High-performance boats and crews, challenging courses, variable and complex weather conditions that put organizers to the test, close contests in every race and in every class, suspense right up to the finish line in the last race, and a varied roster of special events that appealed to the sailors and the local population – all these elements came together to make this seventh edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth an exceptional event! A post-race recap with François Tolède, general director of the event, follows:
François, what is your take on this seventh edition?
“Super positive. We were a little worried that we wouldn’t be able to race the last day, as the weather had a mind of its own and decided to cut off any breeze in the northern Caribbean. There was just a tiny bit of wind, but we managed to run a race around the island that turned out to be extraordinary. Everyone was happy that they were able to race. Overall, 2016 was a good year for Les Voiles in many regards. Firstly, a great list of entries. The event attracted very high-performance boats and highly skilled crews. That was already true last year, but was even more the case this year. This certainly bodes well for the development of the regatta, as it points to a roster of an even higher level in coming years.
This corresponds to the concept that we defined with Luc Poupon, while keeping the same lifestyle and spirit that makes this event really different. The show put on for us by the boats this week was really magical, and their performances were incredible, especially considering the light breeze. The favorites did not disappoint, and we saw some really great racing from the Maxis, Maxi 72s, TP 52s, Volvo boats, Class 40s, Melges 24s and more.
It was indisputably a really good year for the event, even if it was affected by lack of wind, but this is the first time that this has happened since the creation of Les Voiles in 2010. But as I already mentioned, the weather has its hazards and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s all part of the game, as the sailors well know.”
The feedback has been extremely positive. That must make you feel pretty good…
“Yes we have had great feedback, from the sailors, the owners, and the locals. Everyone had a good time at sea as well as on the shore. For us, the gamble paid off. We had a race village open permanently, with free access. We hoped that everyone would feel welcome, no matter who they were, and that was the case. Everyone mixed very nicely, and the ambiance was very festive. We tried to create an interesting schedule of special events, with live music and shows, fireworks, and a day off that the sailors really enjoy… Today, we see no reason to change a recipe that works. The only question is ‘how do we make things even better?’”
What about the next edition?
“It takes place April 10-15, 2017. Our partners from this year are already lined up to return. Richard Mille, the main sponsor for the event, is contractually engaged for the next two years; the same for Veuve Clicquot. At Les Voiles de St. Barth, we are lucky to benefit from a lot of media coverage, and not just in the specialized press. Publications geared to lifestyle and luxury watches, for example, are interested in the regatta as well. The event has a surprising range of coverage. That is very positive for us, as well as for the crews that participate in the race. That was certainly clear this year.
by Kirsten Ferguson