As is the case each year with the changing of the seasons, the little French port of Saint Tropez takes on the guise of the global capital of yachting this week from 27 September to 4 October.
An event coloured by both tradition and fun, some 330 yachts and 4,000 sailors will battle it out on the water, brought together by a shared passion for beautiful boats racing in a sublime setting. In Saint Tropez the horizon will become a sea of white amidst the finest Classic and Modern boats of the time, some focused on performance, others keen to enjoy the simple pleasures of watching century-old hulls kicking back into life on the ocean wave. A wonderful mix of crews, clean hull lines and a great sense of humour, Saint Tropez is evidently ‘the place to be…’
Those familiar with Les Voiles thrill at the very mention of the friendly clashes that have become so legendary out on the water. First to hit the racetrack on Monday with their very own accredited round off Pampelonne are the large Wallys, with their futuristic designs and clean lines alternating between short and coastal courses. They boast a record participation at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez this year, in this the biggest ever gathering of Wallys at one regatta. In fact there are no fewer than fifteen craft spanning 24 to 33 metres, all of which can hold their own in the elegance and efficiency stakes. The rivalry between Magic Carpet Cubed and Open Season is likely to see a great deal of jockeying for position in this spectacular class.
Next up, the J Classes, Maxis, Mini Maxis and VOR 70s that go under the title of Modern yachts, are split according to their respective rules and sizes into five IRC groups and compete at Les Voiles to round off their long season of races in style. From Rambler 88 to Leopard, to SFS II, Ranger and Solleone, this last Mediterranean bash of the season is the perfect opportunity to admire big boat technology at its best. Still competing amongst the Modern boats despite their decidedly classic-style teak trim, the pretty Tofinous and their code zeros power along in their very own round with their own ranking.
The Yacht Club de France’s Coupe d’Automne by way of a Classic appetiser
Linking the “Régates Royales” in Cannes and “Les Voiles” in Saint Tropez, the Yacht Club de France’s Coupe d’Automne marks the start of festivities at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez. Several dozen yachts, duly split into four classes by the International Mediterranean Committee (C.I.M.), make for Saint Tropez in what is the final 21-mile race of the “Régates Royales” in Cannes. The flurry of sails that marks their arrival at the far side of the bay at the Tour du Portalet, heralds the start of a fantastic week of sport in Saint Tropez.
15M JI: Tuiga and Mariska duel for the 15M JI championship crown
Les Voiles is an absolute must for the 15M JIs as it’s the final leg of their circuit after racing in the Balearics, Monaco Classic Week and Portofino… These fabulously elegant gaff cutters have a double distinction in that they are some of the finest craft of the golden age of yachting and all of them have the honour of being designed by William Fife. Alongside Hispania, built in 1909 by order of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the famous Tuiga of the Yacht Club de Monaco, Mariska and The Lady Anne will all be vying for supremacy. In Saint Tropez, the 15MJs will have the privilege of racing in their own class in elapsed time with the points deciding the results of the “15MJ International Association”. Championship 2015. In this way, Monday will host two windward-leeward style races, whilst the other days will see them racing on a similar course to that of the other Classics, albeit with their own start. There will be no racing on Thursday in this class but each boat will have a chance to organise its own challenge, namely Tuiga against Genie of the Lamp, Mariska against Moonbeam of Fife.
Who are you? Georges Korhel
Working alongside André Beaufils he is one of the stalwarts at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez. Among the 180 volunteers, who work on land and at sea to ensure the event’s success, Georges Korhel holds the highly respected and very exposed role of Race Director. Indeed, he is really in charge of all three of the fleet’s rounds in Saint Tropez: Modern, Classic and Wally. This native of Saint Tropez, who has a military background and specialised in the design of underwater torpedoes, participated in the development of the Nioulargue that later went on to take the name of Les Voiles de Saint Tropez. Racing for fun on a Hobie Cat 16 and a cruiser-racer, he gives a ‘helping hand’ to the jury on both national and international race zones. A national umpire, member of the race jury and Principal Race Officer at Les Voiles, this is as good as it gets for this enthusiast of the bay of Saint Tropez. “Les Voiles is rather atypical in that it doesn’t count towards a single championship, but everyone wants to triumph here and celebrate in style. As such, races have to be organised according to the international rules, given the large number of overseas sailors, whilst remaining in keeping with the Saint Tropez spirit of sociability and good humour… Les Voiles is unique and blends yachting and festivity with exceptional panache.”
Image credit: Gilles Martin-Raget