As the perennially popular Saint Barth’s Bucket superyacht regatta returns to the tiny French island in the Caribbean, so the J Class fleet resumes for the first time since 2019. Naturally because the J Class has its roots in the oldest sporting race in the world, The America’s Cup, the fleet will take centre stage. Two J Class yachts are coming back to top level competition for the first time since 2017.
Ranger has an enthusiastic new American owner for whom the Bucket will be their first major regatta, sailing with a hand-picked team that is rich in America’s Cup experience.
Jim and Kirsty Clark’s well sailed Hanuman – which won the hotly contested 2017 Bucket regatta from a record fleet of six J Class yachts – are also stepping back into the ring after a spell of blue water cruising in Hanuman.
Both these ‘returnees’ will face a stiff challenge from the benchmark programme of recent years, the original, beautifully prepared Velsheda which has continued to race wherever safe and possible while the class activity ebbed slightly in recent years.
It is widely expected that this Saint Barth’s Bucket fleet of three beautiful J’s will herald an upturn in class racing activity this season.
It seems likely that four J Class Yachts will race at the Palma Superyacht Cup in June and four or five at the Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia in September.
The three J Class yachts will contest two windward-leeward races on their own on Thursday 17 March before they join the 30 strong fleet of Superyachts to take on a diet of three days of round the island or 25-mile buoy races.
The exact choice and composition of the courses is to be decided according to the wind conditions, with particular consideration being given to the very brisk tradewinds and big choppy seas which seem to have prevailed for recent weeks at the preliminary warm up Caribbean regattas.
Given the likely brisk conditions and the lack of recent fleet racing experience, safety is of paramount importance and a cautious step into the 2022 season is likely. The most polished and accomplished team Velsheda was the last J Class to race at the most recent Saint Barth’s Bucket in 2019, while three J Class yachts raced in 2018 when the class was won bySvea, which it is hoped will return later this season.
Velsheda and Topaz raced against each other during a foreshortened two event 2021 season racing in mixed handicap fleets. Saint Barth’s is scored throughout for the Js under the J Class own handicap rule.