St. Barth’s felt very familiar this year and yet it turned out to be a whole new experience. This was my third Bucket Regatta with the Perni Navi family and probably the 10th time I have sailed into the Port of Gustavia.
On Monday, we joined the boat in St. Martin and had a bit of work to get done, plus the passage over to St. Barth’s arriving well after dark. A quick bite in town and up to the Auberge to assign rooms and cots and make sure that everyone had a place to sleep and we hit the hay.
The Wednesday before I found out that Hank Halstead or normal helm and one of the founders of the Bucket was too ill to make the trip. On Thursday the Captain was fired. On Friday the fired Captain got married so it took me until Saturday to find out that the four other racers he had organized would not be joining us. In a bit of a panic, I managed to convince Meg Gaillard–Myles to join us. She had to bring her daughter Kate and their nanny Kendra. Thus the shuffle to make sure that everyone had a bed! I posted on Facebook: New team – fingers crossed!
The next morning I woke BRIGHT and early and feeling great as I headed down the road and up and down the mountains on a 55 minute hike to the end of the island and back.
Last year this was a quiet hike. This year there were construction workers every hundred yards or so as they were repairing the walls along the road. The craftsmanship was impressive as they were 3 or 4 artisans working in the quarry by the side of the road, hand chiseling local stone. A pretty hard job but in a beautiful setting and these guys have skills!
Now they probably weren’t that used to seeing a woman in black shorts and a hot pink jog bra walking, at pace, past their job sites. But I am positive that they weren’t used to seeing what they saw on the second day. I was inspired by all of the rocks around and choose two similar ones and proceeded to do 10 reps each of, bicep curls, triceps extensions, military presses, and a full set of shoulder sets continuously through the hike.
The first rock day, they kind of looked at me sideways. The second a few giggled and commented “Elle est forte!”, after that they just started offering me bigger rocks to carry .
Tuesday was a scheduled practice day but it turned more into a boat-work day as three of our people had missed their connections and there was a fair amount to do. Wednesday was finally had a real practice day and we learned each other’s names as we pulled together a training session.
Thursday the owners arrived so the permanent crew was fully in owner prep and the race crew helped with a few odd jobs and then got out of the way. This was the first time we had three women on board and I decided that in honor of that, instead of going to the most beautiful and natural beach, Saline Beach that we should find one where there were men in tight or no shirts who would serve us drinks. We ended up at Nikki Beach.
It turns out that when I was rubbing the belly of the genie and making my wish I wasn’t quite specific enough. Turns out that there was a cruise ship in town with 2000 men! All men! Doh
Meg’s husband Rob arrived to race with another boat and when he joined us their daughter Kate ran up to him to tell him about this great place where you can get drinks and then dance on the table. Double Doh!
Finally it was race day. Friday started out sunny and then went downhill from there. The rain started – torrential rain! – and it was cold. I shivered around the race course and the boat started to show some strain as well. Something shorted out in the electronics and on one reaching leg the on-deck crew pointed out that our boarding ladder had deployed and it was stuck!
Not a normal racing situation. We managed to fix it within about 15 minutes and had 5 minutes to spare before we hoisted the kite. We finished 4th and decided that the next day was going to be better.
Saturday was sunnier and we set off on the wiggly course. In a ‘normal’ racing boat it would have been a fun little 19-mile jaunt up and down and between the islands. In a cruising superyacht it was a handful, especially when we ended up with Bucket Issues – not as in the race but as in the bucket and spinnaker sock that is used to snuff these massive asymmetric sails. She wouldn’t go up and then she wouldn’t go down and then she wouldn’t go up and then we twisted the spinnaker HARD. Just after we averted a shrimping incident I ran up to the bridge only to find Meteor headed towards us on Starboard. We immediately started the gybe, which is NOT a fast process on these boats and just as our main flopped over they radioed ‘Consider Yourself Protested!’. Our day didn’t get much better. After the finish as we had some mainsail issues and had to take her off of the mast. This sail must weigh in over 1000lbs.
We got to the dock only to rush up to defend ourselves at the protest meeting. It was a very hard one to defend being a Port / Starboard and two of the jury weren’t really familiar with the operation of the different boats and we lost. At that point I also knew that the owners had decided not to race and go to the beach on Sunday … with the boat!
I tired to put a positive spin on the day to the rest of the team but it was difficult. We managed to get home and take a shower and the girls decided to put party dresses, with a smile on our face and head into town. Meg and Suzy decided that they weren’t going to sail the final day but I knew if I was sitting on the beach watching the races I was going to feel horrible. Luckily enough one of our team, James knew the captain of a 56 meter Perini named Panthalassa and they had two spots open, for me and James. I told them that I was keen as long as they did need me. I wasn’t into sitting around drinking champagne. At least not when racing!
Sunday morning I didn’t work out, and I was a little bit nervous. I was also momentarily jealous of my roommate Suzy still sleeping and with a glorious beach day ahead of her. I got to the boat and we left the dock and we got stuck into racing. Very quickly my reservations all lifted and I slotted into the bridge with Pablo steering and Talpi tactician and Greg and Captain Greg as the safety officer and Clive navigating it was amazing to be surrounded by a tight team of great sailors and I was honored to be accepted in on the last day in the role of strategist.
We had a great start and started working our way through the fleet, picking off the other boats one by one. We came around the corner of the island and were happily in 4th place in fleet an 1st in class by a long way – like 20-minute lead! Going into the day we had to beat the boat in 1st and put 3 boats in between us to win. Unfortunately there ended up being only two boats in between so we tied in class and they won the tiebreaker but it didn’t really matter. We had done the best we could. We won the race and we ended up 2nd in class and we won the Perini Cup as the Perini Navi who finished highest in the overall standings.
It also turned out that it was a very good thing I had been hiking the mountains as on Sunday night the taxis really don’t run and Pablo and I ended up hiking up all the way past the airport and up and down two more crests to get to my apartment and car to go back and rescue the rest of the team so in the end I DID get my workout in and then some.
Monday I managed to miss my return flight and had a fun day with the Spaniards here are a few photos of the cultural experience they received
So as I reflect I realize that there are some days and some regattas that are like slow train wrecks but then one good day of sailing and meeting like-minded good people who happen to sail and it is like sorbet for the mind. We are truly blessed to do what we do!