Race of your life: The top superyacht regattas to add to your calendar

The Superyacht Cup, Palma, Mallorca

_19-22 June 2019_

From New Zealand to Newport, the superyacht regatta calendar is packed with opportunities for owners to race their boats in stunning settings. Whether you are looking for keen competition or are more interested in the après scene, Kate Lardy helps you pick the perfect contest.

1. The Superyacht Cup, Palma, Mallorca

A laid-back southern Mediterranean vibe prevails at the Superyacht Cup in Palma. Leave your jackets and ties at home; this is a shorts and T-shirt event, says event director Kate Branagh.

Uniquely, this regatta is contained within a fenced-in event village, proving that relaxed and informal can also mean ultra-exclusive. “At the village bar after a race, you’ll find that 95 per cent of those around you are participants,” says Branagh. “It’s a safe and secure feeling, and family friendly.”

While racing in the Bay of Palma does not offer the same dramatic scenery as the Caribbean, it is ideal for newcomers who may find rounding inflatable marks less daunting than a rocky outcrop, and its more sheltered position means there are no boat-breaking big seas. The race committee has the ability to set courses in the bay to suit the fleet and to really give every yacht a better chance to sail to its rating.

“The thermal winds are special and relatively reliable,” says the owner of the Baltic sailing yacht WinWin, who praises the race committee and appreciates that good passing lanes have been organised for the faster boats in recent races.

Outside the race village, guests find themselves in the heart of Palma in front of the imposing Gothic cathedral La Seu, and just a five minute walk from the bustling Passeig del Born, where you can soak up Palma’s flavour among the high-end designer shops and fashionable bars and cafés.

Picture courtesy of Claire Matches

The Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta, Greece

_27-30 June 2019_

While modern superyacht racing is on the rise, the picturesque Greek island of Spetses is doing its best to celebrate classic sailing with its annual regatta highlighting the art of wooden shipbuilding.

“I wanted to create something beautiful, to broaden the appeal of sailing, to remind people here of the sailing traditions,” says Stratis Andreadis, the regatta’s co-founder. Now the largest classic regatta in Greece, last year saw a 15 per cent increase in participants, including a clutch of superyachts such as the 1930 built, 36.5 metre Puritan and 37.25 metre Cassiopeia, a 1946 classic.

The regatta’s attendees are as diverse as the fleet, with a wide range of classic yacht enthusiasts drawn to the spectacle. In 2016 Tara Getty sailed alongside the Rio Olympic bronze medallists Takis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis. King Constantine says: “It’s a parade of beautiful boats and a chance to meet new people and old sailors.”

Away from the regatta, Spetses remains a charming cruising spot, with its pretty bays and unpretentious white town of red tiled roofs and narrow streets, buzzing with lively restaurants. The surrounding Peloponnese peninsula, or the “Greek Riviera”, is dotted with holiday mansions belonging to many of Greece’s wealthiest families and has recently become home to a handful of high class hotels, including the exquisite Amanzoe (you can use the hotel’s Wally One as a “taxi” to visit the regatta).

Picture courtesy of Gettyimages.co.uk / Panoramic Images

Candy Store Cup, Newport, USA

_25-27 July 2019_

The Candy Store Cup may be new on the superyacht circuit but there’s nothing new about yachting in Newport. This is the storied capital of sailing: where the New York Yacht Club made its waterfront home, where the Vanderbilts and Astors brought their yachts in the 1800s, and where the America’s Cup was contested for more than 50 years in the 1900s.

The vision of two yacht owners, David Warren Ray of Bannister’s Wharf fame and Charlie Dana of the Newport Shipyard, the event was born out of the Newport Bucket regatta. It made its debut in 2016. “Reflecting the Bucket spirit will always be our mission,” says Ray. “Relaxed and friendly — fun is the key word.”

As in Palma, the race committee has a lot of freedom in setting marks to suit each class. “Some of the marks are set close to shore so you end up tacking right in front of the Breakers,” says Donald Tofias of the iconic Newport landmark.

Where to meet for a drink afterwards? Why, the Candy Store in the Clarke Cooke House, of course, the old haunt of America’s Cup contenders Ted Turner and Dennis Conner.

Picture courtesy of Onne van der Wal

Millennium Cup, New Zealand

_30 January - 2 February 2019_

New Zealanders are renowned for being down to earth and their warm hospitality shines through at the Millennium Cup. “Everyone’s taking it seriously but they’re having fun with it,” says regatta veteran Hayley Latham-Byrne, crew on 33.8 metre Silvertip.

Held in the height of summer, with temperatures in the mid 20s and typically 10 to 15 knots of breeze, the regatta also highlights one of New Zealand’s most spectacular cruising grounds, the Bay of Islands, where it’s common to see dolphins skipping alongside the yachts. “The scenery is absolutely magnificent. It’s my favourite,” adds Latham-Byrne.

Based in Russell, New Zealand’s first European settlement that is now a charming town of fewer than 1,000 people, the off-the-water action centres on the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which holds New Zealand’s oldest alcohol licence. With eight yachts competing in the past two cups, the parties are close knit and exceptionally sociable — New Zealand’s superb wine doesn’t hurt either.

“The organiser, NZ Marine Export Group, goes to great lengths to make briefings, racing and social functions very efficient and relaxed in the true Kiwi spirit,” says Mike Mahoney, the owner of 28.1 metre Tawera, which has won the Millennium Cup twice. “Post regatta, the Bay of Islands is probably the safest and nicest cruising ground in New Zealand, with a superb superyacht infrastructure: heli tours, luxury lodges and a great support network for catering, wines and yacht maintenance.”

The Bucket Regatta, St Barths

_21-24 March 2019_

It’s St Barths in March. Enough said. “Frankly, we could screw this up and it would still be a success,” says event director Peter Craig.

But they don’t. The impeccable organisation of this prestigious regatta manages to pit 40 superyachts against each other in a race that, thanks to Superyacht Racing Association initiatives, is safer and fairer than ever.

Yet the competition may be stiffer off the water. Owners have their choice of countless invitations, from private gatherings to the Bucket-affiliated soiree at Tamarin. Baz Bar is going off every night and you never know who will walk in and start playing, from French jazz musicians to Jimmy Buffett. At the yacht hop some owners have been known to fly in thousands of oysters and host aerial silk performers, which proves that the old Bucket spirit of winning the party — if not the day on the water — is still prevalent.

The racing has traditionally been on three courses — around the island, the wiggly course and the other way around — but Craig says they have been creative and now have 30 options. Like St Barths’ unmatched social scene, though, some things never need to change. “Last day, you’re coming around the top of the island and there’s a procession of spinnakers, and it’s 40 yachts. It’s just stunning,” says Mike Cox.

Picture courtesy of Cory Silken

The Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo, Sardinia

_3-8 June 2019_

Where other regattas may have a T-shirts and flip flops feel, Sardinia is about glamour in the playground of the Italian elite. It’s not all focused on the nightlife, though; any serious sailor knows racing here is not for the faint hearted.

“Sardinia is, in my eyes, the most exceptional regatta area in the world,” says the owner of WinWin. “There are normally strong winds from the north-west and no waves.” He adds that it is “very special and challenging” to sail around the rocks and in Bomb Alley — the passage between Sardinia and La Maddalena archipelago. Cox agrees. “Talk to anybody about going down Bomb Alley in 30 knots of breeze with the kite up, and the hair on the back of their necks stands on end. It’s one of those benchmark moments, a bucket list item every sailor wants to tick.”

The social side is what you would expect of the venue, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, one of the world’s pre-eminent yacht clubs. Three Michelin starred chef Niko Romito catered the Owners’ Dinner last year and the regatta is always capped off at Phi Beach — WinWin’s owner says it’s the best party of any regatta. It’s a quintessentially Italian summer scene, with guests treated to glorious sunset views and music from top DJs piped through bars and dance floors interspersed among the rocks right on the water.

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