Sailing superyacht owners are being offered an increasing choice of regattas around the world to enjoy testing their skills, showing off their yachts and socialising with fellow owners.
While professional racing faces uncertainty with the collapse of the Audi MedCup TP52 circuit in November 2011, and low entries in other races, the superyacht races, less reliant on sponsors, seem to be on a roll.
The fleet amassed for the 2011 St Barths Bucket was valued at more than $1bn. Superyacht racing came from the simplest of beginnings in 1986, when New York publisher Nelson Doubleday, owner of the 28m sloop Mandalay, celebrated his birthday at his holiday home on Nantucket with a race against a few friends. The number of events has grown every year since. Regattas follow yachts to the vacation cruising grounds – the US and Caribbean in spring, the Mediterranean in summer. Some established events attract upmarket sponsors.
￼In the Mediterranean, Pier Luigi Loro Piana, joint chief executive of the Loro Piana luxury goods and clothing group helms the 25m sloop My Song, in the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta at the Aga Khan’s Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
He says: “Associating my own hobby and passion for sailing with support of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regattas has important returns, both in testing our products as well as communicating our love of nature, tradition and sportsmanship to our clients.”
The Superyacht Cup in Palma is a popular event. Created by the Palma-based marine industry, it was bought out by the Informa Yacht Group in 2004 that also runs the Monaco, Singapore, Phuket and Abu Dhabi yacht shows.
Entry fees are modest, at about €5,000 a regatta. But a budget for three events might run to €500,000 in crew, flights, accommodation, food and preparation.
One of the most successful regattas is exclusive to the owners of yachts from one builder, Perini Navi of Viareggio, on the Ligurian Sea. Perini, established in 1983, have built more than 50 sailing superyachts. It has run its own event in Sardinia for eight years.
Giancarlo Ragnetti, Perini Group chief executive, says: ‘The primary motivation behind organising our own superyacht event is to make our owners feel that they are part of our unique family.“It’s an excellent occasion for them to get a look at the quality of our work and to see our tightly bonded team in action.”
The size and cost of the yachts dictates a pursuit race, so they are started at intervals, with the slowest starting first to avoid the dangers of a mass start.