Mistral keeps Saint-Tropez fleet ashore

Tuiga sailing in 30 knots - Les Voiles de St. Tropez 2008

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez - yesterday's wind was just a foretaste of what was to come today as the Mistral well and truly settled in, with winds of 30 knots onshore and certainly more outside the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. No coastal races were scheduled for the Classic Yachts, who stayed safely tied up at the dock, protecting their rigging and sails from the violent winds.

In the Marconi A Division, Rowdy is currently leading by three points, followed by The Blue Peter and Agneta. Everything is on track for the Rolex Trophy but the suspense will continue to build until Saturday night, as only then will the overall winner be announced.

The Classic Yachts here this week have all been lovingly cared for and restored seemingly without regard to cost. That they are even still sailing is proof of the attention their owners have bestowed upon them. But it is also testimony to the underlying design and construction. After looking at Olin Stephens, William Fife Jr, and Camper & Nicholsons, we turn to Nathanael Herreshoff, the Wizard of Bristol, another genius with the draftsman's pen who has greatly contributed to the history of modern sailing.

THENDARA 36 1936 KETCH AURIQUEALFRED MYLNE - Les Voiles de St. Tropez 2008
Nathanael G. Herreshoff.

Vigilant (1893), Defender (1895), Columbia (1899 & 1901), Reliance (1903) and Resolute (1920) - five yachts that dominated the America's Cup during a time now referred to as the 'Herreshoff Period.' The name is no accident; all five of these glorious vessels were designed by naval architect and engineer, Captain Nathanael Herreshoff.

Born on March 18th, 1848 in Rhode Island, USA, Nathanael Herreshoff graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1870. Herreshoff originally began his career as a steamboat operator who turned towards sailboats in the 1890s. Together with his brother John, Herreshoff established the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, which was primarily known for producing the first torpedo boats for the U.S. Navy. When it came to building sailboats, the Herreshoff brothers adopted a style of their own. The hulls were constructed upside down out of the lightest material available and a mould was made for every frame.

In 1891 they produced the successful sloop Gloriana, leading to a commission in 1892 for an America's Cup Defender: the 143-foot (44 m) Vigilant. With Herreshoff himself at the helm, the campaign was an outstanding success.

For his 1895 America's Cup commission, Herreshoff designed Defender, a 123-footer (37 m) that was radical for the times. Made entirely of steel, aluminium and manganese bronze, Defender was remarkable but not made to last. As soon as it touched seawater it began to decompose and, even though it remarkably won the 1895 Cup, it only lasted a few months before being too corroded to sail.

The next great design was Columbia, who easily won both the 1899 and 1901 America's Cups, the first boat to win the revered trophy twice in a row. Although Herreshoff already had four America's Cup trophies to back up his designs he did not stop there. Capitalizing on a loophole in the design rules, Herreshoff built Reliance in 1903. Reliance is thought to be the largest Gaff Cutter ever built and was one of the earliest pure racers. Completely unfinished below deck, and 201-feet (61.2 m) from bowsprit to the end of her boom, Reliance was the first yacht to incorporate winches below deck. It was this grand dame that bested Sir Thomas Lipton's Shamrock III, designed by William Fife, to win the 1903 Cup. Another Herreshoff design, Resolute, won the 1920 America's Cup, bringing the famed 'Herreshoff Period' to a final close.

While these beauties are regarded as some of Herreshoff's most impressive designs, his contributions to the sailing world stray beyond the confines of the Cup. The Wizard is also remembered for developing hollow aluminium masts, keel advancements (namely bulb and fin keel designs) and sail tracks and sides. Herreshoff designed over 2,000 boats before his death in 1938, at the age of 90. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company became the Herreshoff Marine Museum in 1971 and it remains a showcase to the talents of an incredibly gifted man.

Dolphin, Mariette and Rowdy are three Herreshoff's designs present in Saint-Tropez this year. Rowdy is currently the leader of her category and is a contender for the 2008 Rolex Trophy.

Rendez-vous tomorrow for the first of the regattas and the beginning of this saga.

Programme for Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

Classic Sailboats
Sunday the 28th and Monday the 29th of September: Welcome for the yachts
Sunday the 28th September: Arrival of the Yacht Club de France's Autumn Cup from Cannes
Tuesday the 30th of September, Wednesday the 1st of October, Thursday the 2nd (Jean LAURAIN Day, Challenge Day and Club 55 Cup), Friday the 3rd and Saturday the 4th: Coastal Courses, 1st start 11:00/12:00

Modern Sailboats
Saturday the 27th of September and Sunday the 28th: Welcome for the yachts
Monday the 29th, Tuesday the 30th, Wednesday the 1st of October, Thursday the 2nd (Jean LAURAIN Day, Challenge Day), Friday the 3rd and Saturday the 4th of October: Coastal Courses, 1st start 11:30

The Prize Giving Ceremony will be held on Sunday October 5th, starting at 11:00 (on invitation).

SUNSHINE 112003 GOELETTE AURIQUE W FIFE JR - Les Voiles de St. Tropez 2008

CREOLE in action. 1927 GOELETTE MARCONI CAMPER & NICHOLSON - Les Voiles de St. Tropez 2008

For the third consecutive year Rolex is in the 'Partner Club' for Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. This regatta, organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez (SNST), is part of the Rolex Yachting Portfolio that includes over twenty world-class sailing events that take place around the world. Rolex is also the title sponsor of mythic races such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race.

For more information about the Rolex Yachting Calendar: