Jumpstarting a new regatta can be a risky business. The Caribbean racing circuit is jam-packed with various kinds of races, from Cuba to Aruba, with everything from classic J-boats to the latest carbon-fiber racing sloops on the start lines. The races are jockeying for position on the calendar and the best boats are wooed to attend, with such glittering prizes as Panerai watches for the winners.
In St Barth, the star of the nautical arena has been the St. Barth Bucket, but three years ago the island launched another race, Les Voiles de Saint Barth, which in name at least was inspired by Les Voiles de St Tropez. Open to boats of all sizes, Les Voiles de Saint Barth offers local sailors one thing the Bucket doesn’t: the opportunity to actually sail, and there is a relationship with the local sailing school. But three years ago, only 25 or so boats participated, not a bad start, but smaller than the organizers had predicted.
By year two, the number had considerably increased and word of the race had begun to spread around the yachting community thanks to the laid-back appeal of the race paired with its professional organization. This year, the third edition of the race took place the week leading up to Easter with four days of racing taking place from April 3rd – 7th. (With one day off for relaxation.) In the meantime the inner workings of the event had shifted from its original non-profit status, giving way to management by a private company, TP Sail Events, a partnership between Annelisa Gee, Luc Poupon, and François Tolede, with a large volunteer staff to help with the organization of festivities on land, and races at sea.
With almost 60 boats participating, the event became more important to the island. And with around 800 people from abroad coming for the regatta, its economic impact was palpable: certain hotels, villas, and restaurants were full, rental cars were zipping about, the ferries were busy, and the island was hopping.
The major sponsors of the event, Richard Mille Watches and Gaastra Sports Clothing, helped get the regatta off the ground. Richard Mille attended in person and presented a third luxury timepiece to George David, whose latest iteration of Rambler was victorious again this year, making him a three-time winner of the event. “Pretty soon you’ll have enough to open a boutique,” Mille quipped as he presented David with the watch.
With more and more boats interested in participating, maybe someone will give Rambler a real run for her money when the fourth edition of Les Voiles takes place from April 9th -13th next year. And St. Barth once again gets an economic shot in the arm from a regatta, joining the Bucket, the Cata Cup, the Fun Cup, the West Indies Regatta, and the Transat Ag24 in the island’s array of successful nautical events.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy. She is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and writes regularly about entertainment, design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.