Even though the race village for Les Voiles de St. Barth officially opens on Monday, April 13 at 6 p.m., a sense of excitement is already palpable on the dock in Gustavia. While they won't be racing until Tuesday morning starting at 11 a.m., the participating crews are hard at work getting every last detail ready aboard their boats. The same is true for the organizational team that has finalized the number of classes in which the boats will race this week: a total of 10 classes, each of which features stars of the French and international sailing scene. Here's a look at what to expect.
27 Possible Courses
For this 6th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, the race director has envisioned 27 different courses for the 80 boats participating. The itineraries are extremely varied, adapted to each of the classes, as explained by Jean Coadou, president of the race committee: “There are various distances from 10 to 42 miles. The courses will be selected each morning in relation to the daily weather conditions. One of our priorities will be to make sure that the classes don't run into each other at the race markers.”
As during prior editions of Les Voiles, the starting line will be in the zone near Pain de Sucre, while the arrivals will be judged in front of the beach Gouverneur. Something new this year: two inflatable buoys in the colors of Richard Mille—the first in the bay of Saint Jean and the second in front of the beach in Gouverneur—will be placed so that the public can see the boats sail closer to the shore.
In addition, if conditions permit, Jean Coadou and his crew will launch the fastest big boats on course n°27 (a loop between St. Barth and the island of Tintamarre, to the east of Saint Martin) in order to establish a record for Les Voiles de St. Barth. This will be a challenge to remember, with some true speed demons on the roster, starting with the 70' trimaran Phaedo 3, which yesterday, while training for Les Voiles de St. Barth, beat the record time for the tour around Saint Martin set by Steve Fossett in 2003 (2 hours, 4 minutes and 36 seconds). Phaedo 3 posted a time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 19 seconds with the stellar crew of Lloyd Thornburg, Brian Thompson, Miles Seddon, Warren Fitzgerald, Sam Bason, Sam Goodchild, Fraser Brown, and Paul Allen.
10 Different Classes
Luc Poupon, the general commissioner for Les Voiles de St. Barth, made his mind up last night: for this 6th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, the participating boats will be divided into 10 different classes: Maxi 1, Maxi 2, Racing Multihull, CSA Non-Spinnaker, Melges 24, plus Spinnaker 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. These five Spinnaker classes are under the CSA rating as defined by the Caribbean Sailing Association, an entity created to promote yachting in the Caribbean by proposing a handicap that is easy to calculate and simple to apply. “We have defined the classes with a true sense of equity,” said Poupon. “The idea is to create groups that are as homogeneous as possible so that the battle on the waves is as tight and exciting as possible.”
Close To 80 Crews
Close to 80 crews will be racing in Les Voiles de St. Barth for four days starting on Tuesday. Since the event was created, it has never seen so many boats on the starting line. The proof: 13 boats in 2010, 50 in 2011, 56 in 2012, 63 in 2013, and 68 in 2014. “Les Voiles de St. Barth has attracted a larger number of competitors each year, including some of the best boats on the planet,” said François Tolède, the event and race director. “As a result, the quality of the roster is exceptional this year, and the regatta is now firmly anchored as one of the top nautical events in the Caribbean.” Among the last boats to register are Tinaquim, Felipe Costa's Hanse 57 and Timbarelo III, Eduardo Perez' Gunboat G4, which is none other than the first racing catamaran with foils designed by the DNA design team (The Netherlands). Recently, not too far from St. Barth, Timbarelo III did some pretty promising test runs, reaching 29.7 knots in 18 knots of wind.
Loïck Peyron, official ambassador of Les Voiles de St. Barth, sails on two boats during the regatta
The official ambassador of the sixth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, Loïck Peyron—triple winner of the OSTAR (English Transatlantic Race), double winner of the Transat Jacques-Vabre, second place in the Vendée Globe in 1990, and holder of the Trophée Jules-Verne, as well as recent winner of the Route du Rhum—arrived Sunday afternoon in Gustavia. This skipper from Baule in France, was part of the regatta when it was born in 2010, sailing aboard the maxi Sojana. He will sail on two different boats this week. On Wednesday, he will be aboard the largest boat in the fleet, Jim Clark's Comanche; then on Friday, he will sail with Lloyd Thornburg on Phaedo 3, a trimaran which is sure to remind him of his championship years on ORMA trimarans.
A Galaxy Of Stars
In addition to Loïck Peyron, there are numerous big-name sailors participating in Les Voiles de St. Barth. To name a few, Brad Butterworth will be aboard Rambler, Ken Read on Comanche, Chris Draper on Aragon, Terry Hutchinson and Craig Monk on Belle Mente, Brian Thomson on Phaedo 3, Gavin Brady on Vesper, and Cam Lewis on Elvis. Among the French sailors, Marc Guillemot will be aboard Puffy, Bertrand de Broc on Pampero, Marc Emig on Martinique Premiere-Credit Mutuel, François Boucher on Paradox, and Christine Briand on S'investir en Guadeloupe-Lipton.
Images Courtesy of Jouany Christophe