Ranger won their second successive race at the Saint Barth’s Bucket superyacht regatta by just 15 seconds to hold a slender lead of just one point ahead of the tied duo Hanuman and Velsheda to set up an exciting winner-takes-all finale.
The team might be the ‘new kids on the block’ as far as J Class racing is concerned, competing together for the first time at a J Class regatta, but theirs is a very experienced outfit, laden with America’s Cup winning talent led by skipper-helm Ed Baird with John Kostecki calling tactics supported by Jordi Calafat as strategist.
Competing around today’s 22.5 miles nautical miles coastal buoys contest billed by the organisers as a ‘not so wiggley race’ which offered a good mix of upwind, downwind and reaching work in 17-22kts of trade winds, once more the Ranger crew sailed clean and made no obvious sail handling or tactical errors to win on corrected time as the slowest rated J Class of the trio racing here.
From a downwind start off Gustavia it was Hanuman, with Gavin Brady on the helm and Ken Read calling tactics, which set the early pace and held their lead all the way around the race course. They struggled slightly on a fetch to the Rocho Table unable to douse their staysail due to a halyard lock jamb but recovered well upwind.
Velsheda did come back at them slightly using a favourable windshift inshore at the approach to the most southerly, upwind turning mark, but the sleek, black hulled Hanuman were over a minute clear at that top mark rounding with Velsheda second and Ranger about the same distance behind.
Ranger lead at the St Barth’s Bucket with 1 day of racing left. – photo © Cory Silken
On the final beat to the finish line Velsheda once again made a sizeable gain back at Hanuman, pulling back 40 seconds or so between the last mark and the finish line. Although they crossed just a few seconds behind it was too little too late for Velsheda who finished third today.
Racing at his first ever serious regatta, his previous sailing experience he admits being in Hobie beach cats and Lasers, the new Ranger owner is loving his first Saint Barth’s Bucket, his first experience of J Class racing and indeed his first ever big sailing regatta.
“It is very humbling to be where we are but I am very proud of the team and all the work put in to preparing for this and all the contributions that people have made, this has been an incredible illustration of group success.” Smiled the new Ranger owner on the dock in Gustavia.
Recounting his love affair with the Ranger he explains, “I saw Ranger first when the America’s Cup came through New York City. The previous owner did a wonderful job of building her and carrying on the historic tradition of (the original) Ranger and I followed and stalked her for years. When she became available we were able to navigate the purchase process. Then she went in for a long refit to really renew and refresh a lot of the infrastructure. It was a labour of love. It was a funny thing. Very rarely do you get to match your aspirations and your passion with actual execution. This is one of these moments and I am incredibly grateful for it.”
He enthuses, “I love the history, the lines, the beauty, the tradition. It is about the special nature of the J Class and the special nature of Ranger. For me sailing is about discipline, it is about understanding the environment and embracing the various elements and harnessing the power of nature. When I compare myself to this crew it is like I have never sailed. But I grew up sailing Hobie Cats and Lasers and things like that in Maryland.”
Ranger’s America’s Cup winning strategist and double TP52 World Champion Jordi Calafat summarised, “On our boat everything is working pretty well but the bow team take us very cleanly around the course and I feel very comfortable with that. All the teams have struggled here and there but our team are impressive and I would say that putting them in any boat. It is impressive. Everything has been clean with hoists and drops. We struggle a little with a slower boat, it is not easy but the others had their problems with sails and so on. And it is so tight going into the final day, it is exciting and we expect it to be a little lighter.”
After being DSQ’d from yesterday’s race Hanuman, counting 1,2,4,2 are just a point behind Ranger on nine points as are Velsheda with their 3,1,2,3. Hanuman’s skipper tactician Ken Read was happier today after a clean race: “It was better today. We got a good start and sailed well. We made a little mistake towards the end which cost us a few seconds and that was mine. If we lose by a few seconds I put my hand up to that. But it is still early days for us. You have to sail a boat like this a lot to get the gremlins out. Today we could not get the staysail down for a leg and that cost us. But we got the boat round the course well. We had a good start and good boat handling. It was a beautiful course. The boat felt and the team had a good bounce back day, so good for them.”
Race four result:
1 Ranger elapsed 2:14:27, corrected 2:07:46
2 Hanuman elapsed 2:12:02, corrected 2:08:01
3 Velsheda elapsed 2:12:10 corrected 2:10:37
Standings after four of five scheduled races
1 Ranger 2,4,1,1 8pts
2 Hanuman 1,2,4,2 9pts
3 Velsheda 3,1,2,3 9pts