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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

The sharing of passion is the perfect way to sum up the Nioulargue Spirit which is particularly prevalent on Thursdays at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.

From boat to boat, skipper to skipper, owner to owner, it’s about challenging one another for the sheer beauty of the gesture, for the pleasure of racing with intentions other than finishing ahead of a fellow competitor.

Club 55, Challenges: at sea and against one and all

The Club 55 Cup breathes life and soul into this fine image every year and in the 2018 edition it’s the sloop Savannah which put up a mighty defence against Eugenia VII and managed to get her name etched on the very exclusive cup a second time. Indeed, these two fine craft got the ball rolling for other challenges off Portalet, but the freshening breeze led to an increasingly rough gulf and ultimately any future challenges were forced to lay down their arms.


Centenarians’ Trophy, 30 boats in the foam of the gulf

30 yachts dating back a hundred years and more signed up this morning for a race that has been organised in their honour since 2011, on the initiative of the Gstaad Yacht Club and in partnership with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez. The yachts took it in turns to set sail from Portalet in a series of starts staggered according to a handicap in corrected time, which was governed by the sizes and specific features of each yacht. It was the brilliant and very persistent German Sonderklasse Tilly XV (1912), which came off best in the day’s harsh conditions, finishing ahead of the little Fife cutter Kismet (1898), after a course reduction.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez day 4 © Eugenia Bakunova / www.mainsail.ru

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez day 4 © Eugenia Bakunova / www.mainsail.ru

2011: Bonafide (1899)
2012: Marigold (1892)
2013: bad weather, no challenge
2014: Olympian (1913)
2015: Oriole (1905)
2016: Spartan (1913)
2017: Tilly XV (1912)
2018: Tilly XV (1912)

The low-down at the midway mark for the Classics

The Classic yachts have validated two superb races since the start of the competition in Saint Tropez, in fine wind and sea conditions.

  • 20 Fife designs are sailing in the same group within the context of the Rolex Trophy – Fife Jubilee, which aims to shine a spotlight on the 130th anniversary of the famous Scottish architect-builder. Despite not such a good race yesterday (5th), Viola (gaff cutter 1908), has held onto the lead ahead of the dazzling 15 mJ Hispania, which has had an excellent season.
  • The gaff cutter Kismet (1898) excelled yesterday and shares a very provisional podium with Carron II, the 8 mJ from 1935. The newcomer St Christopher, a Sparkman&Stephens Bermudan sloop, designed by German Frers when he worked there, is really creating a stir at this halfway point in the competition. One victory and one second place has propelled it into the lead of the large Marconi ranking. Another Sparkman&Stephens, Stiren (1963), is neck and neck this evening, tied on points with the proto Sagittarius (Stephens 1973) among the Marconi Bs. Il Moro di Venezia is reigning supreme in the 12 m JI, ahead of Ikra (Boyd 1964).
  • Among the Gaff rigs, Kelpie is currently untouchable at the head of the “Epoque Aurique” (Period Gaff) group, despite a stellar cast that is as formidable as it is elegant with the likes of Spartan (Herreshoff 1913) and Olympian (Gardner 1913). The Period Gaff B group gathers together 13 sumptuous craft from 13 to 20 metres, all centenarians, including the venerable Marigold, launched in 1892 and Lulu, built in 1897. It’s the German Sonderklasse Tilly XV (von Hacht 1912) which is sailing an absolute blinder, winning everything in her path, ahead of the 8 mR Folly (Nicholson 1909) and the fine gaff cutter Gaudeamus (Barg 1914).
  • Sérénade is impressive at the front of the Period Marconis, Group A, though she’s up against stiff competition from legendary boats like Argyll (Sparkman&Stephens 1948), Manitou (Stephens 1937 and Oiseau de Feu (Nicholson 1937). At the midway point, she’s 5 points clear of 2nd placed Rowdy (Herreshoff 1916).
  • There’s a humdinger in the Bermudan sloops from the Period Marconi B group, with two Sparkman&Stephens Blitzen, (1938) and Santana (1935), with the Class Q Jour de Fête (Paine&Burgess 1930) in ambush.
  • Cippino II (Frers 1949), is really into her stride in the gulf, completely dominating the Period Marconi C group. Fjord III (Frers 1947) and Stormy Weather (Stephens 1934) have yet to have their final say however.
  • The Bermudan 8 m Sonda (McGruer 1951) has also secured two wins in the Marconi Group D. Aloha, the Shock sloop (1923) owned by Francis van den Velde will have to raise its game if it is to stand a chance of taking victory.
  • It is no great surprise that the massive schooner Elena of London (Herreshoff 2009) is dominating its class ahead of Puritan (Alden 1930).
  • The highly diverse “Guest” Class is being dominated at the midway mark by Windhover (Luke 1904), with one of the smallest craft at Les Voiles hot on her heels, Dainty and her 8.12m of elegance (Westmacott 1922), together with the gaff cutter Djinn (Annemans 1934).
  • The recently created group at Les Voiles, “Big Spirit of Tradition” is enjoying a fine mano a mano between Sultana (Hoek 2018) and Savannah (Pedrick 1996)
    Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez day 4 - photo © Eugenia Bakunova / www.mainsail.ru

    Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez day 4 – photo © Eugenia Bakunova / www.mainsail.ru

The crew procession

One of the numerous highlights of Les Voiles, and assuredly one of the most burlesque, is when the crews make themselves up, disguise themselves and parade through the Les Voiles village as far as the Jean Réveille jetty to music, often accompanied by a beaming crowd, in a good humoured, friendly atmosphere. An all-female jury choses the funniest crew, with the most original and fantastical get-up, and its captain is rewarded by his or her weight in local wine…

Patrice de Colmont, creator of the Nioulargue in 1981, is as avid an observer of Les Voiles as he ever was:
“The men and the times change, but the philosophy of the Club 55 Cup hasn’t aged a bit: it’s become a tradition, which is respected from generation to generation. The magic continues, thanks to men like Bill Jayson, André Beaufils and Tony Oller, who know how to carry on the Nioulargue spirit year on year. In this way, every year sees the same sharing and the same desire to experience sea-related things together, in Saint Tropez, as in 1981. As a man who loves the sea, I’d also like to mention the 376 victims of the Lampedusa drama a year ago. Human beings are in distress. The solidarity of seafarers must not remain an empty word, it’s a cardinal rule for every sailor.”

Interview with Loïck Peyron

French sailing legend, Loïck Peyron is a big fan of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez and a trail-blazer in multiple fields in the yachting domain. “What is Sailing?… Would you ask a golfer, or a footballer, the definition of a ‘ball’? No matter whether you touch all the domains, the spectre of using a sail as a propulsive element for sporting competition is so vast that it would be hard to define sailing. And that is the beauty of sailing in a nutshell, mixing up the genres, on so many craft, with an exchange of culture and maritime experience of such great richness and to such an extent that there are winners of the America’s Cup who have never spent a night at sea! The number of miles or the size of the boat don’t make the sailor! It’s a whole set of factors that make a good sailor. There is no world champion of sailing! There is no hierarchy and so much the better. Saint Tropez reveals a part of this broad spectrum that is sailing!”

Today’s partner: Pommery

For the eighth consecutive year, the Champagnes Pommery are supporting Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. The manufacturer from Reims is in the perfect spot to welcome visitors at the entrance to the village and throughout the week it welcomes French and International clients. The convivial venue with its typically bold branding and its resolutely modern blue décor, also benefits the partners of Les Voiles who hold receptions here. For the event itself, Pommery has created for the skippers a limited series of 400 “pops”, 20cl mini bottles in the brand’s colours with the Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez motif. The Champagnes Pommery were created in 1856. Their cellars were dug straight out of the estate, in the chalky subsoil of the Champagne domain, where they stretch some 18km and keep over 20-million bottles at a constant temperature.


by Maguelonne Turcat

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