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An Absorbing Interest: The America's Cup by Bob Fisher
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Hanuman Escape to Victory on 26 miler at the Saint Barths Bucket regatta

by J Class Association on 19 Mar 16-19 March 2017

Hanuman won the 26 mile Race 4 for the six boat J Class at the St Barths Bucket to increase the pressure on regatta leaders Velsheda, but skipper-helm Ken Read paid tribute to the top team Velsheda which leads into the final day by three points, believing they now need a final day slip up in Velsheda's excellent consistency for the Hanuman team to have a chance of winning 2017's first J Class regatta.

"We need a break now." Read conceded, "Velsheda need to make another couple of mistakes. They are going very well."

After the strict discipline of three windward leeward courses over the first two days, the record fleet of six boats was cut loose on a blustery, typically bouncy, open water Bucket staple, a 'Not So Wiggly' course. The circuit out to the north-east of the island was marked out between the Roche Table rocky islet before turning upwind to the south east towards windward turning marks by the Ile Fregate and Ile Chevreau.

From the gusty downwind start it was the Hanuman crew which had their kite drawing early matched by Velsheda. But within the first minute of the race the regatta leaders fouled Hanuman - trying to pass in front of them on port gybe - the resulting penalty costing them time and the race lead.

From there Ken Read and the Hanuman crew scarcely put a foot wrong and were never challenged. Velsheda stayed low on the 5 mile one-sided beat and managed to pass Topaz, so taking second gun on the water and second on corrected time.

The team which won the J Class here last year lead by three points clear going into the final day.

With the brisk E'ly wind blowing between 16 and 19kts and a lumpy sea it was a wet tough, physical race. The initial 2.5 m downwind was followed by a six mile close reach with a TWA at 100 degrees and then a five mile port tack one sided beat. After the windward turn there were consecutively a run, fetch and run, each of between two and three miles before the final five miles two sail reach to the finish line.

When Hanuman, Velsheda, Topaz and Shamrock thundered away from the start Lionheart were on the back foot as were Ranger. The spinnaker pole inboard end fitting failed again on Lionheart and it took them time to recover, while Ranger had an initial problem setting their spinnaker off the line. Shamrock started well and were up in the mix until the long beat.

Hanuman's winning skipper-helm Ken Read concluded, "Today we got a break. Ranger struggled to get their kite up. We stayed out of the fray a little. Velsheda gybed three times in front of us. But we sailed well it is a better day for the Hanuman team. The key was being ahead at the first mark and after that it was a bit of a parade. There was not much direct upwind after that or direct downwind. We made a couple of mistakes but our crew handling is getting a bit better every day. We are learning how to sail the boat better in this new configuration. The boat is tippier and set up more for the lighter air we are anticipating in Bermuda. We are learning how to trim it, the rig tune, we are playing with what sails to use, what our heel angle should be. It is all normal stuff but we have an amazing team on board and are figuring it out."

"And this is a completely new game for us. We have always been one of the faster boats with one of the faster ratings. Velsheda owed us 2.5 mins today. They are a little quicker and so for us we have to learn how to deal with that different philosophy."

The points table sees Velsheda on 5.5pts, Hanuman on 8.5pts and Ranger on 15pts. The winners here last year Velsheda cannot now finish worse than second. Lionheart finished third today and lie fourth on 16pts, suffering several mechanical failures this week.Tactician Bouwe Bekking explains, "We had glamour start but again broke the end fitting for the spinnaker pole and the pole shoved through the mainsail. That was it. We were on the back foot from there. Looking in the crystal ball had it not happened we would not have won but think we could have got second. We took a spare fitting and put it on and it happened again. We have an ongoing problem. It is probably the wrong material. We sailed nicely otherwise. The boat is going well. These are not the ideal conditions for the boat in this configuration but it is going well."

Racing concludes Sunday with one final Round the Island Race

Race 4 Results:

1 Hanuman 2h 19m 33s (corrected time)
2 Velsheda 2h 22m 1s
3 Lionheart 2h 24m
4 Topaz 2h 24m 14s
5 Ranger 2h 26m 20s
6 Shamrock 2h 33m 19s

Standings after Day 3: (four races)

1 Velsheda 5.5pts
2 Hanuman 8.5pts
3 Ranger 15pts
4 Lionheart 16pts
5 Topaz 18pts
6 Shamrock 22pts

How to follow racing for the J Class at the 30th St Barths Bucket:

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