It may be close to the end of the Caribbean sailing season, but the sailors on 70 boats registered for this fifth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth are freshly fired up for friendly battles against some top competitors before they head north to the U.S. and across the 'pond' to the UK and Europe to chase an endless sailing season.
Karol Jablonski helming on IRC 52 Near Miss - Les Voiles de St Barth
Les Voiles has continued to grow in each of its five editions, both in entry numbers and shoreside activities, and many competitors have been heard to say that organizers have figured out the perfect racing/shoreside formula. Along the Quay today, where about a third of the fleet is moored stern-to, crews worked on final tweaks to the boats, and then were off to practice in the 10-15 knots of tradewinds.
Racing begins today, Tuesday, at 11am for the nine classes: Maxi, IRC52, Spinnaker 1-2-3-4, Melges 24, Non-Spinnaker, and Racing Multihull, Racing continues on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday with a 10am start time. On Thursday, the now traditional lay day on St. Jean Bay, competitors will enjoy lunch at Nikki Beach as well as festivities that will include stand-up paddle board racing.
With many in the fleet returning from prior Les Voiles editions, the international fleet is drawn from across the Caribbean (St. Barth, St. Maarten, Anguilla, Martinique, Antigua, BVI, Puerto Rico) as well as the U.S., Canada, the U.K., The Netherlands, France, Spain, Malta, Sweden, Australia and Ireland.
This evening, at the regatta center on Gustavia’s Quai General de Gaulle, was the official opening of Les Voiles de St. Barth 2014. Bruno Magras, President of the Community of St. Barthélémy, welcomed the participants from more than 30 nations. This year the organizers have chosen to recognize and support the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute (ICM), based in Paris and headed by ICM President Gérard Saillant and ICM founding member Jean Todt. Following the opening, Race Director Luc Poupon held the Skipper’s Briefing, reviewing details for skippers and navigators. All competitors then enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and drinks to the music of the French band Joyful Noise.
The Les Voiles fleet will race under the CSA rule (created by the Caribbean Sailing Association). This measurement rule uses various hull, keel, rudder, rigging, materials, sail area measurements and evaluations to create a handicap that regatta organizers can use to develop racing classes from all who enter. In brief, the CSA rating rule asks that a cruising yacht be measured in the condition that it plans to be raced.
Cam Lewis, on White Rhino: We have a friend, Steve Cucchiaro, he was here last year and he’s just getting back into sailing. He was on Defiance last year (and finished second in Spinnaker 1) and that wasn’t available so he got a Swan 53 and he’s getting back into racing. So we brought a bunch of friends and family down; he’s here with his son and we’re looking forward to some great racing in our class.
Former match race world champion, Karol Jablonski, Near Miss: 'Thanks to Frank Noêl and his crew - they have picked me to be on the team and I'm delighted to be here. I come straight from ice boating, and it’s nice to warm up my old bones. (Jablonski was somewhat humble, having just won the DN World Championship in Haapsalu, Estonia.)
'We have a perfect boat, a perfect program, and a perfect team. I've been with them for three years and we work very well together. We've had some great successes so far, and I hope to continue that way. This is our first time here and we expect some strong competition. Everything is new to us, so we sailed yesterday around the island to check things out. I'll be at the helm, calling tactics. Marcel van Triest will be our navigator. Even though we have some great French guys on board, doing a great job, we'll speak English because that will make things easier. We enjoy being here and love the social part, but we are focused on the sailing.'
Renowned French offshore sailor Bertrand De Broc, Pampero, 52-foot catamaran:'I've been doing a lot of sailing in the Caribbean this winter. We sailed our 60 footers in the Caribbean 600; the conditions were superb! We're here with Pampero, which we have sailed between Guadalupe and Martinique, setting some records along the way. My former partners and sponsors from the Vendée Globe race are financing this campaign, and I try to pay them in return by inviting them on board. We try to give them a little taste of what sailing is about!
'This is my first time in Les Voiles, but not in Saint Barth as I have sailed seven times in the AG2R La Mondiale Transatlantic race. Coming to Les Voiles was an obvious idea, as its reputation is so good. My former teammate from the AG2R, Gwen Riou, is also on board. He'll be my tactician and I'll be at the helm…we’ll give our best, while enjoying ourselves.'
All of Les Voiles de St. Barth on your iPhone or iPad Get Les Voiles wherever you are by downloading the Les Voiles de St. Barth application for free on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad from the iTunes App store. With it you can follow results as well as find all the information on the event, including the Event Program, list of competitors, and results.