- April 30th, 2011
- in Yachting
Sound of Superyachts
On a Friday morning, some friends and I sped from Road Harbour, Tortola to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda at 33 mph on a bouncy RIB with one objective in mind: finding superyachts. We knew that the Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous was taking place, based out of the new Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Marina in the North Sound, but we missed the starting line, and we didn’t know the racecourse for the day—and so the hunt for the giant boats began.
From a distance, we spotted a double-masted boat and guessed it must be one of the superyachts—what else has double masts? In this case, we realized as we approached, a 20-foot schooner tooling around Necker Island. We observed some yachts on the horizon—toward Anegada—that, from afar, we believed might be superyachts, but we conceded to head in to the marina for some more reliable guidance. As we steered through the turquoise mooring field between Prickly Pear Island and Bitter End Yacht Club, we saw a mass of glowing scarlet cloth obscure the sky as an island-dwarfing red spinnaker passed between two hills on the opposite side of the island. There was no doubt it was a superyacht. We spun around, aiming out of the Sound toward the high seas of the south side of Virgin Gorda.
We cautiously traversed the shallow reef by Eustatia, and as soon as we turned Pajaros Point at the tip of Oil Nut Bay, we saw spinnakers and double-masts that could not belong to anything other than the supersized sailing boats participating in the regatta. Most were far in the distance off the coast—choosing to travel the length of the island first before tacking to sail between Virgin Gorda and Fallen Jerusalem for what was evidently a round-the-island race, but a few others were closer to shore. We chased down the closer ones with the hope of eventually catching up with the others as they sailed toward the Baths.
I cautioned the captain of our RIB that maybe we shouldn’t get too near the closest (and smallest) superyacht, Aiyana, the one with the enormous red spinnaker, but he appeased my worries by assuring me that our presence, approximately two boat lengths away from the 24-metre yacht, was about as significant as a curious turtle.
We later learned that the boats were racing against time more than against each other. They had staggered start times based on boat size, so, even though Aiyana was the furthest boat from the finish, she ended up coming in second place in the spinnaker class that day.
The Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous is the first of many regattas that the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Marina intends to host each year. I spoke with Andy Green, helmsman of Moonbird, a 37-metre Dubois and winner of the No Spinnaker division, about the North Sound’s newest regatta. “It’s hard to think of a better venue in the Caribbean,” Andy said, citing the “enclosed location in the North Sound and proximity to good water” for superyacht sailing. “The best thing about it is that it has 10 metres [depth] right up to the dock, so big boats can dock stern to.”
On a personal level, he found sailing in the No Spinnaker class particularly enjoyable “because there were only eight people on board while we were racing—the permanent crew. We raced around the Dogs, around Virgin Gorda.” Though the breeze was light, only 8-10 knots, he said the sailing was lovely.
“The essence of sailing is still the same whether you’re racing a computer-controlled superyacht or a Hobie cat,” Andy said. “You have to get your crew working in harmony. The wind is always changing as are the waves.” The main difference, he said, between driving a superyacht versus a smaller boat is the hydraulically operated helm, “so you don’t get any direct feel of the water flowing over the rudder.” Another difference, I discovered when I toured Moonbird, is the luxe factor. The boat’s elegantly decorated interior and exterior living, lounging, dining and entertaining spaces won’t be found on a Hobie cat.
Andy’s familiarity with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, Italy reinforced his belief that this regatta will succeed as successive events hosted at the yacht club’s newest location in Virgin Gorda. “The YCCS is one of the most successful racing yacht clubs in the world. They put on extremely impressive regattas in Sardinia. Their brand is well respected throughout sailing. That is the best thing that could happen to Virgin Gorda and the surrounding islands,” he said. “[Yacht Club Costa Smeralda] is in it for the long haul…with some development, it could be a 30- or 40-boat regatta.” Andy was impressed with the level of service in VG, a level that superyacht owners and crew expect. “It’s possible to go to some Caribbean islands and not get the same level of love. The key is to offer good, friendly and safe service.”
After racing, the competitors cruised into the North Sound toward the marina. The other yachts in the harbour—including Swans and 60-foot catamarans— looked like bathtub toys, and I wondered how we ever could have mistaken them for superyachts. As I get more familiar with our newest visitors and more time aboard them, I’m sure I won’t make that mistake again.