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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

Confirmed from Saturday, September 26th to Friday, October 9th, the new format of the Voiles de Saint-Tropez offers an event spread over two weeks, for the modern and classic yachts.

The programme differs according to boat category with the aim to optimise registration, organisation of start zones – which will all take place in front of Saint-Tropez – and racecourses organised according to the potential of the different boats.

Two great weeks on the water in Saint-Tropez

Racing over two weeks is not in fact a new thing – looking back to the Nioulargue, precursor to the Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the first maxi yacht races in France were held independently of the rest of the regatta. The event, for the modern boats as for the traditional boats, will still last one week, but depending on their category, they will be entered either for the first or for the second week.

“The idea is to no longer have three race zones” explains Georges Korhel, Principal Race Officer. “Previously the classics were in the bay, the moderns at Salins and the bigger boats at Pampelonne. Due to new regulations detailing the revised mooring zones along the coast, the Department of Maritime Affairs has asked us to reduce this perimeter. We will have all starts and finishes in front of Saint-Tropez for all classes, but rather than mix the small, medium and large boats, we are going to separate the fleet into two groups. For the first week, the on-water programme will remain unchanged for boats up to and around 20 meters. There may be exceptions to this depending on the boat type and boat speed. In the second week the bigger and faster modern and classic yachts will be put together to allow for courses to be set which are more adapted to their size and their speed.” It will not only be the length of the boat which determines which group they will race in, but a combination of factors relating to their performance which will be looked at by the Organising Committee for the Voiles. “For the classics, the boats from the Grand Tradition Class, who for the most part easily exceed 25 meters, will race in the second week, as will the big schooners. For the moderns, the maxi yachts exceeding 18 meters will also race in the second week.”

As per usual, the modern yachts competing in the opening week will have five days of racing starting on Monday 28th, the classics will begin racing on Tuesday 29th. Thursday will be reserved as a Challenge Day. The only new feature in this finely tuned programme is that the prize-giving will be on the evening of Saturday, October 3rd instead of Sunday morning.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2017 - photo © Gilles Martin-Raget
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2017 – photo © Gilles Martin-Raget

Competitors from the first week of the Voiles de Saint-Tropez will have to leave the port before Sunday, October 4th at noon to make way for the Voiles Super Boats, whose registration will take place until Monday evening. Racing begins Tuesday morning for everyone with four consecutive days of races until the prize-giving ceremony, scheduled for Friday evening.

The Indians are on the war path…

No one knows for sure what the situation will be on the actual date of the Voiles. “Our role is to plan according to how the situation evolves, both with regard to the Race Village setup as with race officer Georges Korhel in terms of on-water organisation.” sums up Pierre Roinson, new president of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez “As Tony Oller, general manager, and I continued to affirm, for the moment, nothing is definitive.” This uncertainty obviously also concerns the participants, even if apparently all lights are green for pre-registrations with over 200 classic and modern yachts in the first week and potentially 50 in the second, reflecting a real desire to sail and race at the Voiles.

Among the traditional boats anticipated in the first week, the year will be exceptional with the celebration of a triple anniversary marking 90 years for Emilia Prima, a bermudian sloop designed by Attilio Costaguta, Hygie, a ketch by Daniel Severi, and Jour de Fête, the famous Q Class by Franck Cabot Paine and William Starling Burgess. Although still youngsters compared to Bristol wizard Nathanael Herreshoff’s marvel Corinthian, at 115 years – with Bruno Troublé at the helm, joining with Olympian and Chips making an incredible series of 3 in the P Class. However, matriarch of the event, Thistle, will be blowing out 130 candles! At this grand old age Thistle is making her first appearance at the Voiles in the ‘guest’ category. A great result for this class which last year decided to invite “little centenaries” to the event.

Among the moderns, confirming the Voiles’ status as an event not to be missed, will be innovations launched by well-respected shipyards such as: First Yacht 53, Solaris 44.2, J 122 E and the Grand Soleil 40. Nearly ten 52 footers are also pre-registered in IRCC guaranteeing a great impression on the water.

For the Voiles Super Boats, the classic gaff rigged schooner Elena of London should be able to hold her own at a spectacular 50 meters, ahead of the impressive Fife built Marconi cutter, Cambria boasting 40 meters across the deck. More good news on the modern big boat front is the pre-inscription of the mythical Comanche, trans-Atlantic 5 day record breaker, with real-time victories in the famous Rolex Sydney-Hobart and Rolex Fastnet Race. “We are really hoping to bring Comanche for its first time to the Voiles this year” confirms Mitch Booth, the skipper of the boat in its Indian Warrior colours “but our programme will only be confirmed when our Russian shipowners are allowed to travel to Europe. The event is one of the best in the world. We’re hoping for a mistral, which would be optimum conditions for the boat.”

Provisional Programme 2020:

Week 1: The Voiles de Saint-Tropez
Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September: registration for boats up to (approx.) 20 meters (except for certain classes)
Monday 28th September: racing for modern yachts
Tuesday 29th, Wednesday 30th September, Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd October: racing for modern yachts and classic yachts
Thursday 1st October: Challenge Day
Saturday 3rd October: prize-giving (week 1)

Week 2: The Voiles Super Boats
Sunday 4th and Monday 5th October: big boat registration (Wally, IRCA, Maxi yachts, Grands Traditions, big Schooners)
Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th, Friday 9th: class racing
Friday 9th October: prize-giving (week 2)

For reasons linked to the uncertainty of the global situation, the organisation of the event will be reviewed monthly as follows:

  • end of July
  • end of August

This is to keep competitors and public informed in accordance with government and federal authority directives, as well as to assure the protection and safety of staff and volunteers involved in the event organisation.

by Maguelonne Turcat

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