- August 31st, 2009
- in Yachting
In 2005, I followed the superyacht fleet and made my first Atlantic crossing on Sojana, a fast 115’ ketch that spends every winter in the Caribbean. The occasion was the 100th anniversary of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, and the original 1905 course record of 12 days, set by Charlie Barr on the schooner Atlantic, was the time to beat for the various superyachts and maxi racers involved.
I was there to film the race with Acquafilms, and it was an adventure with freezing conditions, seasickness and an injury that required a stop in St Pierre, a small island off of Newfoundland, in order to drop off the injured crewman and a caretaker for him which disqualified us from racing. With two crew gone, I ended up doing more sailing than filming, but I have amazing memories and video footage of the north Atlantic. After the stop, the wind freed up, and the waves evened out. We even saw the sun. Many of us got to helm on surfs of over 30 knots. We saw sunfish, basking sharks, dolphins, whales, huge waves and the different ecozones of the ocean go by as we got farther north and east. It’s a great way to see the planet.
Many superyachts winter in the Caribbean. With main bases for motoryachts in St Maarten and St Thomas and for sailboats in Antigua, the fleet begins arriving in November for five months of cruising and charters. They come from the Mediterranean, the US East Coast and even the UK and Northern Europe to arrive in time for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. At these main bases, they will provision, find crew and have work done in order to be ready for the season. By late November, there will be herds of youngsters in the bars, cafés and nightclubs as they all seek jobs for the season, and there is a welcome injection of life in English Harbour and the other seasonal ports.
This is also a time when new or recently refurbished yachts choose to have their brochures and websites updated with new photos and videos with the amazing Caribbean as a background. This is when Acquafilms and still photographers like myself and Alexis Andrews get busy shooting the yachts for promotional pieces that will be mailed on DVD or posted to websites or made into brochures for prospective clients to see. We all get busy booking models, chartering helicopters and chase boats and checking weather sites to make sure we get the best shooting days.
We must work around many people’s schedules, so it’s crucial to get aboard, get the work done quickly, without fuss and let the yacht get along to its busy season with a powerful new marketing tool in hand. Having grown up in Antigua is an advantage that lets me pick the best spots in the best weather to get this work done. Between film jobs with Acquafilms and my still photo shoots, it can be a bit of a challenge to sort out the ever-changing yacht schedules and get it all done, but somehow it always works out in the end, and the yachts leave with sparkling new imagery for their marketers.
December also sees the Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting, the world’s original charter yacht show. This is where agents, brokers and press converge to see some of the latest yachts, crews, chefs and charter itineraries and report on them back to the rest of the yachting world. Once they’ve arrived, it’s a flurry of varnishing, cleaning, shopping and crew interviewing to get ready for the show and after that gruelling week, for the holiday charters that have hopefully been booked during the show.
Once the early season dust settles and it’s all underway, these awesome yachts will disperse all over the Caribbean for their guest trips. There are some traditional favourite spots, like St Barth’s and Basil’s Bar in St Vincent and the Grenadines for New Year’s Eve where many of the world’s celebrities converge for amazing parties. Some yachts book their spots in St Barth’s a year in advance. But there are lots of places farther afield, too, and as the fleet grows, there are more superyachts being seen at remote spots like the Tobago keys and the outer Grenadine islands. Bases in Grenada and other islands are being built to accommodate them.
There is also a healthy and growing racing circuit for superyachts in the Caribbean. Some events like the Superyacht Cup in Antigua and the St Barth’s Bucket are dedicated to them while the other Caribbean regattas, such as the BVI Spring Regatta, allow superyachts in their big boat classes. We’ve also been shooting these fantastic events for the organizers, sponsors and lately making custom event films for individual yachts which they give to crew, owners and guests as a memento of the event. The RORC Caribbean 600, Heineken Regatta in St Maarten, Antigua Classic and Antigua Sailing Week round out the big yacht events for the season and once Race Week is done the final exodus happens.
Yachts begin to trickle back north in March, and by the middle of June, the harbours will be bare. The Med and US seasons will be in full swing, and many more yachts are now leaving the Caribbean and heading straight for Panama to cruise the Galapagos, South Pacific islands and New Zealand before completing a circumnav and ending up back in Europe or the US.
So once in Europe, we film more regattas. It’s a case of getting the most varied footage possible. That means racing on yachts, chasing them from the water and shooting them in helicopters. Add that to B roll from the beautiful European locations and interviews with the top sailing talent that often crew superyachts, and we’ve got enough footage to produce an event film, sell stock footage and supply news outlets and industry companies with imagery. We’ve shot in Cannes, St Tropez, Palma, Falmouth and attend the Monaco Yacht Show which compliments the Antigua Charter Yacht Show and is nicely timed just as many boats are about to head back to the Caribbean for winter. At this time of year, yacht crew can’t wait to get back there for the balmy weather, kitesurfing and cheap drinks. In six months, however, they’ll be tired of the hangovers, hot sun and nothing to do but kitesurf.