SYRA Winter 2020 News

SYRA Winter 2020 News
Photo: Michael Kurtz

The 56 metre ketch Aquarius returns to St Barths to defend her class win at the 2020 edition of the Bucket. The 2018 Royal Huisman built, Dykstra design needed the third and final race to break a tie with the J Class yacht Velsheda in the six-yacht Les Elegantes des Mers class.

The Starting Line.

It’s been a relatively quiet four months for superyacht racing but that’s about to change as the 2020 racing season kicks into high gear.
    Next month’s back to back events in Antigua and St Barths follow the 2020 opener: New Zealand’s Millennium Cup. You’ll find more on these regattas and the upcoming Med racing later in the newsletter.
    The Superyacht Challenge Antigua and St Barths Bucket are preparing for some epic racing in back to back SYRA sanctioned regattas. The J Class is back in action at these events and the improved ORCsy VPP will get a comprehensive real-world test. The 2020 rule changes are highlighted by new scoring wind ranges and a revised sail accountability policy.
    Please have a read on this, our 6th issue. The superyacht racing items of interest include a 10-year overview on superyacht regatta participation.
    We look forward to seeing you in the Caribbean next month and again in Porto Cervo or Palma later in the Spring. SYRA’s Annual General Meeting is March 18 in St Barths and I hope you will plan to attend.

All the best,
SYRA Executive Director

Photo: Courtesy Vitters Shipyard

The J Class yacht Ranger, also known as J-5, completed an extensive refit at Vitters Shipyard in December bringing her again to top class operational condition with an improved performance level.  As with all J Class yachts, Ranger has a long and fascinating history.  Harold Vanderbilt had Olin Stephens and Starling Burgess design the 1937 defender, built at Bath Iron Works. She successfully defended, defeating the English challenger Endeavour 4-0 in Newport, RI.  The current replica was built in 2002-03 and is a showcase of modern marine technology.  Sea trials in the North Sea will be followed by delivery to the Caribbean for race practice in St Barths. From there she will sail to New Zealand to participate in the J Class regattas taking place prior to and during the 2021 Americas Cup.

Superyacht Regatta Participation

A 10-Year Overview

What is the state of superyacht regatta participation today?  The numbers and graphs presented here show that the 10-year trend is most certainly down. 
    The fact that there are fewer superyacht regattas has impacted the numbers, with a high of 12 regattas back in 2013 dropping to 7 these past two years. Most superyacht regattas allow smaller yachts to enter (<30.5m), so it is important to break out the true superyachts when evaluating trends. In some years occurrences such as Hurricane Irma in 2017 or 1-time America’s Cup affiliated superyacht regattas impacted the numbers. This makes the ‘5 year averages’ more meaningful for comparison purposes. When one considers the most recent five years (2015-19) compared to the previous five (2010-14), there are some interesting findings. 

Superyacht Racing History graphs.
Click graph for SYRA Participation Study PDF.

    When one considers superyachts exclusively, the average number of regatta entries these past five years compared to the previous five are down 20% (106–85).  Again, some of the drop off is accounted for by fewer regattas and there were a handful of yachts that raced in 4-5 regattas each year in the early part of the decade (e.g. P2, Ganesha, Marie, Saudade, Salperton).
    When considering individual yacht owner participation – unique superyachts – the average over the last 5 years is down 14% (64–55).
    While the success of superyacht racing is not measured as a ‘numbers game’, we know that meaningful competition is an important factor for many yacht owners. Thus, it is imperative that we continue to monitor the trends and focus on ideas and actions that retain current owners and attract new players to the game.

Regatta News

Superyacht Challenge Antigua.
Photo: Claire Matches

Superyacht Challenge Antigua

11-15 March​

SYRA Sanctioned Regatta logo.The dates for the 2020 Superyacht Challenge Antigua have been moved from early February to mid-March. The 10th edition regatta next month will feature a record fleet, including four J Class yachts. The 42m ketch Rebecca was second to Nilaya in the 2019 Corsair class.

Superyacht Challenge Antigua >

Photo: Ed Gudenas

St Barths Bucket

19-22 March

SYRA Sanctioned Regatta logo.The largest annual superyacht regatta on the circuit provides memorable racing and unique shoreside fun highlighted by the popular Yacht Hop. The J Class will be back following a one-year hiatus with Velsheda, Lionheart, SVEA and Topaz facing off for two W/L races on Thursday, followed by coastal course racing Friday through Sunday.

St Barths Bucket >

Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta.
Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

The Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta

2-6 June

SYRA Sanctioned Regatta logo.Thee 13th edition of this popular superyacht regatta, hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, enjoys coastal racing in the stunning setting of the La Maddalena archipelago.  Last year’s 20 entries raced in three classes, Cruising, Performance and Southern Wind. The winners in the respective classes were Silencio, Magic Carpet 3 and Grande Orazio. Inoui (pictured here) finished second in the 11-yacht Performance Class.

The Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta >

The Superyacht Cup Palma
Photo: Sailing Energy / SYC

The Superyacht Cup Palma

17-20 June

SYRA Sanctioned Regatta logo.The longest running Mediterranean superyacht regatta will feature two superyacht classes racing on their own course with staggered starts and the Appendix SY to the RRS. The 24th edition will debut a new performance racing class with a fleet start and the conventional RRS on a separate course.  The schooner Meteor is back on the superyacht racing scene with her new owner, shown here enjoying spectacular Palma racing conditions last year.

The Superyacht Cup Palma >

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

The NZ Millennium Cup

29 January – 1 February

Earlier this month, the ‘world’s most southerly superyacht regatta’ showcased the Bay of Islands, some of New Zealand’s preeminent cruising grounds. The 34 metre sloop Kawil (foreground) was nearly flawless over three days with four bullets in five races to prevail in the annual superyacht season opener.

Millenium Cup >

Race Committee Plays a Vital Role

When considering ‘fair racing’ for anything other than one design racing, the Handicap Rule invariably come to the fore.  That is certainly true in superyacht racing. The current handicap rule, the ORCsy, receives close scrutiny by participants, yacht designers, builders and program managers. “This handicap is unfair!” has been heard many times over many years and under different rules.
    The ORCsy has been the handicap rule of choice for superyacht regatta organizers since 2015. Over that time frame this transparent rule and VPP have evolved, and by all accounts significant improvements and refinements have been realized.
    It is however, important to note that there are other factors that come into play when one evaluates race results. Performance on the race course, yacht preparation (sails, bottom condition, etc.) and class breaks are three obvious ones.  We delved into class breaks and all that entails in the February, 2019 issue of the SYRA Newsletter.
    A fourth, important factor that does not garner as much attention, is the role the race committee has in providing as level a playing field as possible.
    In addition to designating the appropriate wind range for scoring, which is essential and straight forward, the race committee must give serious consideration to ‘course configuration’. Some yacht owners and afterguards may not know that the ORCsy is a “circular random” rule.  From section 502 of the ORCsy Rule: “Time allowances are calculated for a hypothetical course type in which the yacht circumnavigates a circular island with the true wind direction held constant. The race committee shall therefore attempt, when feasible, to establish course composition that features approximately the same amount of beating, reaching and running.”
    As a practical matter, one cannot expect every race to reflect that precise course configuration breakdown.  The race committee can, however, take steps to ensure there is a reasonable balance during any one race and certainly over the course of a multi-race regatta.
    For example, if it turns out that the first race of a regatta featured very little upwind sailing and a heavy dose of reaching, then in order to compensate, the race committee should attempt to provide more upwind sailing and less reaching in the second race. There are real world limitations, including the number and type of course options available, the practical use of inflatable marks, and actual versus predicted weather patterns.
    It is worth noting that when the ORC and SYRA evaluate the VPP and individual yacht ratings, course configuration figures prominently in any assessment or conclusions made.
    If you have any questions, concerns or feedback on course configuration or any other issue regarding the ORCsy or fair racing, we want to hear from you. Please contact Peter Craig at

SYRA Sanctioned Regattas

Safe and fair racing are meaningful challenges to superyacht regatta organizers and race committees.  The SYRA was established in 2011 to address these essential elements and maximize the enjoyment of any participating or prospective superyacht owner.

The mission of the SuperYacht Racing Association is to enhance the enjoyment of super yacht owners by pursuing all possible measures to ensure safe and fair racing along with meaningful competition.

SYRA Sanctioned Regatta logo.    A 2020 SYRA initiative designates those regattas that recognize the many challenges unique to diverse fleets of cruising superyachts while fulfilling essential criterion to enhance safe and fair racing, ‘SYRA Sanctioned Regattas’. Requirements include invoking the Appendix SY, issuing range finders, using the ORCsy handicap rule, designating a VHF safety channel, and being a current member of the SYRA. Additional details on the program are posted here.
    Sanctioned Regattas are encouraged to use the special SYRA logo on their website and in their racing publications. This will inform prospective entrants that accepted and vetted superyacht racing practices will be in effect at that regatta.

Faces in the News: Robbie Doyle

Robbie Doyle’s recent induction into the U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame was a well-deserved honor. Highly respected throughout the yacht racing world, Doyle has made significant contributions to superyacht racing. In recent years he’s served in the afterguard on many competitive programs such as Axia, M5, Black Pearl and Perseus^3.
    A lifetime of sailing achievements includes three-time college All American, Olympic Team alternate and America’s Cup winner on Courageous in 1977. The applied physics major from Harvard University founded Doyle Sails in 1982. His company has been a leader in the sail making industry for nearly three decades, servicing a full range of clients. Doyle Sails now boasts over 50 lofts around the world. 
    Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has been central to Doyle’s superyacht sail design and development. “CFD is more accurate than towing tanks and wind tunnels,” he explained. “With this evolution, we can learn quickly what makes a boat sail faster. CFD has been a big help with our one-design sails as well.” 
    Robbie is an active member of the SYRA, serving on the Executive Committee since SYRA’s founding in 2011.

Notable Quotable

“… The 2020 changes to the ORCsy regarding accountability of sails is a really big improvement to the rule.  I have clients on both ends of the spectrum – some with superyacht racing being a huge focus and others who participate in one regatta a year for fun.  These changes are fair and more practical for performance and cruising programs alike. Both the ORC and the SYRA Working Party should be pleased – it’s a great outcome for superyacht owners and captains…”  Mike Toppa; North Sails

Company Spotlight: ZIS Ltd

ZIS Bespoke Insurance.David Zorab established ZIS Ltd in 1990. It has steadily grown over the intervening 30 years and has become an established name in superyacht circles. 
    ZIS prides itself on providing a discreet personal insurance broking service that is backed up with indisputable technical knowledge. They work with some of the world’s most discerning clients to provide them with individual risk management solutions and claims advice. ZIS’ business is generated through recommendation and maintaining a high level of client servicing is their ultimate priority. Key staff are available 24/7, providing advice and reassurance either in person or on the end of a phone wherever their clients may be in the world. Founder David Zorab has been a strong and active supporter of the SYRA and its mission and goals.

‘RRS Afterguard Member’ compliance a key component to safe racing

A thorough understanding of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) is vital in superyacht racing. It could be said that there is no other arena in our sport where this is so critical. As we all know, the extraordinary size and varying maneuvering capabilities of superyachts present a great challenge to safe competition.
    In many past instances on the race course, we learned that there was no member of a particular superyacht’s afterguard with an adequate level of experience and expertise with the RRS. This led to undesired encounters, near misses and unsafe outcomes.  With all superyacht regattas invoking the RRS Appendix SY, the requirement for an individual currently active and fully conversant with the RRS, while having a thorough understanding, becomes even more essential.
    As most captains and afterguard members know, if the afterguard member submitted a form at a previous regatta, their name is listed on the SYRA website The individual is not required to submit another form. 
    To learn more about RRS Afterguard Member Compliance at superyacht regattas visit the SYRA web page.

Attracting New Yacht Owners to Superyacht Racing

There is reference to “meaningful competition” in the mission statement for the SYRA… 

The mission of the SuperYacht Racing Association is to enhance the enjoyment of super yacht owner by pursuing all possible measures to ensure safe and fair racing along with meaningful competition.

    Robust regatta fleets correlate to meaningful competition. To that end, the SYRA will host an open meeting in St Barths just prior to the Bucket racing with a focus on attracting new yacht owners and captains to superyacht racing while retaining those currently participating.  Captains, racing crew and industry representatives are welcome as we identify the relevant issues at hand and explore potential ways forward.
    Wednesday, 18 March (0830-0930) 2nd Floor Capitainerie

Pulling Together

Let’s work together to develop a stronger, more robust superyacht racing community and enhance the enjoyment of all owners. 

Members are invited to join our committees and working parties. Updates on those groups that are active are in process this spring. If you have interest in actively participating, please contact Information on SYRA membership is posted here. Please consider joining and supporting our mission and goals. Contact

Information on SYRA membership is posted here.

Current SYRA Members are posted here.

SYRA Executive Committee

Toby Allies
Pendennis Shipyard Ltd.

Jeff Beneville
Willis Towers Watson

Robbie Doyle
Doyle Sailmakers, Inc.

Kate Branagh (Chairperson)
The Superyacht Cup

Peter S. Craig (Executive Director)
SuperYacht Racing Association, Inc.

Ruurt Meulemans
Hoek Design Naval Architects

SYRA’s team is committed to delivering quality information that is relevant to its members and associates. Security and privacy are high priorities.