Superyachts Nilaya, Freya and Moonbird take overall wins in the Loro Piana Caribbean Regatta
2014-03-23By Tim Thomas

The excitement that was mounting as the final day of racing got underway at the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous – organised by Boat International Media and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda – had reached palpable levels by the time the fleet of 20 sailing superyachts headed out to the start area.

With several yachts in contention across all Classes, and with the yachts Moonbird and Sarafin tied at the top of Class C, it was shaping up to be a classic day on the water and the racing didn’t disappoint. The race committee chose to set a tricky custom course to the west of Virgin Gorda, sending the fleet upwind to a laid mark and a spreader mark, then downwind to another mark before offering a long close reach towards Ginger Island, and back to the finish leaving the Dog Islands to starboard.

With the yachts choosing split strategies and heading to both sides of the track on the initial beat and run, tacticians and crews alike had their work cut out for them. As the faster yachts – starting later in the staggered sequence – began to haul in the slower rated yachts, there was some nail-biting action and some spectacular mark roundings.

The 37m Dubois-designed Moonbird gradually hauled in Tempus Fugit, who had got off to a flying start on the first beat and run, and once ahead managed to extend her lead all the way round the course to take line honours. The giant 66m super-light ketch Hetairos took line honours for Classes A and B, but all eyes were on the corrected times.

When the results were in, the J Class Rainbow had stormed through to take the Class A win, spoiling the attempt by the 34m Nilaya to make it a clean sweep. The Swan Freya added another bullet to her one-two scoreline in Class B, while Moonbird managed to pull out enough of a lead over Sarafin on the water to secure a second bullet, and with it Class C overall victory.

‘We are very happy we won,’ beamed Filip Balcaen, owner of Nilaya, ‘that’s of course the reason why you come here. We did well, our tactics were good, the trimming was good, the whole crew work was very good, and the wind conditions were good. So we are happy, the competition was good, and with fantastic organisation.’

‘I couldn’t be happier,’ enthused Donald MacPherson, owner of Freya. ‘One year ago we were here and we came in last! Over this past year we have worked very hard and for us to come in first today was just so rewarding, we’re delighted.

Today was a shorter course – it was a lot of fun at close quarters out on the water. We’re about to have some champagne, that’s for sure, and we’ll see how it goes from there! The crew has really pulled together, we’ve kept the same core guys and I take my hat off to our tactician Mike Toppa who has been a great help.’

For Bernard Lambilliotte of Moonbird, the Class C victory was well deserved. ‘I was here two years ago,’ he said, ‘and the first event was a pretty exciting one to start with. What you see today is nearly a repeat of what we have in Sardinia in the summer, even better given the setting. We had very friendly and super professional racing so I really enjoyed it, it was really fantastic.’

‘We had a fantastic regatta, fantastic weather and great sea conditions, the best possible ones for racing,’ said Pier Luigi Loro Piana. ‘It’s a pleasure, as a sponsor, to see this event growing. There are more boats, more people and the level of technical skills is really high, my compliments and my thanks go to the real stars of this event, the sailors who participate.’

The Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta is not all about winning though, and for many of the owners and their crews taking part, the chance to enjoy the spectacular surroundings, ideal sailing conditions and friendly rivalry was enough cause to celebrate.

‘We had great conditions all three days, this is my second time at the Loro Piana, I think our winds were better this time than before. I couldn’t be happier about how it went,’ smiled Bob Eichler, owner of the 29m Altair. ‘We’re a little slower than most of the boats. We’re happy that they have three classes this year, we were able to finish at least one day fourth out of five, that’s pretty exciting – we weren’t last! But we still have big smiles on our faces because it’s so much fun being here. The great thing here is the wind, nice seas and of course the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is fabulous, as is the hospitality – Boat International really know how to do it. What more can I say? You see the smile on my face…’

After today’s final race, second and third in both Classes A and B were decided by a tie break on count back, as Rainbow snuck ahead of the 50m Fitzroy Ohana for second behind Nilaya in Class A overall, and Twizzle secured second ahead of Marie in Class B behind a dominant Freya. In Class C, Moonbird and Sarafin were joined on the podium by Tempus Fugit after a creditable race series from the Rob Humphreys-designed modern classic.

Nilaya’s impressive 1-1-2 scoreline earned her the overall prize – the Boat International Media Trophy – which was presented by Pier Luigi Loro Piana and Boat International Media CEO Tony Harris.

As the party crept on late into the night, owners, their guests and crews are already looking forward to coming back next year to enjoy another chance to race in paradise.