand Dames class it was a showcase for Perini Navi with nine out of 12 entries from the famed yard. Georgia, a 48-Metre sloop banked three bullets to take the class trophy.

Adela

In the Mademoiselles class, the duel between the 62-Metre Athos and the 55-Metre schooner Adela (pictured) was curtailed as a broken leg aboard Athos in the big swell led to her retirement. Adela maintained a lead in the Mademoiselles class throughout the regatta to win the overall St Barths Bucket trophy, with America’s Cup veteran Dennis Conner in the afterguard.



Diane Byrne

Diane M. Byrne is the founder and editor of the daily updated website Megayacht News. A longtime yachting writer, she also contributes to Yachts International, Boat Exclusive, and other magazines. She is additionally a member of the International Superyacht Society Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the U.S. Superyacht Association.