The tiny island of Saint Barth is becoming a giant in the yacht-racing world. In addition to the annual St Barth Bucket Regatta (which celebrated its 16th anniversary in 2011), the island is making a major marketing effort to promote its newest nautical event, Les Voiles de St Barth. The first edition in 2010 may have underperformed in terms of the numbers of large, world-class yachts on the start line, but that seems to have been remedied for the second edition, taking place April 4-9, with 44 boats registered by late February and a goal of 50 entries by opening day.
"Things are going very well," says race organizer François Tolede. "There are boats registered from the US, Antigua, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin, St Thomas, and St. Barth."
The race director is French sailor Luc Poupon, also a resident of St Barth, who works out a challenging sailing course for each day of Les Voiles, giving the yachts a chance to show their true grit. On April 7, a day off for the big boats, skippers are invited to have fun with a fleet of 17 remote controlled mini sailboats measuring just three feet in length. These will race wherever the ocean conditions are calm enough on the day.
With major sponsors like Richard Mille Watches, Gaastra Sportswear and Coca Cola, and more maxis, Les Voiles de St Barth is poised to become a great race. This year the main battle is expected to be between two super-maxis, the 100ft Farr-design Leopard 3 and Rambler 100 (ex Speedboat) in the Super Yacht Class, which also features another Farr design, the 115-foot Sojana, Highland Breeze (a Swan 112), and the 100-foot Marama.