After an evening party to welcome everyone with music and a friendly atmosphere, the twenty-three crews taking part started racing at the Voiles de Saint Barth, the latest international regatta in the Caribbean. As was promised by François Tolède and Luc Poupon, all the ingredients that are so appreciated by yachtsmen, came together for the start of this first edition, which will serve as a standard of excellence for the future.
The tone is set
19 knots of wind from the east-north-east, flat calm seas on the leeward side of the island and brilliant sunshine of course, with two courses set up by someone, who knows the waters around here very well, the race director, Luc Poupon. He is determined to share with crews that have come from around the world the subtle beauties of this island and its many surrounding isles. These will serve as natural course marks that the racing crews will discover, along with the thousand and one mysteries of the paradise creeks and coves. Classic and Racing Cruising yachts took to the leeward coast late in the morning, while the Super Yachts and the Racing class battled it out on the windward side with a heavy swell in the strong warm trade wind. At the height of the regatta, these boats all came together thanks to the magic of the courses between Boulanger Island and Forked Island for a final sprint with the wind on the beam to head for the famous Sugar Loaf and the finishing line.
29 miles of sailing windward of the islands in a powerful trade wind was also what faced the big boats in the event, while the Classic Yachts and small cruisers were in the sheltered waters off the island for 25 miles of racing close to the shoreline, where tactics were important. Luc Poupon’s scheme to offer the racers a vast range of points of sail and sea conditions became reality as they weaved their way around the rocks. In a strong trade wind, those on the heaviest boats carrying the most sail really enjoyed themselves, sometimes teetering on the crests of the steep waves. It was no surprise that at the end of two long tacks reaching, heading to Roubes Rocks on the southern shores of the island, the easily identifiable rigs of the large American sloop, Rambler, and the magnificently powerful ketch Sojana appeared together. A few seconds earlier it was the elegant Joel White designed boats in the W 76 class, Wild Horses and White Wings, which passed Coco Island, and undertook a magnificent duel off the white beaches of Grande Saline. There were fabulous sights to be seen throughout the day around the idyllic locations of St. Barts, with Maxis and Cruisers reaching towards Lorient Point, while Classic and Racing Cruising boats sailed upwind towards Grande Pointe.
The first edition of the Voiles de Saint Barth began in style. The week will continue with the frenzied rhythm of friendly parties ashore and bitter duels at sea, with the benediction of the trade winds, which are being particularly cooperative.
The large ketch Sojana which belongs to the British owner Peter Harrison is taking part in the Voiles de Saint-Barth wih a crew that is not only cosmpolitan but also with a particularly strong pedigree. Judge for yourselves. Peter Holmberg, a living legend from the Virgin Islands, since he offered the islands their first Olympic medal (silver in Finn in 1988), and winning helmsman in the 2005 America’s Cup with Alinghi, is the regular helmsman on Sojana at the major events in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. The Frenchman, Lionel Péan has often done battle with Peter Harrison in RORC races. He has become over the years one of the key members of the afterguard on the big ketch. Peter Harrison likes to be eclectic and enjoys mixing experiences. That is why he has taken on board two top names from French ocean racing, Jacques Vincent, whose name will always be associated with the first round the world voyage in less than eighty days, achieved by Bruno Peyron in 1993 on Commodore Explorer. He will be alongside another Peyron, Loïck, who has come to St. Barts to enjoy himself, while thinking about his next projects. Another eclectic choice is the laser specialist from Antigua, Karl James who took part in two Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney.
What they said:
Gavin Brady (tactician on Moneypenny):
"A great day’s sailing on a fantastic course, which offered us a number of wind and sea conditions. We had to remain focused from the start to the end of the race, as with all of the course marks you needed to be vigilant and look ahead. It was truly a great moment of sailing. Moneypenny loves this type of conditions, with strong winds and sometimes rough seas. The boat has been well prepared for this racing season and the crew knows the boat so well that we find it easy to adapt to any new situation. Rambler and Sojana are not really in our class and it will be difficult for us to compete with them. But as long as the courses remain complicated and tricky, we are going to enjoy sailing here."
Karl James (Sojana): "It’s really great to be able to sail with such an international crew. It’s nice too to be able to be alongside sailors with such varied experiences. Of course, I know the waters around St. Barts really well. It’s a magical location you never grow tired of. Sailing looks like it’s going to be rough with a very powerful trade wind. These are conditions that suit our ketch perfectly as she has a lot of inertia. The north-easterly trade wind will limit the funnelling effect and make sailing very straightforward."
The red cap
One of the recurring features for the many racers present at the Voiles de Saint-Barth is the fact that many of the skippers and crewmen are wearing a red cap, which has more or less faded. The red cap has become since 1984 and the Barbados Yacht Club Regatta, the emblem or badge of honour between Caribbean racers. It all began with the brand Mount Gay Rum, a partner to this event, when they decided to remind everyone of the red colour of their bottle top, by offering those taking part a red cap. Each race backed by the brand has since seen the awarding of a special red cap that racers are very proud of as it shows which classic races they have been involved in. Some red caps have more or less lost their colour completely as they have faded with the sun and seaspray the sailors have enjoyed in so many races. Nevertheless, wearing the red cap is a sign to unite racers on all the seas of the world, showing how they share the same taste for fine racing in the warm island sunshine.
A look at : Swan 601 – Moneypenny
Launched in 2004, the Swan 601 is a yacht that brings together in perfect harmony the requirements of a luxury yacht and the performance of an ocean going cruiser. Taking part in St. Barts in the hands of James Schwartz, Moneypenny is one of the seven boats built by Nautor in Finland. The Yacht has stood out in many of the major classics in the Mediterranean and in American waters.
length: 18.35 metres
beam: 4.73 metres
weight: 15,300 kg
draught: 3.6 m
materials: Monolithic polyester
designer: German Frers
yard: Nautor’s Swan (Finland)