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Les Voiles de St. Barth

OO Voiles de St Barth 2013

The sailing calendar in the Caribbean has been filling up over the past decade, drawing modern and classic yachts from Europe, the United States and, increasingly, the Caribbean itself. This week sees the fourth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, a four-day regatta.

The island of St. Barthélemy, in the French West Indies, is best known as an easygoing playground for the rich, but organizers of the annual regatta say that racing in paradise is not just a breeze.

“It is a bit like the Grand Prix of sailing,” said Annelisa Gee, one of the event’s organizers. “This isn’t one of those festivals where the guys are lying with their tops off trying to catch the sun. The racing course requires a huge amount of skill and there is a lot of opportunity for error.”

“The Caribbean has never been short of sailing events, so we had to carve out our own niche,” she added. “That is, extremely competitive sailing with luxury amenities. We do this by ensuring that the sailing teams taking part are of excellent quality, and every year there are always new models with the latest racing technology.”

Jim Swartz, the owner and skipper of Vesper, a TP52-class racer, has competed every year since the regatta started. “The conditions are fabulous, sailing around this island is beautiful,” he said. “The racing is great, the people are great, as is the organization — it all runs very well.” Vesper was delivered to the island this week after competing in the TP52 world championship in Miami last month.

The regatta, supported by the St. Barth Yacht Club, brings together six classes of yachts, including maxis, a class of giant prototype boats fitted out with the latest equipment and experimental technology for ocean racing, like rotating wing masts.

Ms. Gee said the courses would be long, tough and technical, demanding frequent sail changes. Wind speeds are likely to range from 5 to 25 knots, or about 6 to 30 miles an hour.

Races for classic yachts add a reminder of the maritime history of the island. “Classic or traditional yachts have always had their place in St. Barts and offer a more aesthetical and historical side to the festival,” Ms. Gee said.

Rambler, one of the most successful maxi yachts on the professional circuit, has claimed victory at the festival for the past three years but will not be taking part this time, clearing the waves for a new winner...

To read the full story, click here.

(Source: Google News: The New York Times.)

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