Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous – March 9 – 12 2016
- May 1st, 2016
- in Yachting
Lavish, extravagant, luxurious – all words that can describe this annual regatta designed for the superyachts of the world. Hosted by the prestigious Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Virgin Gorda’s North Sound, the location is apt indeed.
The North Sound is commonly called the ‘billionaire’s playground’ with local residents like Sir Richard Branson and co-founder of Google Inc. Larry Page.
This year, a ‘rendez-vous’ of motorised mega yachts was invited to attend with spectator status, special events, and parties.
It was a beautiful Caribbean day when I arrived at the dock at the YCCS marina to take in the scene and chat with the owner of Wild Horses (See Yacht Spotlight this month). It was the day before the start of the three-day regatta and crews were madly preparing for the last practice session. Winds were brisk, in excess of 20kts and the yachts were straining at their anchors with a cross wind that had many owners and captains anxious; spinnakers were trying to escape from their carefully packed bags on deck and sail covers were wildly flailing as crews tried to control the almost uncontrollable.
Still, it was impossible not to be impressed by the millions (perhaps billions) of dollars’ worth of floating luxury and elegance. Varnished cap rails, gleaming awl grip topsides, polished stainless and miles of teak deck impressed. The yachts somehow seemed to justify the magnificence of the YCCS marina—one of only two facilities in the world—whose president is His Majesty the Aga Khan.
I wandered up the terraced property past the large tent where the Welcome Drinks and Barbecue party was to be held. The band was already setting up. At the upper level, by the pool, I met public relations and press officer Jill Campbell, who described in detail the history of YCCS club in Sardinia, Italy and the relatively new sister club in Virgin Gorda. She went on to explain the three-day race formats involving staggered starts. This pursuit racing alleviates the bunched up start line in traditional yacht campaigns that may cause collisions and damage by over exuberant skippers. Finally, I learned of all the parties, dinners, and special events – many of them taking place at the nearby exclusive Oil Nut Bay.
The original Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Yacht Club of the Emerald Coast) was founded by the Aga Khan in 1967 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. It is very exclusive with a membership fee of $20K and annual dues of $5K. This membership now includes the Virgin Gorda club as well and entitles the yachts, owners, and crews to special rights, privileges, and discounts. However, the club is also open to the general public.
The upper deck of the club is fashionably appointed with cream coloured walls, coral tiles, tables, and chairs with sun umbrellas. There’s an alcove for private parties and a well-stocked al fresco bar. The restaurant is on this level and seats up to 150 persons; the views overlooking the Sound and adjacent islands are stunning. A step or two down on a sub level is the infinity pool with fresh towels and beach loungers provided. The facility also boasts a gym, boutique, and wine bar.
Next day, racing began at the very civilised time of 11am with the first class of yachts, Class D, starting on their clockwise circumnavigation of Virgin Gorda. The sun was out and 20kt plus winds out of the north east made for exciting sailing. As the yachts rounded Pajaros Point, spinnakers were set and a thrilling broad reach had some yachts hitting 18kts. Then the courses diverged with the bigger yachts in classes A and B having to leave Ginger Island and the Dogs to starboard, while classes C and D had to deal with the simpler and shorter course of circumnavigating Virgin Gorda. Both courses were challenging though with the fickle winds in Gorda’s lee. At the conclusion of four hours of racing, winners in their respective divisions were the 34-metre Nilaya, with famed Volvo Ocean Racer Bouwe Bekking as tactician, in Class A. This win was especially rewarding since a broach causing a spinnaker blow out almost ruined their chances. The 46-metre Unfurled won in Class B, the 59-metre Seahawk, Class C, and the 28-metre Freya in Class D.
On day two, winds were similarly brisk and the shorter course around the out islands proved beneficial for the 33-metre Inoui which took the bullet in Class A. The huge 66-metre Hetairos won Class B whilst Seahawk and Freya maintained their winning ways in Classes C and D respectively.
On the final day, the spectator boats were treated to some thrilling action when Nilaya returned to her glory with a win for the regatta in Class A. Class B saw Yacht P2 crossing the finish line in first place.
Bella Ragazza was first in Class C and the indomitable Freya, Class D, took the win with all three races under her belt. The final tally saw the following champions: Nilaya, P2, Seahawk, and Freya. Nilaya also claimed the Loro Piana Prize: Boat International Media Trophy for the top scoring superyacht overall.
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda
This luxurious yacht club, although designed with the patronage of mega yachts in mind, is actually open to the public. Many charter boaters and yachtsmen seem unaware of this and feel it is out of their league; too posh, too expensive. In fact, it could be the perfect answer for that special occasion, celebration, or party during your Caribbean interlude. The floating docks are in pristine condition with rub rails and non-slip surfaces. Rates are not unreasonable at $2.50- ft stern to or $3.95 alongside. All the facilities described above are available and the Italian style restaurant offers mouth-watering choices. The brunch menu includes poached eggs with asparagus and Parma ham at $15. Boiled eggs with lobster and crème fraiche is $18. The most expensive item on the dinner menu is American farmed filet mignon with mashed pumpkin, potatoes, mushrooms and a mustard sauce at $42. There are several fish dishes and a large selection of desserts. The club stands by on VHF Ch08.
Photography by YCCS/BIM/Borlenghi