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.
It has been a busy 24 hours at the Antigua Yacht Club. At dawn on the fifth day of the RORC Caribbean 600, only three yachts were still at sea vying to complete the course before tonight’s Prizegiving celebrations and all of the class winners are now provisionally decided. The bar at the Antigua Yacht Club has been in full swing, buzzing with stories between the crews and songs in a myriad of different languages.
Team Selene skippered by Benjamin Davitt finished yesterday morning. The Swan 80 sailed an excellent race to claim third place overall and will lift the prestigious Swan Caribbean Challenge Trophy later this evening.
Without doubt, the closest racing for this year’s event was in IRC One. Colin Buffin’s Swan 62, Uxorious IV, was first to finish, but the team did not celebrate a class win. Buffin and his young team knew that Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56, Clem, was extremely close to eclipsing their corrected time. Just over three and half hours passed before Clem crossed the finish line to win the class by just 21 seconds on corrected time. There were ecstatic scenes dockside as the Spanish crew of Clem celebrated their class win. The entire crew of Uxorious IV including Colin Buffin sportingly applauded their rivals. Amanda Hartley spoke of their win.
“‘We had no idea until we crossed the line and turned on our phones which went crazy with people calling in from Spain. By our calculation we thought we had lost out by five minutes. We got stuck at Guadeloupe for four hours and we could only sit and watch Uxorious get away. We are obviously extremely delighted and really appreciate Colin and his team coming over to give us such a lovely welcome back to Antigua.”
Jaime Torres’ Puerto Rican First 40, Smile And Wave, finished shortly after midnight last night to claim third in IRC One.
Scarlet Logic, co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Tim Thubron, finished the RORC Caribbean 600 shortly after 2300 last night. The Oyster 48 has been vying for the overall win for the last two days. In the end Scarlet Logic missed out, but the team had put in an incredible effort and have been rewarded with a convincing win in IRC Two. Scarlet Logic has the best corrected time in IRC One, Two and Three and as a result will be awarded the fantastic prize of a week’s accommodation at the luxurious Inn at English Harbour.
“Fantastic, elated but bloody tired,” admitted Tim Thubron, co-skipper of Scarlet Logic. The weather lined up nicely for us and we were aware that we were in with a chance of beating the big, well funded professional teams and that really spurred us on and made us push even harder. A lot of credit must go to the whole team, especially Ross Applebey. Scarlet was immaculately prepared and we hardly had a single breakage, however we did need to drop the main to replace a sail slide. The job was done and the main back up in eight minutes, that to me says it all.”
There was joy and pain for both IRC Canting Keel and the Class40s. Ernesto Cortina’s Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti finished the race in just over two days. The Spanish team is racing the yacht formerly known as Telefonica Black in the last Volvo Ocean Race. Ernesto spoke about his team shortly after finishing. “This has been a great experience, even though our result was badly affected by a lot of sail damage. Many of the sails are tired from thousands of miles of racing. However, the crew have been a joy to sail with and this race is helping us build for the future. Gran Jotiti’s aim is to create a world class amateur Spanish offshore sailing team and we have learnt a lot through this race.
Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50, Privateer, showed exceptional pace and boat handling throughout. Unfortunately the American team failed to start correctly and accepted a 10% penalty from the race organisers resulting in Gran Jotiti being declared winner of IRC Canting Keel.
The Class40s turned into a battle royale between Christophe Coatnoan’s Partouche and Christof Petter’s Vaquita. The two Class40s were locked in a heroic tacking duel for the final push to the finish line, a 40-mile beat from Redonda to the finish in Antigua.
Vaquita crossed the line just after sunset beating Partouche by a slender margin, just 15 minutes in a race lasting over 3 days. However, Vaquita failed to start the race correctly and to the Austrian crew’s disappointment, the class win was awarded to Partouche: “It was a tough race and we had a couple of moments that really slowed us down,” commented Christophe Coatnoan who raced two-handed with Eric Calmard. “We picked up a fishing float after Nevis without realising and we probably lost 8 miles before we knew it was there. Later at Guadeloupe, I had to dive into the water to free Partouche from yet another fishing buoy. The race was an excellent test for our new design especially for our sails as I think we used every one of them during the race.”
Vaquita’s Andreas Hanakamp commented: “Obviously we are disappointed to have been penalised but we were delighted with our performance. Partouche is a brand new Finot design, whilst Vaquita is a 2006 Akilaria. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a testing race course and a very tough race, exactly what we needed to prepare for our main competition of the season, The Atlantic Cup later this year.”
The latest competitor to finish the RORC Caribbean 600 is Bernie Evan-Wong’s Mumm 36, High Tension. Falmouth Harbour exploded with noise as the smallest yacht in the race tied up right outside the Antigua Yacht Club. Thunderous blasts from megayachts, superyachts and foghorns literally shook the dock as the whole of the sailing community in Falmouth heralded the arrival of local hero Bernie and his crew.
“I said we would be here tonight but I always like to be early for appointments,” joked the Antiguan dentist. “It was a hard but satisfying race and the beat from Redonda to the finish seemed to take forever. We could see Antigua but it just didn’t seem to be getting any bigger, however a few miles out a massive rain squall hit and veered the wind favourably for us to speed our way to Antigua. After last year’s dismasting, I think maybe someone was looking out for us!”
Tonight the RORC Caribbean 600 Prizegiving Ceremony will take place at the Antigua Yacht Club. The two yachts still racing are Igor Zaretskiy’s, First 40.7 Coyote II and the RACYC Offshore Racing Team – White Knight’s Spirit of Venus. Both are expected to make tonight’s party, which should be a momentous occasion.
The 4th RORC Caribbean 600, starts at 1100 on Monday 20th February. There isn’t a single hotel room left near Antigua Yacht Club, as competitors fly in to the magical island of Antigua from all four corners of the world – Falmouth Harbour is filled to the brim with astounding yachts.
Niklas Zennström’s JV72, Rán, and George David’s RP90, Rambler, are the hot favourites for the RORC Caribbean Trophy, but the two highly impressive yachts are almost hidden in Falmouth Harbour. Rán were out practicing today and Navigator Steve Hayles reports that conditions were a bit lighter than usual, but he expects 15-20 knots of trade winds for the race with their weather routing predicting that they could finish the race in 48 hours, may be less.
RORC member, Stan Pearson has lived and sailed the sublime waters around Antigua for over 20 years. He was one of the creators of the RORC Caribbean 600 and will be racing this year on Adela, the 181′ twin masted schooner:
“I can’t remember ever seeing Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour with so many impressive yachts but I know why they are here; there is nowhere in the world quite like Antigua and the ’600 is a real celebration of all that the Caribbean has to offer. The sailing is just fantastic; constant trade winds, warm water and air temperature in the high 20′s provides brilliant sailing, but this is a tough race. The course has a lot of corners and there is a lot of activity for the crews. Looking at the fleet, there are going to be some great duels going on, it is going to be a very competitive race.”
For the first time, a Volvo Open 70 will be competing in the RORC Caribbean 600. Some might suggest that the canting keel carbon fibre flyer could have been designed for this course. Ernesto Cortina’s Gran Jotiti has a highly talented Spanish crew and could well be a contender for line honours and an overall win.
IRC Zero has 16 entries and may well be the class to watch for the overall winner. George David’s Rambler 100 is the trophy holder and George David’s all-star crew will not be giving it up without a fight.
With a combined water line length that would soar 500ft above the Eiffel Tower, there are some truly amazing yachts in IRC Zero. The 214′ ketch Hetairos is an impressive sight. The crew of 36 have been out practicing all this week and on board there are enough sails to cover a full size football pitch. Sojana is expected to have a Superyacht duel with 124′ Pernini Navi, P2, owned by businessman and philanthropist, Gerhard Andlinger. Sojana was on mark laying duty today. The only laid mark of the course is the North Sails mark, off Barbuda. No doubt the crew, will be using the exercise to practice the first 45 miles of racing.
In the Spirit of Tradition class Adela will line up against Windrose. This will be the first time these magnificent yachts have raced against each other offshore, however Adela did get the better of Windrose in The Superyacht Challenge inshore regatta. A close battle with these two powerful yachts fully off the leash is a mouth-watering prospect. Past RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine and a team of 11 RORC members including current Commodore, Mike Greville, have chartered the 145ft Windrose.
The multihull record for the RORC Caribbean 600 has not been beaten since the inaugural race in 2009. The 63′ Trimaran, Paradox, skippered by Olivier Vigoureux says the six crew on board are out to ‘beat the current record’. The American, French and British crew members have raced in the Figaro Race, Transat Jacques Vabres, America’s Cup and Mini Transat.
Anders Nordquist’s Swan 90, Nefertiti, has an international crew including Rolex Middle Sea Race winner, Christian Ripard from Malta. They should have a close battle with Wendy Schmidt’s Swan 80, Selene, and Irish entry, RP78, Whisper.
There are a huge variety of yachts racing in IRC One, including Hound, skippered by Hound from Maine USA. The 60′ classic will be competing in the Caribbean 600 for the first time with a family crew of avid racers. Hound has competed in the last 8 Newport-Bermuda races, winning her class twice.
Ondeck’s 40.7 Spirit of Venus is chartered to the Royal Armoured Corp Offshore Racing Team. The majority of the 11 strong crew are part of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank Regiment which returned from Afghanistan last spring.
Lt Col Paul Macro RTR: “Soldiers have to work together as a team, under time pressure, when cold, wet and tired, in difficult and even dangerous conditions. The adventurous team spirit required by a successful offshore racing crew is the same as that required by the crew of a tank or any other armoured vehicle.”
There are four Class40s competing. Close duels are expected right through the fleet, but a hard fought and close encounter is expected in this class. Trade wind sailing provides perfect conditions for Class40s, with long reaches and downwind legs, these pocket rockets are capable of surfing at speeds of up to 25 knots. Class40s from America, Austria, France and Great Britain are taking on the 600 mile Caribbean odyssey; Tim Fetch’s Icarus Racing, Christophe Coatnoan’s Partouche, Andreas Hanakamp’s Vaquita and Peter Harding’s 40 Degrees, co-skippered by Hannah Jenner. The Class40s will be level-racing under their own rules. First to finish will claim the Concise Trophy; a full barrel of English Harbour rum.
IRC Two includes the smallest yacht in the fleet, Bernie Evan-Wong’s Mumm 36, High Tension. Antiguan dentist, Bernie has competed in all four RORC Caribbean 600 races, however last year, High Tension did not finish the race.
“It is definitely a case of unfinished business,” said Bernie. “We have actually used our downfall to modify the rig, so we have made something good out of the incident. Like many Antiguans, I am amazed how this race has developed since 2009, I have been sailing in the Caribbean for over 50 years and what has been really missing is a well-run, exciting offshore race. The RORC Caribbean 600 has provided that and made my dreams come true.”
Come early September and as the height of the Mediterranean summer season passes with the grace of a fading sunset, the eyes of the sailing world will be focused firmly on one stand-out attraction: the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This annual meeting of the bold and the beautiful, elegance and finesse, onshore refinement and offshore adventure, takes place in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
Event organisers the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) are expecting a record presence for the 22nd edition, which takes place from 5-10 September. It represents a trend. Last year’s competition welcomed 49 of the world’s most state-of-the-art yachts. Forty-two yachts from 12 countries and territories have already committed to taking part this time around. Whilst the event’s appeal has always been unquestioned, the growth in popularity of the Mini Maxi yacht and the subsequent birth of the competition within a competition, the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship (open to yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres), have led to the mushrooming of the regatta. This year promises to be an eye-catching feast.
Close attention will be paid to the second running of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds. Whilst the final list of entries is still to be confirmed, several impressive campaigners will be attacking the waters of the Costa Smeralda. Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR) and Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) finished first and second last year. Intriguingly, 2010’s third placed yacht is also returning albeit under new ownership. The 72-ft Reichel Pugh Shockwave (USA) has changed hands from serial regatta winner Neville Crichton to George Sakellaris, who previously campaigned the CM60 Captivity. Shockwave has been preparing for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Palma.
The crew of Whisper (IRL) have long been captivated by the lure of Porto Cervo. Michael Cotter’s 78-footer has become a fixture at the event and won the Racer/Cruiser division in 2009. The experienced crew have been focused on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for quite a while, as captain Mark Dicker explains: “Whisper’s preparations for the Maxis started in January and this will be our sixth participation. We have a good set up and hope to be on top of our game in Porto Cervo. Over the past winter the boat undertook a large refit with the upgrade of many of its racing systems. We then did a ‘shake down’ regatta at Easter in Palma so we feel confident the boat will be in great shape for the Maxis. Currently Whisper is completing a cruising period around Greece before heading back to prepare for the event and two days training.”
The Irish crew, competing in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, have always performed impressively on the Emerald Coast. Dicker reveals the key to yacht’s success: “The Whisper team have been campaigning the boat for six years with a core crew mostly of Irish sailors, who are happy to keep on coming back. The owner is very competitive, but a laid back approach seems to help the boat stay in good form and even the small handful of professional sailors onboard relish a week’s sailing on Whisper. Certainly the secret to the event is consistency, the conditions around Porto Cervo are very challenging and any mistakes can quickly end a regatta.”
For the crew of Whisper, like many others, the appeal of the event is obvious. “Within the Med there is certainly no other regatta like the Maxis,” closes Dicker, “from the picturesque scenery to the high level of competition returning year after year. Racing up Bomb Alley and round the islands is certainly like no other race course we embark on.” Following on from the Maxis, the Whisper crew will take part at another Rolex supported event – Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
The rest of the best
Completing the global gathering of competing nations are the Danish crew onboard the 61-ft Vertical Smile, the 78-ft All Smoke (GBR), owned by the German businessman Günter Herz, the 60-ft Arobas (FRA) and Caol Ila (USA), fresh from an impressive performance at the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR) will also be in attendance, having campaigned at both the 2009 and 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Italian presence is guaranteed with the involvement of six yachts. Alessandro Rombelli’s Baltic-65 Stig finished second behind Aegir in the Racer/Cruiser division last year. She will face stiff competition from Riccardo de Michele’s H20 and Adriano Calvini’s 61-ft Itacentodue, both race day winners in 2010. Completing the elenco of Italian entrants are the 60-ft Aleph-Aniene 1° Classe, the 61-ft Tyke and Enrico Gorziglia’s Good Job Guys.
Outside of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, racing will be equally intense in the prestigious and long-established Maxi (24.09-30.5m yachts), Supermaxi (those in excess of 30.5m) and Wally competitions.
The Swan-90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) will compete in the Maxi category and has enjoyed a demanding season in the Mediterranean, taking part in the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race in addition to the Giraglia Rolex Cup, where she was the fifth boat to finish on elapsed time. The yacht has miles in her sails. Fortunately, the Maxis require less travelling for the crew. Owner Danilo Salsi is a member of the YCCS and Porto Cervo happens to be DSK’s crew base. “We like the race area and feel we have good local knowledge,” explains team manager Andrea Casale, “the big challenge for us is to take advantage of this.”
DSK Pioneer Investments triumphed in Porto Cervo at the Rolex Swan Cup in 2010, although the crew realise that repeating their success on the Costa Smeralda in the Maxi division will be a tough challenge. “The Swan Cup was a completely different scenario,” continues Casale, “as we were not competing against the likes of Esimit Europa 2. The yachts in our division this time around will be faster than us on the water so they will be more difficult to beat. We have to be very smart and wise with the tools that we have at our disposal.”
After the gruelling ocean challenges earlier in the season, Casale and the crew are focused on a different type of racing at the Maxis: “We are pleased with the two offshore races, but the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is going to be a very different game. ‘Day racing’ requires more manoeuvring and decision-making in a short space of time. We are adding some new crew members to our standard roster to save time when changing sails. In addition we are ‘tuning’ our rating certificate. Hopefully it will all help.”
Meanwhile, the Wally division is already shaping up to maintain its recent trend of intense battle. Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER) and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet (GBR) have winning experience in Porto Cervo although the divisional crown is sure to be contested to the very last nautical mile of the final race. The impressive fleet comprises100-footers Dark Shadow (MON) and Kenora (GBR) as well as slightly more slender but equally impressive campaigners such as Jean Charles Decaux’s J One (GBR), winners in 2007, and Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (ESP).
Next month’s preview press release will provide full details on this year’s list of competing yachts.
On The Agenda
Racing commences on Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday’s final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
The Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC) won today’s opening race in the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup and was pre-empted from showing its prowess in a second race when sailing had to be abandoned due to wind and technical difficulties. The race, sailed in lumpy seas and an 18-knot easterly on Rhode Island Sound, started the regatta off with lots of action, as the Canadian boat, helmed by Terry McLaughlin, battled most closely with the New York Yacht Club, Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL) and Japan Sailing Federation for best position between the start and the first mark two miles to windward.
“Japan (with Makoto Uematsu steering) had the best start,” said McLaughlin “and we had a good lane, but a huge left shift made us overstand the mark. There were boats farther to our left, but the Japanese were not as affected and rounded first.” The Canadians passed the Japanese team on the run to round the bottom mark first and carried their lead to the finish. New York (Phil Lotz of New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I., skippering), Royal Cork (Anthony O’Leary skippering), and the Japan Sailing Federation finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (Mark Watson skippering) rounding out the top five.
L-R, 10, Royal Yacht Squadron, Oscar Strugstad; Mutiny, Yacht Club Italiano, Carlo A. Puri Negri;
16, Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Mark Watson; 06, Royal Thames Yacht Club, John Greenland, and
15, Real Club Nautico de Barcelona, Jordi Tarré. Dan Nerney photo.
The Yacht Club Italiano’s skipper Carlo Puri Negri could have been happier at the end of the day. As it was, shortly after the start, the stitching at the head of his jib failed, causing the webbing to pull from the sail and render it useless. He was sitting in fourth, he said, at the time of the mishap. “We sailed the rest of the race with just a mainsail,” said Puri Negri. The same thing happened to the Nylandska Jaktklubben team (FIN), with Leonardo Ferragamo at the helm, and the jibs were promptly rushed to shore and repaired while the fleet moved from “outside” on the Sound to an “inside” course on northern Narragansett Bay where the waters are more protected.
“While the fleet waited for the second race to start, the wind increased to 22 knots,” said Swan 42 Class President Paul Zabetakis, explaining that this is the limit for constant winds in this regatta in accordance with the NOR, “Another jib had failed in the meantime, and that, coupled with the sustained wind strength, made it clear the racing needed to be abandoned.
“To North’s credit, they jumped right on the situation to fix the first two jibs, and tonight they will rework all the jibs so that racing can get underway again tomorrow,” said Zabetakis.
The regatta continues through Saturday (Sept. 19) when a Parade of Nations through Newport Harbor will precede the final races to determine the winner and will showcase the 19 teams from 14 countries competing here.