With winds hovering around 14 knots and the sun pushing the early clouds out of the way, it was a perfect day on the water for Race Day One at the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous off Vrigin Gorda in the BVIs. Principle Race Officer Peter Craig set a course that sent both divisions anticlockwise round Vrigin Gorda, with the faster Division A yachts heading around Ginger Island while the more cruising orientated Division B yachts took a slightly shorter line inside Ginger and round Round Rock.
With the yachts starting at two minute intervals in a pursuit-style format, the 54m Pernini Navi Parsifal III was the first to cross the start line, heading one mile upwind to a laid mark before turning for the fetch to Round Rock. By the time the fleet had reached that turning point, the largest yacht in the fleet - the 62m schooner Athos - had caught Parsifal III and managed to sneak inside her. The Oyster 100 Sarafin also made good progress, rounding second behind Athos in a neck-and-neck race.
For the performance yachts of Division A, it was the Southern Wind 100 Cape Arrow that led the fleet round Ginger Island, passing the islands southernmost point 45 seconds ahead of 49.7m Zefira. The 45m Salperton and 34m Unfurled were next, some four minutes adrift, but for Salperton - helmed once again by Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson - the race was on to catch and beat Zefira.
The rest of the Division A yachts rounded in pockets of close formation, with the three racing yachts - J Class Endeavour and Hanuman, and last year's winner, the Wally Indio - bringing up the rear.
By the time the fleet had surged up the south side of Virgin Gorda, there was all to play for with moves being made as the kites were hoisted at the island's northeastern point for the run to the finish. In Division B, Parsifal III managed to cling to victory by one minute on corrected time over Athos, with Sarafin taking third, while in Division A Salperton managed to get the jump on Zefira for honours on corrected time, with Cape Arrow coming in third. The battle of the Js was one of the closest of the day - the yachts had fought tack for tack all the way round, but in the end Hanuman pipped Endeavour on corrected time by just eight seconds.
'It doesn’t get better than this – a great boat, great wind and a perfect course for us. It’s a magical spot,' beamed Shirley Robertson back on the YCCS Virgin Gorda dock. 'Rounding Ginger Island was quite hard – it’s very high land and there’s no wind underneath, so you quickly catch up with the boats in front – and some of the yachts were parked there for ages. Our winning manoeuvre with Zefira was at the northeastern point of Virgin Gorda . We got inside them and made our move there, with a better hoist.'
For Parsifal III, the thrill of winning was obvious as the owners, their guests and crew enjoyed celebratory shots once back at the dock. ' We had a fantastic day,' said her owners. 'What more can you ask than being here in this beautiful area, with a lot of good wind – it was perfect wind for us today. We have fantastic crew as well – without them the win would not be possible. We think it's fantastic here at the YCCS – it's a nice area to come to.'
For the motor boats, it was a far more leisurely day with a cruise down to Peter Island for lunch at the exclusive Falcon's Nest.
The forecast for Friday suggests slightly lighter winds than today, but the action on the water – both for the sailing yachts and the motor yachts – will doubtless be no less intense, and no less fun.