By Laurie Kahle, September 13, 2011
Sailing yachts and motor yachts rarely convene at the same event, so the inaugural Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous last March presented an unusual opportunity for the two camps to mingle on the docks of the new Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Marina in Virgin Gorda, located on the island’s tranquil North Sound. As the sun set, owners and local dignitaries gathered for the marina’s official ribbon cutting ceremony, where David V. Johnson, chairman of Michigan-based real estate developer Victor International, and His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and current president of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) in Sardinia, discussed their special partnership.
“The mission and vision was to build a marina specifically focused on the world’s superyachts, and to build the ultimate environmentally sensitive facility,” explained Johnson aboard his 130-foot motor yacht Resolute. “I spent years talking to experts and interviewing superyacht captains and owners, and I had my own perspective as a yacht owner. I also had learned from my experience with Bay Harbor in Michigan that it is not just about physical beauty—you need planning and events. There has to be a reason to come and have fun, so it’s not just a place to tie up your boat.” When Johnson met H.H. Aga Khan, who had been looking for a Caribbean base for YCCS members for more than two decades, they discovered they shared the same vision and goals.
Designed by ATM and built by Bellingham Marine, which specializes in environmentally friendly floating docks, the YCCS Virgin Gorda Marina can accommodate 38 yachts measuring up to 100 meters (328 feet) long. The facility also uses renewable energy resources and employs leading edge eco-technologies so that structures can achieve LEED Platinum standards. From a service perspective, the concierge offers provisioning, on-site customs and immigration, mechanical assistance, helicopter transfers, and arrangements for island excursions, restaurant reservations, babysitting and more. A clubhouse featuring indoor and outdoor dining facilities, a bar, and a swimming pool is scheduled to open this December, and members also will have access to the beach club at nearby Oil Nut Bay, Johnson’s impressive new residential resort community.
Of course, YCCS is proficient at organizing premier international sailing events, so the debut Caribbean Superyacht Regatta andRendezvous drew 10 sailing yachts ranging in length from 82 to 191 feet. Lackluster winds on the final day of racing did little to dampen the competition. The 145-foot J-Class yacht Hanuman prevailed over second-place finisher Aiyana and Sojana, which claimed third. “Each regatta feels different, and this was interesting because of the presence of motor yachts, which normally would not be part of a regatta,” said sailing veteran Peter Harrison onboard his 115-foot performance cruiser Sojana during the final day of racing. “We’ve been joking when we meet the motor yacht people that we’re not supposed to like each other.”