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J Class Happenings At St Barth's Bucket

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  • J Class Happenings At St Barth's Bucket

    All images © Corey Silken /

    J Class debutant team Ranger won their first race together at the Saint Barth's Bucket - the Caribbean superyacht regatta which has long been a favourite with the historic class, the reasons for which were highlighted today.

    On the 25-nautical mile counter-clockwise passage round the island, Ranger remained clear of the fray a spirited tussle at times between Hanuman and Velsheda - and pushed hard from behind to save their time on the leading, faster rated duo.

    The winds were slightly kinder than for Thursday's opening day of windward-leewards a more manageable 15-18knots and while Hanuman led off the start line which was set just outside Gustavia, Velsheda progressively caught on the spinnaker leg down the outside of the island.

    As the two leaders passed the rocky Petits Groupers islets, Hanuman did not give enough room to inside boat Velsheda and was penalised. The incident between the two, and the consequent penalty turns, allowed the slower rated Ranger to close down on the leaders. From there Ranger sailed clean to win their first race, a welcome compensation after having to sit out yesterday's second race due to a winch failure.

    For a new team, which is racing the recently re-fitted Ranger, and for a new owner for whom this was only their third ever yacht race, they are setting expectations pretty high,

    "We have to be careful with that!" grins Moray Gray the Ranger crew boss. "The owner is over the moon. But seriously he is a realist and already sees the standard and how any little slip can be punishing." He adds, "It is good to be able to come out at all today after missing the second race yesterday. We found a workaround. We only had one gear on the winch. We just tried to stay in touch with the guys in front of us who are a little bit faster than us. They got involved in that little tussle at the bottom of the run which let us back in. We were close enough to let the handicap work for us. It was a fantastic day to go sailing in the Caribbean."

    Andy Beadsworth, Velsheda's strategist summed up the day. "The boat is going well. We did not get the best start, Hanuman got away but we ran them down on the outside of the island. We were closing all the time which we should be as we owe them a bit of time. They got away upwind, but the rich will always get richer on the upwind side of the island. We had this incident at the leeward mark which resulted in them getting a penalty. There was a contact which is never good and we had a little damage to the foot of the jib. It was great racing, the boats are close and it was fun. We made it a little easier for Ranger sailing extra distance trying to pass Hanuman. It is amazing to just sail these boats far less going racing."

    Hanuman were subsequently disqualified for the incident and drop to third overall, tied with Ranger on seven points while Velsheda now lead on six points thanks to their 3rd,1st and 3
    place finishes.

    Second Win Sees Ranger Lead Into Saint Barth's Bucket Sunday Showdown

    Ranger won their second successive race at the Saint Barth's Bucket superyacht regatta by just 15 seconds to hold a slender lead of just one point ahead of the tied duo Hanuman and Velsheda to set up an exciting winner-takes-all finale.

    The team might be the 'new kids on the block' as far as J Class racing is concerned, competing together for the first time at a J Class regatta, but theirs is a very experienced outfit, laden with America's Cup winning talent led by skipper-helm Ed Baird with John Kostecki calling tactics supported by Jordi Calafat as strategist.

    Competing around today's 22.5 miles nautical miles coastal buoys contest billed by the organisers as a 'not so wiggley race' which offered a good mix of upwind, downwind and reaching work in 17-22kts of trade winds, once more the Ranger crew sailed clean and made no obvious sail handling or tactical errors to win on corrected time as the slowest rated J Class of the trio racing here.

    From a downwind start off Gustavia it was Hanuman, with Gavin Brady on the helm and Ken Read calling tactics, which set the early pace and held their lead all the way around the race course. They struggled slightly on a fetch to the Rocho Table unable to douse their staysail due to a halyard lock jamb but recovered well upwind.

    Velsheda did come back at them slightly using a favourable windshift inshore at the approach to the most southerly, upwind turning mark, but the sleek, black hulled Hanuman were over a minute clear at that top mark rounding with Velsheda second and Ranger about the same distance behind.

    On the final beat to the finish line Velsheda once again made a sizeable gain back at Hanuman, pulling back 40 seconds or so between the last mark and the finish line. Although they crossed just a few seconds behind it was too little too late for Velsheda who finished third today.

    Racing at his first ever serious regatta, his previous sailing experience he admits being in Hobie beach cats and Lasers, the new Ranger owner is loving his first Saint Barth's Bucket, his first experience of J Class racing and indeed his first ever big sailing regatta.

    "It is very humbling to be where we are but I am very proud of the team and all the work put in to preparing for this and all the contributions that people have made, this has been an incredible illustration of group success." Smiled the new Ranger owner on the dock in Gustavia.

    Recounting his love affair with the Ranger he explains, "I saw Ranger first when the America's Cup came through New York City. The previous owner did a wonderful job of building her and carrying on the historic tradition of (the original) Ranger and I followed and stalked her for years. When she became available we were able to navigate the purchase process. Then she went in for a long refit to really renew and refresh a lot of the infrastructure. It was a labour of love. It was a funny thing. Very rarely do you get to match your aspirations and your passion with actual execution. This is one of these moments and I am incredibly grateful for it."

    He enthuses, "I love the history, the lines, the beauty, the tradition. It is about the special nature of the J Class and the special nature of Ranger. For me sailing is about discipline, it is about understanding the environment and embracing the various elements and harnessing the power of nature. When I compare myself to this crew it is like I have never sailed. But I grew up sailing Hobie Cats and Lasers and things like that in Maryland."

    Ranger's America's Cup winning strategist and double TP52 World Champion Jordi Calafat summarised, "On our boat everything is working pretty well but the bow team take us very cleanly around the course and I feel very comfortable with that. All the teams have struggled here and there but our team are impressive and I would say that putting them in any boat. It is impressive. Everything has been clean with hoists and drops. We struggle a little with a slower boat, it is not easy but the others had their problems with sails and so on. And it is so tight going into the final day, it is exciting and we expect it to be a little lighter."

    After being DSQ'd from yesterday's race Hanuman, counting 1,2,4,2 are just a point behind Ranger on nine points as are Velsheda with their 3,1,2,3. Hanuman's skipper tactician Ken Read was happier today after a clean race: "It was better today. We got a good start and sailed well. We made a little mistake towards the end which cost us a few seconds and that was mine. If we lose by a few seconds I put my hand up to that. But it is still early days for us. You have to sail a boat like this a lot to get the gremlins out. Today we could not get the staysail down for a leg and that cost us. But we got the boat round the course well. We had a good start and good boat handling. It was a beautiful course. The boat felt and the team had a good bounce back day, so good for them."

    Race 4 result:
    1 Ranger elapsed 2:14:27, corrected 2:07:46
    2 Hanuman elapsed 2:12:02, corrected 2:08:01
    3 Velsheda elapsed 2:12:10 corrected 2:10:37

    Standings after 4 of 5 scheduled races
    1 Ranger 2,4,1,1 8pts
    2 Hanuman 1,2,4,2 9pts
    3 Velsheda 3,1,2,3 9pts

    Ranger roll out Saint Barths J Class Winners

    The combination of an enthusiastic owner who is brand new to sailboat racing and a vastly experienced crew who gelled together perfectly at their first ever J Class Yacht regatta proved a winning combination as Ranger clinched the Saint Barth's Bucket J Class title today after the round the island contest was abandoned mid-way through.

    Under America's Cup winning skipper-helm Ed Baird, who himself was steering a J Class yacht regatta for the first time, Ranger finished one point clear of Hanuman and Velsheda after four races were sailed.

    It is Ranger's best J Class regatta finish since 2011 when under her original owner and team - they won in Newport although in 2016 the boat finished second at Saint Barth's on countback to Hanuman.

    This replica Ranger was built out of steel in Denmark 2002-3 as the first of the 'replica' J's, constructed to the original Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens lines of Harold Vanderbilt's 'Super J' which won the 1937 America's Cup 4-0 against Endeavour 2.

    With the boat more than a year in refit, the new owner has had to wait nearly two further years to be able to compete in his first race. At 28.6m Ranger is the longest on the waterline of the trio racing here compared to 27.7m for Velsheda and 26.8m for Hanuman and even after losing six tonnes in refit is the heaviest at 196 tonnes compared to Velsheda's 180 and 172 tonnes for Hanuman.

    After racing for over an hour today on a 25-mile anticlockwise course round the Saint Barth's islands, the decision was taken to abandon the contest because of the wind and sea conditions which were expected to deteriorate. It was a decision which denied today's race leader Hanuman their chance to atone for earlier, costly misdemeanours and repeat their title success here of 2016 and 2017 but which secured the regatta win for the quietly contented Ranger debutant team who missed Race 2 with a winch failure.

    "This win is about three years of hard work, long days and nights and a very happy owner," smiled Greg Sloat, the Ranger project manager. "Between COVID and everything else we wondered at times if we would ever get here and go racing. We are very happy. This win more than anything is down to persistence. With us having the lowest rating we just have to stick in every day and see how it goes. We had very, very little crew issues. Our sets were good, our drops were good but with one winch down. And we had three days training here before the event sailing with the full team. So, it really is a big deal to have come this far this quick."

    Sloat hand-picked the crew with Mo Gray who runs the team. John Kostecki is tactician supported by Jordi Calafat and Jules Salter a unit which have two recent TP52 world titles to their credit Ranger's dream team trimmers including Dirk De Ridder, Warwick Fleury, Ross Halcrow and Daniel Fong.

    "We wanted to put together a crew which got on with the job. It was not about themselves but about the team and so it was not 'shouty'. We wanted to build a quiet afterguard which got the job done," Sloat highlights. And of the updates to the boat, he adds: "We worked a lot on the hydraulics so we have much more winch power than the boat had before. We worked a lot on weight distribution and removed about six tonnes for the same righting moment. The main thing was to get weight forward as Ranger has always sat stern down, so with tankage, removing batteries and a lighter rudder we focused on weight out of the back."

    He believes the best of the updated Ranger is yet to come: "These are not our best conditions. We get slaughtered in the waves because we are so heavy and with the pitching moment. And so I think we can do well in Palma in less swell. It is really hard."

    Hanuman looked to be sailing their best race today and so skipper helm Ken Read was disappointed but paid a warm, welcoming tribute to the Ranger owner and crew.

    "We are exceptionally disappointed. That was our race to lose at that stage," grimaced Read. "But we have come out of the blocks after five years and it is going great but for a couple of mistakes this was our regatta to lose and somehow we did. We like the boat. The team is exceptional. Getting these boats around the race course on a light airs day isn't easy and so I am very proud of the team, especially how we were doing in today's conditions.

    "But congratulations to Ranger and to an owner who is new to the sport, new blood into the sport is great but it is a well sailed boat. We have to live with cards we are dealt and from the whole Hanuman team congratulations to Ranger and especially the owner."

    Finishing third but only on countback, tied on nine points with Hanuman, was Velsheda.

    "it is so good to be back fleet racing but I and some of us have missed a couple of years and there was some rust for sure. We owe Ranger a bit of time now, so we have to work hard and do well against them. But we never stop trying to improve and together are a happy crew. The level is up for sure and you cannot make little mistakes, everybody is at a high level," concluded Velsheda's tactician Tom Dodson.

    The next J Class regatta will be the Palma Superyacht Cup in Mallorca 29 June to 2
    July followed by the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia 4-10 September.

    Final results after 4 races
    1 Ranger 2,4,1,1 8pts
    2 Hanuman 1,2,4,2 9pts
    3 Velsheda 3,1,2,3 9pts
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