Superyacht Beast Mode

Published on July 24th, 2019

Professional navigator Wouter Veerbrak describes for Sailing World the challenges and rewards of racing a high-tech, high-load 213-foot superyacht.

The glass sliding doors leading into the salon part and our bearded boat captain, who goes by the nickname “Burger,” steps in with a wall of moist hot air. With a big smile and a firm handshake, he gives us a warm welcome, then gets straight to business.

“Today was a big day. Forklift day,” he says with an air of calm and determination. “We lifted 2 tons of racing sails on board and took 3 tons of charter equipment off. We have two more days to get everything ready before the rest of the race crew joins us.”

This is not just any yacht we are about to race. At 213 feet overall, with a 23-story mast, the Perini Navi Perseus 3 is one of the largest sailing yachts in the world.

Its 8,530-square-foot spinnaker is the size of a football field, sheets are as thick as my forearm, and at 639 tons, 40 feet of draft and 70 tons of load on the headstay, the only way to approach sailing this yacht is with sincere humbleness and respect. The event we are preparing for is the St. Barths Bucket. From all over the world, the largest sailing yachts have gathered at the luxury French Caribbean island. With considerable honor attached to winning the regatta, neither cost nor effort is spared in getting the yachts ready for the races.

The invasion of the race crew signals the start of four days of practice. It’s a reunion, with hugs and reminiscing about the last time we sailed together in St. Barths in 2017. Crew morale is right where we left it and refreshes our determination to put our shoulders into the Herculean effort to race this yacht to its full potential.

Race uniforms, caps, belts, rental cars, room keys and the daily schedule are distributed and the camaraderie amongst the crew is tangible. It’s a tight-knit family, but still, trying to get such a large group of free-spirited sailors all moving in the same direction might be more difficult than getting the yacht around the racecourse. Thankfully, we have the stewardesses to keep everyone in line—and eventually get us all to the right place at the right time. It might be two years since we last raced this big lady, but by keeping the team mostly unchanged, we swiftly find our racing feet. – Full report

Clear communication between Perseus’ bow team, the aft-deck team and afterguard on the flybridge keeps maneuvers sharp. © Carlo Borlenghi

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