On the eve of the third running of Les Voiles de St. Barth, April 2-7, the palm-fringed port of Gustavia, St.Barthlemy quickly filled with an impressive array of race boats: ocean-racing maxis including the 90-foot Rambler and the Swan 112, Highland Breeze; classic beauties such the Olin Stephen-designed Dorade and the Fife-built yawl Mariella; a trio of IRC 52s, multi-hulls including the 66 Gunboat Phaedo, and two large racing classes with a mix of Melges, J/boats, and a mix of 40-footers, including the hot-off-the-press Carkeek 40, Decision.
Over 60 boats are registered for this years edition, up fromwith a large number of returning entries, proof that the regatta has filled the need for spirited competition towards the end of the winter season a time when tourism typically begins to wind down in the Caribbean. Though that was hard to tell yesterday, at the islands tiny airport, as the steady stream of small commuter planes landing were filled with a duffle bag-wielding collection of sailors from the ranks of the Americas Cup, round-the-world-ocean races, and Olympic competition, that included Gavin Brady (Vesper), Scott Vogel (Rambler), Bouwe Bekking (Nilaya), Cam Lewis (Paradox), Charlie McKee and Ross MacDonald (Mayhem), Tony Rey, Jeff Madrigali, and Nacho Postigo (Powerplay), and Dee Smith (Decision).
But its not just the professionals that flock to Les Voiles de St. Barth, the regattas program and mix of courses also appeals to a competitive group of amateur and family racers that hone their skills on the growing circuit of Caribbean regattas that take advantage of this sailing paradise.
While not the easiest of destinations to reach some U.S. west coast sailors logged 16+ hours in transit, while others from Europe only slightly less the island of St Barths itself is a welcome reward at the end of the road: a turquoise blue, crystal-clear sea, pristine white sand beaches, and an array of fabulous restaurants just payoff for a long days journey.
Francesco Mongelli, navigator onboard Jim Swartz IRC52 Vesper, is here racing in St Barths for the first time. The Italian sailor, who sails primarily in Europe, has been racing with the Vesper crew since last October, and was clearly keen to have touched down in this French paradise, Its a mix of all the best sailing places, together with perfect weather and good food. Having spent the afternoon in a tender carefully checking out the coastline and charted (and uncharted) rock outcroppings, Mongelli added, Its pretty similar to Porto Cervo, the difference is that there you more or less know where everything is, and the charts are accurate. You cannot take the same risk here that wed take in Porto Cervo.
Racing will run from Tuesday, April 3 Saturday, April 7 and will feature a mix of Olympic triangles, short coastal courses, and a 20-30 nautical mile round-the island race. The fleet will be split into seven classes: Maxi (> 21 meters), IRC52 (former TP52s that have been optimized for the IRC rule), Spinnaker I + II, Non-Spinnaker (racer/cruiser), Classic (vintage/traditional), and Multihull. Thursday is a layday at Nikki Beach, with lunch and a full afternoon of activities, including a paddleboard competition.
New this year, Les Voiles will offer real-time race tracking with 2D visualization via the internet. Waypoint-Tracking (www.waypoint-tracking.com) developed the system in close collaboration with ISAF. The site will allow enthusiasts to follow the daily racing action live or to replay at a later time.
Many of the competing boats are moored stern-to at the Quai General de Gaulle, site of the Race Village, where all of the daily breakfast and post-race activities and music take place. This evening, skippers and tacticians were on hand for the Skippers Briefing led by Loic Ponceau, Race Committee Chairman, and organizers Francois Tolede, Luc Poupon, and Annelisa Gee. Following that was Les Voiles St. Barth Opening Ceremony, where Bruno Magras, President of the Collectivit of St. Barth, welcomed more than 500 sailors to the weeklong event.
A regular and enthusiastic competitor in the Caribbean, Sir Peter Harrison was named the godfather or patron of this years Les Voiles. Harrison, owner of the 115-foot Farr-designed Sojana, told the crowd, As a visitor from England to this beautiful French island, one of the most beautiful in the West Indies, Im thrilled to be asked to the patron of Les Voiles. Bon vent Les Voiles de St. Barth, and good luck, everyone!
Also sailing on Sojana is Lionel Pan, who is also back for his third Les Voiles. He said, Obviously there are plenty of good reasons to be here, and to come back every year with the same enthusiasm: this place is made for sailing. In a very short time, Les Voiles de St. Barth has become the place to be, very much like Saint Tropez in the Mediterranean. And the word is spreading around. Shortly there will be a waiting list to be a part of the event!
The weather forecast for the next few days calls for light winds, though the breeze is expected to increase throughout the week. Racing is scheduled to start tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3, two miles northwest of Sugarloaf Rock off Gustavia; one race is scheduled with a start time of 12noon.
An enthusiastic Ken Read (Newport, R.I.) got the 2011 sailing season off to a resounding start on board the new Maxi Yacht Rambler 100 in the Caribbean 600. The American skipper, who leads the Puma Ocean Racing project, has just won the event, leaving his rival Leopard 3 a long way behind and in so doing also grabbing the race record. Winner of last year’s inaugural running of the Les Voiles de St. Barth as skipper of George David’s (Hartford, Conn.) 90-footRambler, Read was naturally entrusted with the helm of Rambler 100 (the former Speedboat) when David took command of it earlier this year. Very excited by Rambler 100’s performance so far, Read is looking forward to the race program that lies ahead in the coming weeks. The second edition of the Les Voiles de St. Barth is next on the schedule (April 4-9), and with a mere mention of Read’s victory at the 2010 event, he admits without hesitation that he took advantage of “the best conditions ever experienced in my whole career….”
The prospect of once again facing their main rival Leopard 3 (owned by Great Britain’s Mike Slade) at Les Voiles de St. Barth–in closely fought contests on a variety of windy courses–is something that Read and David are extremely happy about. The Americans will bring along the whole of Read’s Puma Ocean Racing team, comprised of 15 top class professional sailors that will join seven other experienced crewmen to sail the powerful carbon Maxi Yacht.
“Don’t change a thing!,” said Read about the Les Voiles des St. Barth format, which features short daytime race courses that will have Rambler 100 and Leopard 3 facing off for the first time with that type of racing. “Rambler 100 and Leopard 3 are two huge monsters,” he said, explaining that both boats are entered in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, which reaches its climax in June with the 2011 Transatlantic Race from Newport, Rhode Island to The Lizard (UK). “They are record-breaking boats designed for long ocean races and major offshore courses; however, for our crew, it is vital to be able to compete in inshore races like those that will be held in St. Barth. Our battle against Leopard 3 will be very demanding for the crews and fascinating to watch, as we will be alongside each other for a lot of the time and it is bound to offer a maximum level of excitement.”
The Caribbean 600 represented an intermediate format for Ken Read and his crew, and it very quickly turned to the advantage of Rambler 100, which led the way from start to finish in what were typically Caribbean conditions, with strong trade winds windward of the islands and tricky currents, particularly at night. “Sailing along at 26 knots under the stars, we had some great moments aboard Rambler 100, a boat that offers a completely new dimension to racing,” concluded Read. Peter Harrison’s (Great Britain) 115-foot Farr-designed Sojana, which stood out in the Les Voiles de St. Barth last year and will be back again this year, also took part in the Caribbean 600 alongside Genuine Risk, the 90-foot Dubois design that has registered for the Les Voiles de St. Barth for the first time and may also thwart the favorites’ plans.
“In St. Barth, each day is different,” said Read. “The race committee has done an excellent job coming up with courses around the islands that are spectacular and at the same time very demanding from a tactical perspective, as they mean we have to sail at every point of sail. The Les Voiles de St. Barth is also physically very tiring, as the strong regular winds that sweep across the islands at this time of year allow us to get the most out of the boat, implying frequent sail changes with each change of tack. Technically, this is a really interesting event, which is a fantastic complement to the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series.”
With one month to go until the start of racing, the Les Voiles de St. Barth has registered no fewer than 49 yachts, divided according to their size and class in the following five divisions:
SUPER / MAXI YACHT : A Maxi yacht refers to a prototype yacht or one that is produced in limited numbers measuring at least 69’ in length: 8 boats registered
CLASSIC: Classic Yachts or traditional boats are boats that are at least 35 years old and fit into various categories: 5 boats registered
RACING: This division brings together racing monohulls designed specifically for coastal or offshore races: 15 boats registered
RACING-CRUISING : The Racing Cruising division includes chiefly series boats, fitted out for cruising as well as for racing: 17 boats registered
RACING- MULTIHULLS: This division includes racing multihulls, be they trimarans or catamarans, with a length between 30 and 60 feet and which are very light and fast: 4 boats registered
The Les Voiles de St. Barth officially begins on Monday, April 4, 2011 with the traditional registration process and the opening of the Voiles Village, Quai du Général De Gaulle in Gustavia. At 1300 hrs (local time) the next day (Tuesday, April 5), the Race Directors, under the leadership of Luc Poupon, will signal the start of racing on some exciting and varied race courses set up according to the weather conditions. Racing continues Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with Thursday, April 7 set aside as a lay day, with a full list of festive events lined up, allowing the crews to rest and enjoy themselves along with the people of St. Barths. The closing evening on Saturday, April 9 will include the prize-giving
GBR 1R FARR 100′ MIKE SLADE Pre-entry
GBR 115 FARR 115 Peter HARRISON /Marc FIDZGERALD Pre-entry
US 53560 TRIPP DESIGN 75′ JIM GRUNDY Pre-entry
888 SWAN 112 RS/GPR 112′ ALBERT KEULARTS Pre-entry
FRA 8686 CNB 86 86′ ROBIN DE JONG Pre-entry
100′ GEORGE DAVID Pre-entry
100′ GERARD NAIGEON Pre-entry
8390 DUBOIS/MC CONAUGHY 97′ HUGO STENBECK Pre-entry
Yacht Name Sail Design LOA Skipper Status
FRA 96 POGO 40 S2 40′ REGIS GUILLEMOT Pre-entry
750 OPEN 750 24′ JAN VANDEN EYNDE Pre-entry
GBR 150 L BENETEAU F 50 50′ TONY MACBRIDE Pre-entry
SANTA CRUZ 37 37′ J. Hin Pre-entry
FRA 2114 X55 55 G;MARTIN Pre-entry
FRA 25597 BENETEAU 31.7 32 SERGE MAZARIO Pre-entry
FRA 27917 Farr 36,7 DEREDEC Christian Pre-entry
SA 3625 CLASS 40 40′ LENJOHN VAN DER WEL Pre-entry
USA 45454 Farr 45 DEMARCHELLIER Patrick Pre-entry
GRB 1513L GRAND SOLEIL 43′ WILLEM WESTER Pre-entry
ANT 104 J 122 40′ JAMES DOBBS Pre-entry
TP 52 54′ JIM SWARTZ Pre-entry
GBR 60006 FARR DESIGN 60′ PETER CUNNINGHAM Pre-entry
SPIRIT OF JUNO
GBR 8653 R FARR 65 65′ RORY FAULKNER Pre-entry
SONIC OF AYR
GBR 370 L SANTA CRUZ 37 37 RYAN BROOKES Pre-entry
Yacht Name Sail Design LOA Skipper Status
US2 W CLASS 76′ DAVID TOFIA Pre-entry
10200 Herreshoff 43 43 D.Randy West Pre-entry
ES5 MYLNE 60′ Walwyn Pre-entry
SUI 4405 SWAN 41′ PATRICK NICHOLAS Pre-entry
Yacht Name Sail Design LOA Skipper Status
GBR 9660R SWAN 60′ MORITZ BURMESTER Pre-entry
123 Beneteau 45 VELASQUEZ Robert Pre-entry
16286 FIRST 300 SPIRIT 30′ PHILIPPE HERVE Pre-entry
88 DUFOUR 425 GL 43′ REY PASCAL Pre-entry
FINOT BENETEAU 47.3 ALAIN CHARLOT Pre-entry
FRA 491 REQUIN 33 MELISSA RIMBAUD Pre-entry
FRA 479 REQUIN 33 FOX MOWGLI Pre-entry
BERRET 50.5 ANDRE BEESE Registered
X-YACHT 34 MAGRAS Raphael Pre-entry
BERRET 50.5 PATRICK SMITH Registered
DUFOUR 34′ RAYMOND MAGRAS Pre-entry
97133 SWAN 42 HARPER Daniel Pre-entry
SUN ODYSSEY 54 DS 54′ HENRY ALBERT Pre-entry
FRA37407 GRAND SOLEIL 40′ PHILIPPE HERVOUET Pre-entry
IVB 612 X-YACHT 60′ NICO CORTLEVER Pre-entry
US 50007 SWAN 48′ JACK DESMOND Pre-entry
FRA 34625 LATINI 52 FELCI 52′ FREDERIC RIALLAND Pre-entry
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
GRB 1007L ELAN 37′ ANNIE O’SULLIVAN Pre-entry
GBR 9949 T FIRST 40.7 41′ KEN ACOTT Pre-entry
HARMONY 42 42′ HANNEKE STEGWEG Pre-entry
USA 1 J 95 31′ THOMAS MULLEN Pre-entry
Yacht Name Sail Design LOA Skipper Status
399BC GUNBOAT 66′ PAUL HAND Pre-entry
COULOMBEL 40′ ERICK CLEMENT Pre-entry
SEACART 30′ HERVE DE MARJOLIE Pre-entry
GBR 565 40′ JASON GARD Pre-entry