They may be built as the last word in luxury status symbols, but sailing superyachts are also constructed for speed. High-performance racing machines, they look spectacular moored against the pontoon in St Tropez, and even better spewing up a foaming bow wave of azure water as they surge towards the finish line.
For those who own or charter these sleek, powerful vessels, racing can add an extra edge to the sailing experience, while anyone looking for an exciting, sociable sport that will take them around the world need look no further than the calendar of superyacht regattas.
Interest in sailing yachts is growing as owners recognise the economic, environmental and aesthetic advantages of a pair of taut white sails. “Sailing boats are far more impressive than any motor yacht,” says William Bishop, Head of YPI’s specialist sailing arm. “They are the yachts that turn heads.”
And racing such a boat no longer means hauling ropes and grinding winches, before being crammed into a damp bunk. New levels of luxury and technology mean you can have the satisfaction of winning without breaking a sweat. “It’s about comfort and space, as well as speed,” says Bishop. “And as crew, you don’t have to be hugely experienced.”
As with other extreme sports, the après-sail is as full-on as the racing. regattas, and the parties that accompany them offer the chance to socialise with like-minded individuals, network, share experiences and have a “rollicking good time”. Here are some of the best superyachts regattas in the world you can take your sails to...
St Barths Bucket
22-25 March 2012
Where: The location is one of the biggest draws of this Bucket regatta. Held on sparkling Saint Barthélemy, one of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, it offers sailors 20 white sandy coves, luxury resorts and infallible cruising conditions.
Why enter: An invitational regatta limited to 30 yachts of 30.5m (100ft) and above, it’s well worth swinging a summons to St Barths. This is sailing for the love of it; a regatta run in the spirit of fun over competition – the aim is to ‘win the party’. Held as a series of pursuit races, it’s all about exciting finishes without the risk of scraping expensive paintwork jostling on the start line. The place to see yachts by all the greatest designers, from Farr to Dubois.
Winners and prizes: After three days of racing, overall victory is awarded on cumulative points. In the 2011 Regatta, VIRAGO took the honours.
Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
19-24 April 2012
Where: Since a group of classic yachts took up racing to Guadeloupe in the 1960s and Antigua Race Week was born, the island has become a firm fixture in the yachting calendar. The combination of Caribbean hospitality, fine rum, and trade wind sailing conditions is unbeatable.
Why enter: It’s all about the history, which is focused on preserving classic yacht racing. Established in 1988 to continue to attract traditional yachts to Antigua Race Week, the Classic is now a hotly contested event. Entrants must boast a full keel, heavy displacement, traditional rig and be built of wood or steel.
Winners and prizes: A range of ratings creates fair competition, while the Spirit of Tradition class allows modern yachts with classic lines to enter. The Concours d’Elegance celebrates the best-preserved entrants.
Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta
4-9 June 2012
Where: Overlooking the Piazza Azzurra, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s clubhouse in Porto Cervo, Sardinia enjoys fabulous views of the exclusive harbour and is one of the most beautiful settings in which to enjoy post-racing hospitality.
Why enter: Loro Piana opens the Mediterranean superyacht season with five days of racing. Open to both classic and modern yachts, it has been described by competitors as the “Olympics of sailing”, and the après-sail beach party is legendary.
Winners and prizes: The Loro Piana Prize Overall, The Silver Jubilee Cup, was won in 2011 by HIGHLAND FLING XI. Other prizes included an exquisite Latitude Kinsale nautical chart of the Bonifacio Strait for the ‘Spirit of the Regatta’ award.
Superyacht Cup Palma
20-23 June 2012
Where: Palma de Mallorca, capital of the Baleric islands, is a fascinating mix of European and Moorish influences, including the 13th century cathedral and 10th century Arab baths. Take time to explore the old quarter’s winding streets and ornate squares with their orange trees and charming cafés.
Why enter: Europe’s longest-running superyacht regatta sees the finest sail boats ever built taking to the water. The four-day event utilises the Bay of Palma’s consistent breeze to ensure exciting, controlled racing, matched by well-coordinated on-shore entertainment. For 2012, a special edition of the Superyacht Cup will be held at Cowes from 22-25 July to coincide with the start of the London Olympics.
Winners and prizes: DRUMFIRE was crowned Overall Winner of the 2011 Superyacht Cup in Palma, and awarded the ‘Big Bent Cleat’ trophy.
J Class Regatta 2012 – Solent
18-21 July 2012
Where: The Solent Regatta will be hosted by the Royal Southampton Yacht Club (RSYC) the traditional home of J Class Racing in the UK during the 1930s.
Why enter: Celebrate the greatest sailing class ever created. Three races are planned, one starting in the Western Solent and around Christchurch Bay. One starting in the eastern Solent and into Hayling Bay and a third in the central Solent. YPI sold a J Class (LIONHEART) earlier this year and may well have others to sell soon.
Each section of the J Class Regatta will receive a special prize cup.
24-26 August 2012
Where: One of the few superyacht events based in America, the Newport Bucket showcases the best of small-town New England. The fleet is invited to assemble at the presidential playground of Martha’s Vineyard for a traditional lobster bake on the Thursday, before a feeder race to Newport on the Friday.
Why enter: The Bucket Regattas are unique events, steeped in the Corinthian ideal of gentlemanly competition. The organisers are committed to the principle that ‘any well-sailed boat should have a reasonable shot at the podium in every race’. In pursuit races without complicated handicaps, the slowest starts first, and the first across the line is the winner. Saturday’s Bucket Bash is not to be missed.
Winners and prizes: Hurricane Irene put paid to racing in 2011, but she couldn’t dampen spirits and the party went on regardless – under battened-down hatches.
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez
29th September – 7th October 2012
Where: The yachting mecca of the French Riviera, St Tropez is all white sands, cobbled streets and freshly baked croissants at harbour-front cafés. Closing the summer season on the Côte d’Azur, the regatta parties go on day and night.
Why enter: The spectacle of 300 yachts battling it out over the course of eight days is a glory to behold. And the best place to enjoy it is in the midst of the cut-and-thrust closequarters racing. Part of the Rolex series, this is serious racing contested by renovated classics, the Wally fleet, and some of the most famous yachts in the world. Light relief is provided by the mid-week Challenge Day, when match racing takes place following challenges between rival crews.
Winners and prizes: The Rolex Trophy is awarded to a traditional boat over 16m (53ft) and was won in 2010 by IKRA. The ‘Esprit de Tradition’ class recognises modernised traditional yachts, there are Wally and 12m (39ft) America’s Cup classes, and La Grande Classe Trophy, an invitation only event for traditional racing yachts.
For more information on YPI-recommended events and regattas, visit the YPI website at: www.ypigroup.com