21 March 2022
28.6-metre Ranger has won the 2022 Saint Barth’s Bucket J Class title. Despite being abandoned mid-way through, it’s Ranger’s best J Class regatta finish since 2011.
Under skipper helm Ed Baird, Ranger finished one point clear of Hanuman and Velsheda after four races were sailed.
Ranger is the longest on the water of the trio, compared to Velsheda at 27.7 metres and Hanuman at 26.8 metres. Even after losing six tonnes during refit, Ranger is still the heaviest at 196 tonnes compared to Velsheda’s 180 tonnes and 172 tonnes for Hanuman.
After racing on the 25-mile anticlockwise course round the Saint Barth’s islands, the decision was made to abandon the contest due to deteriorating wind and sea conditions.
“This win is about three years of hard work, long days and nights and a very happy owner,” says Greg Sloat, Ranger project manager.
“Between COVID and everything else, we wondered at times if we would ever get here and go racing. We are very happy. This win more than anything else is down to persistence. With us having the lowest rating we just have to stick in every day and see how it goes.
“We had very little crew issues. Our sets were good, our drops were good but with one winch down. And we had three days training here before the event sailing, with the full team. So, it really is a big deal to have come this far this quick.”
Sloat hand-picked the crew with Mo Gray, who runs the team. John Kostecki is tactician, supported by Jordi Calafat and Jules Salter. Ranger’s team of trimmers include Dirk De Ridder, Warwick Fleury, Ross Halcrow and Daniel Fong.
“We wanted to put together a crew which got on with the job,” says Sloat.
“It was not about themselves but about the team. We wanted to build a quiet afterguard which got the job done. We worked a lot on hydraulics, so we have much more winch power than the boat had before,” he continues.
“We also worked a lot on weight distribution and removed six tonnes for the same righting moment. The main thing was to get weight forward as Ranger has always sat stern down, so with tankage, removing batteries and a light rudder we focused on weight out of the back.”
Despite these winning results, Sloat believes the best of the Ranger is yet to come.
“These are not our best conditions,” he adds.
“We get slaughtered in the waves because we’re so heavy and with the pitching moment. I think we can do well in Palma with less swell.”
Hanuman looked to be sailing their best race, so skipper helm Ken Read was disappointed with the loss. Nevertheless, he paid a warm tribute to Ranger and her crew.
“We are exceptionally disappointed,” says Read.
“But we have come out of the blocks after five years and it’s going great, but for a couple of mistakes this was our regatta to lose and somehow, we did. We like the boat. The team is exceptional. Getting these boats around the course on a light airs day isn’t easy, and so I’m very proud of the team, especially how we were doing in today’s conditions,” he continues.
“But congratulations to Ranger and to an owner who is new to the sport, new blood into the sport is great but it’s a well sailed boat. We have to live with the cards we’re dealt and from the whole Hanuman team, congratulations to Ranger and especially the owner.”
Finishing third but only on countback, tied on nine points with Hanuman, was Velsheda.
“It’s so good to be back fleet racing, but we have missed a couple of years and there was some rust for sure,” says Velsheda’s tactician, Tom Dodson.
“We owe Ranger a bit of time now, so we have to work hard and do well against them. We never stop trying to improve, and together we’re a happy crew. The level is up for sure, and you cannot make little mistakes. Everybody is at a high level.”