The energy is high in the Port of Gustavia and its docks bustling as Les Voiles de St. Barth sailors put the finishing touches and updates on their respective race yachts in preparation for the first day of racing, which starts tomorrow, April 11.
The regatta, which runs through Saturday, April 15, attracts international attention in the sport of sailing, bringing some of the top competitors and boats from far and wide to compete for four days of rigorous racing coupled with a week of fun onshore entertainment. Set on the beautiful and exclusive French West Indies island of St. Barth, the regatta celebrates its eighth edition this year with over 1000 sailors racing on 65 boats.
‘Every year the fleet gets better and better,” said Les Voiles de St. Barth Race Event Director François Tolède. “What makes us particularly happy this year is that the Maxis are here in force. There are many very competitive boats between 24 and 40 feet are here to race as well. It proves that competitors enjoy and are confident in our event, which is great.
“Each year, between 70 and 80 percent of the teams racing are new to the event, which is quite incredible,” added Tolède. “This means that over 350 different boats have taken part in Les Voiles de St. Barth since its inception in 2010. We are delighted to welcome so many new competitors as well as return contenders and wish them all a great time this week both shore-side and on the water.
The event officially kicked off this evening with a lively Opening Ceremony at the Quai General de Gaulle, the event’s race village in Gustavia. Racing is scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with the event’s official “Day Off” on Thursday. Tomorrow, the starting gun will fire at 11 a.m.
“I am very happy to race on such waters and against such competition this year,” said Lionel Péan the ambassador of the eighth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth. The French sailor Péan is widely recognized for his offshore racing expertise, winning the 1986 Whitbread (now the Volvo Ocean Race) as well at the famed singlehanded ocean race, the Figaro Solitaire. Péan participated in the first editions of Les Voiles de St. Barth in 2010 and 2011 aboard maxi yacht Sojana. This year, he will be on the starting line, at the helm of the Volvo Ocean Race 70 SFS, which raced as Ken Read’s Puma in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race. “This event offers real competition, with high-performance boats and very high-level crews. Every year there is a boom in owners and sailors on international sailing boats that attend. Gaining traction from the sailing community is no small task. This is proof that Les Voiles de St. Barth and its organizers have succeeded in creating a great regatta.”
The competition will be separated into nine classes (Maxi 1, Maxi 2, CSA 0, CSA 1, CSA 2, CSA 3, CSA 4, Melges 24 and Multihull) with eight of last year’s class winners returning to defend their first-place positions. They include Peter Corr who won CSA 3 with his King 40 Corr’s Light. The team will be racing this year on its newly acquired King 40 Blitz. The team is coming in hot to the regatta, already with class wins at the BVI Spring Regatta and St. Thomas International Regatta earlier this spring. “It would be great fun to sweep all the regattas we race in this year,” said Corr who helms the yacht. “This is one of the most exciting regattas, and there is lots of good competition. Last year the winds were pretty light here, so we’re hoping they climb up a bit this year. I’ve got a great team. I’ve raced with this team of people on multiple boats over the last few years and they are so good. We just meld well together.”
Also returning is George Sakallaris’ Maxi 72 Proteus, which took home the win in Maxi 1 last year; the team will have its work cut out this year with a slew of tough competitors, including Maxi 72 World Champion Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, also vying for the top position. Larry Landry, Paul MacDowell and David Siwicki’s Farr 60 Prospector topped the Maxi 2 competition in 2016, and the team has upped their game this year, acquiring a Mills 68 (also Prospector), which will be racing in Maxi 1 this week. In CSA 2, Sergio Sagramoso’s Melges 32 Lazy Dog will be battling it out with Catherine Pourre’s Eärendil, which won the Class 40 one-design class last year and is now competing in CSA 2. Four-time class winner Herve Hejoaka and Claude Granel’s Jeanneau 3200 Crédit Mutuel will be returning in CSA 4 as well as Frits Bus’ Team Island Water World in the Melges 24 and Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis’ Triple Jack in the Multihull Class.
by Barby MacGowan