Time Out at Les Voiles de St Barth 2011

Following two spectacular days of racing punctuated by strong breezes sweeping across the Caribbean, the Les Voiles de St. Barth shifted into “lay day” gear today. Understandably, the approximately 400 owners, skippers and crew competing here — on 48 boats from 17 countries — wanted to make the most of their stay on St. Barth, so some took advantage of the rest, relaxation and entertainment (including a remote-control sailboat regatta) offered at Nikki Beach resort on St. Jean Bay while others went off packing to enjoy some of the wonders the island has to offer.

This second edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth is quickly growing into an event that looks to blend the competition with the natural surroundings to be enjoyed, and this rest day will give all teams a chance to recharge and start fresh for the last two days of racing, which start tomorrow. There is a certain hierarchy, however, that has been established across the five classes over the first two days of the regatta.

Class standings to date

Maxis: Genuine Risk and Rambler tied

These super yachts are impressive and Rambler 100, described by skipper Ken Read as a "beast," has set the lead. Immaculate starts, well-executed maneuvers, and seamless tacks and gybes have been leading the huge Juan Kouyoumdjian design across the finish line first on elapsed time. Ken Read and George David’s crew are taking it somewhat cautiously, as they are aware of just how powerful the boat is. "It’s a different game altogether, and we’re still learning," affirms Read. Despite Rambler 100’s overall superiority, there is a real threat with Genuine Risk, the Dubois-designed 97-footer handled by Swedish America’s Cup specialist Hugo Stenback. While it’s near impossible to match speed with the Juan K rocket ship, Stenbeck plans to stick close to Rambler’s wake in order to make the most in terms of points overall. The two boats are currently tied on three points.

Racing: Status quo

The highly competitive 50-foot class really shined in the big swell on the first days of racing. The fleet held tight around the marks and upwind with Jim Swartz’s TP52 Vesper, under Gavin Brady’s (NZL) careful direction, leading overall. Tied on points is Dutchman Willem Wester’s Grand Soleil 43 Antilope, which has managed several top podium finishes at Caribbean regattas this season. Peter Cunningham’s Venomousand his all-star crew, led by tactician Tony Rey, are sailing on the powerful Farr 60, which they’re using until they move on to their “new” TP52: the ex-Russian Team Synergy.

Local entries Raymond Magras’ Speedy Nemo (last year’s winner) and Patrick Demarchelier’s Swan 45Puffy are both sailing with locals and are attempting to limit their losses against the professionally crewed class leaders.

Racing Cruising: Nix and Black Hole Tied

The largest class in the fleet is the Racing Cruising, with 24 yachts. Wins in this class are hard-fought. Two Dutch boats, Nico Cortlever’s Nix and Jeroen Min’s Black Hole, share the lead, each with a first and second place. This leaves James Dobbs and his speedy J/122 Lost Horizon in third, with his immediate pursuer, Bobby Velasquez’s L’espérance, trailing in fourth.

Multis: first you have to finish

Class leader, John Winter’s 80-foot Morelli/Miller-designed Fat Cat, has suffered the least in the big and often crossed seas found on the northern areas of the courses. Blanca was dismasted yesterday and is out of the regatta, while the Gunboat Phaedo suffered damage to the boom on the first day and retired from the regatta as well.

Classics: Spritely for 80

What they lack in numbers they make up for in beauty. The Bermudian yawl Mariella, designed by Mylne, built by Fife and launched in 1938, has reveled in the strong, steady breeze off St. Barth. Italian owner Carlo Falcone has enjoyed the opportunity of grabbing the lead over Donald Tofias’ classically styled W76 White Wings. The majesty and elegance of these yachts grabs the attention of even the most modern sailor and is what gives Les Voiles de St. Barth a special element of charm.

Social Scene

Last night Les Voiles de St. Barth skippers and guests enjoyed a cocktail party hosted by the luxurious Guanahani & Spa hotel. The event included an auction to raise awareness and funds for Bay Kout Men Haïti, a non-profit organization set up in 1901 by people in the construction business to help rebuild the devasted Caribbean island.

François Tolède, event organizer of Les Voiles de St. Barth
“We feel that the idea that we offer here is the right recipe: a mix of serious racing on the water and fun on shore, for the fleet of modern and classic boats of all sizes, on a really great sailing area with fantastic conditions, a dream for every sailor. This event format is working and the word is spreading among competitors all over the world. We are going to have to be prepared for growing pains and keep a cool head as we build on our successes thus far. We must maintain cohesion among the classes, maintain a balance between the competitive and fun aspects, as well as carefully consider our hosting capacity ashore and on-the-water. We must carefully consider all of these key points.”

Anne Lisa Gee, co-organiser of Les Voiles de St. Barth
“Everyone looks forward to a rest day, as much as they do to the perfect sailing conditions – it is in keeping with the spirit of what the owners and yachtsmen have come to look for in St. Barth. Everyone has been complimenting race organizers Luc Poupon’s and Jean Coadou’s choice of courses and we are getting the positive feedback from the sailors and owners who foresee a good future for the event.”

Racing continues on Friday and Saturday with a first warning signal at 1100. The closing ceremony and fireworks will follow the awards ceremony on Saturday, April 9.