They wanted it and they got it! After the pleasure of the strong contrasts of the first day of the very first edition of the Voiles de Saint Barth, where they found the wind they were looking for and some demanding conditions, the 23 crews taking part really wanted to get going again this morning. They quite simply wanted to be out on the water as soon as possible to line up at the start between the Sugar Loaf and Saint-Jean Island, so they might enjoy another day of sailing, which they knew would prove to be exceptional.
With the promise of a well-established easterly trade wind blowing at twenty knots or more being fulfilled, as soon as the starting gun was fired a little after eleven this morning local time, the tone was set and the crews had to do their best with the sail choices they had made to get the most out of their boat in the breeze. The final buoy in the harbour entrance in Gustavia saw some real acrobatics out on the water, when the wind strengthened from the nearby hillsides to send some off course and others to come to a sudden standstill. With everyone hiking out, and with the seaspray flying, the whole fleet soon disappeared, moving well away from the coast heading for Nègre Point. The sea was whipped up by the powerful trade wind into a choppy mess, and as they approached Coco Island and the Soube Rocks, the waves built to reach almost three metres in some places. Nothing could disturb however the serenity of the big boats racing, led over this first stretch of the 35-mile long course by the amazing all-woman crew of the Class W 76 "White Wings". "Rambler" and "Sojana", were fully satisfied in these conditions, which were able to reveal their full potential. They kept within a few lengths of each other, accompanied by "Puffy", the Swan 45 belonging to Patrick Demarchelier, which could really take advantage of these conditions and the incredible J 122 "Lost Horizon" which came here from Antigua. Today’s course led the fleet in what were spectacular conditions around the whole island and its rocky isles, before finishing in beauty with a long downwind run windward of Forked Island…
Interview with Loïck Peyron:
Why did you decide to come and sail here?
You can’t explain it. It just seemed the obvious thing to do; St. Barts is a picture postcard location. I usually only end up in the West Indies at the finish of a transatlantic race, and with all the tiredness that has built up, I normally want just one thing and that is to go home as soon as I can. This week, I can really enjoy my stay. There’s the wind, blue seas, and some fine boats… Hardly anything has in fact changed since the last time I was here ten years or more ago. Just a few more big boats. It’s a fantastic place. We’re really fortunate to be able to sail in the Caribbean.
Does this event, the Voiles de Saint-Barth offer you a break in your calendar?
The timing is just perfect for me. I’ve just had a really great time and have been through a great adventure. It was a fabulous period in my life being with one of the best sailing teams in the world with Alinghi just a few weeks ago. This week I’m taking a little break. And I’ll soon be starting the new season on small, very fast catamarans with the Oman Sail team in the framework of the Extreme 40 Championship in Europe, and on the D35s on the Swiss lakes.
Oman Sail seems to be very dynamic?
There’s a lot going on with Oman Sail. I’m lucky to have been with them for over a year now. Oman has a real maritime history and it’s interesting to see them finding this past again with their nautical traditions. The Oman sailors are keen to learn. It’s time for me to share my modest experience.
So here you’re taking part aboard Sojana…
Sojana is a very elegant monohull, which belongs to a very elegant gentleman with a nice personality.
I’d already seen the boat in Saint-Tropez and now I’m discovering her from the inside; I like the way she sails so smoothly without any pressure. Peter Holmberg is at the helm. He was also a helmsman for Alinghi. So there are two former helmsmen from Alinghi aboard Sojana. Everything is very serious on board, as with such a big boat any mistake is serious. You really need to pay attention to every little detail. I’m in charge of trimming at the mizzen mast, and I work in close collaboration with the helmsman. The whole crew has a very high level. We’re battling it out with a real racing boat, Rambler, and it’s a huge challenge. With a little more wind, 20 knots, we hope to be able to get up there with them.
What do you think about the Voiles de Saint-Barth?
The setting is magnificent. If the Voiles de Saint-Barth didn’t exist, someone would have to invent it. It’s in place now and they have intelligently brought together all sorts of boats. It’s fascinating watching them all sailing together. Everything that makes sailing so interesting can be found here and the concept has a great future ahead of it.
What they said:
Jacques Vincent (Sojana): "The English speakers on board and there are a lot of them, were amazed by the course, which was much more varied and interesting than during the Bucket regatta. The boats are able to show what they can do in the strong trade wind, and Sojana has shown off her superb qualities in every point of sail. We were up to eighteen knots under gennaker. The heavy swell on the windward side of the island did not worry us at all, as our hull seems to cope very well with these conditions. The atmosphere on board is very calm. It’s one of the characteristics of the boat’s owner, Peter Harrison. We have a top class guest on board, a certain Loïck Peyron, who is in charge of trimming at the mizzen mast…"
Tania Thevenaz (White Wings): There are three French speakers in this all-woman crew aboard the big classic yacht, White Wings, one from Quebec and one from Switzerland, and the blonde sailor Tania Thevenaz: "We are very close in terms of performance and quality to our sistership Wild Horses. Yesterday we did not make any mistakes in wind conditions that were at the limit for us. It was a challenge that the girls rose to, in spite of manoeuvres being tough in the powerful trade wind. We really enjoyed ourselves on these varied courses, which enable us to visit all the hidden secrets of the island. We’ve really got into the "Voiles de Saint-Barth" and we’re going to continue to improve throughout the week…"
Peter Holmberg (Sojana): I was one of the first skippers that Luc Poupon contacted to take part in the Voiles de Saint-Barth. It seemed like an interesting concept to me. I wanted to lend a hand to get the event going. I’m pleased to be here.
Each island has its own race and St. Barts seems to me to be a major sailing festival, an occasion, which brings together all sorts of different yachts, which is a very good thing for our sport.
We selected a very fine team with Peyron and some top notch racers. Yesterday we didn’t make any mistakes. The longer the race, the more chance we have. We’re in a pattern of strong trade winds, which is good for Sojana.
The Voiles de Saint-Barth seems to have found its footing. The Committee has come up with some great courses. The starts were clear and safety came first out on the water… I’ll give them a very high score. Back on the island, there was a very relaxed atmosphere last night with some nice music. Once again it was a great success.
St. Barts has grown very wisely. It has kept its personality. St. Barts is unique, a special place. It is magnificent here with some really friendly people. I’ve seen a lot of changes on some islands, as these islands are where I come from, and I can say that the development of St. Barts has been carried out very intelligently.
Richard Mille, Headline partner to the Voiles de Saint Barth
The organisers of the Voiles de Saint-Barth can be proud of many things, not least the fact that they managed to convince and charm Richard Mille to join up as a partner to this first edition. Designed in Brittany, it is in Breuleux, near la Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland that the designs by this technical enthusiast come to life. Bringing together efficiency, artistic design and manufactured using a process and materials that are really special, Richard Mille watches, which are all finished by hand, enabled high class watchmaking to enter the 21st Century. Richard Mille watches are rare objects, the result of careful work to reach the absolute peak of excellence and to achieve the total perfection that their designer is looking for. Objects which you live, and you feel sensually, they bring along in harmony the latest hi-tech materials to satisfy not only a quest for beauty but also absolute comfort, offering a very light feel. Work on the shapes, the choice of material s and showing patience and taking his time, Richard Mille inspects them himself to approve them, refusing the slightest blemish to ensure these unique watches please a demanding and knowledgeable clientele. Far removed from the industrial processes, Richard Mille, who chose to name one of his creations "Les Voiles de Saint-Barth", occupies a niche market for exceptional timepieces.
The Voiles de Saint Barth, a promotional ambassador for the island
While it is the St. Barts Yacht Club that is in charge of organising the Voiles de Saint-Barth, the local tourist board on the island and all of those involved in the business world on St. Barts lie behind this event, as they decided they wanted to see the rise of a concept that fitted in perfectly with their long term marketing strategy. More than 8000 yachts stop in St. Barts each year and the very special economy of the island naturally depends on these yachtsmen, who mostly come from North America. The Voiles de Saint-Barth will contribute to the growing reputation of the island, with its genuine assets in terms of sailing and the welcome it offers. The South American market, as well as the European and Russian markets are now being targeted and the Voiles de Saint-Barth event, which can welcome almost a hundred boats is destined to include these yachtsmen in the very next editions. The Voiles de Saint-Barth will for that reason occupy an important place in the island&rsq uo;s forthcoming promotional campaigns; racing, fine boats, the exceptional maritime environment around St. Barts, its friendly yet natural welcome are all assets which can win over yachtsmen looking for something exclusive.
Today’s results: Available on the website, visit “Rankings”: http://www.lesvoilesdesaintbarth.com/page_resultats.php/les_resultats_les_voiles_de_saint_barth_st_barth_regate_2010.html