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Les Voiles de Saint-Barth - Unusual suspects and new names join in

by Fabrice Thomazeau on 7 Feb 2013
Les Voiles de Saint Barth fleet © Christophe Jouany / Les Voiles de St. Barth
There have been three editions of the Voiles de Saint-Barth and great excitement and interest have filled its short history. Starting in 2010, it won over owners, racers and sailors with its original idea of bringing together magnificent racing around the islands and the pleasures of life in this small exotic paradise. The memory of the fantastic battles that occurred in the sunshine in previous editions has also charmed everyone and registrations for the 2013 edition continue to pour in.

There are many who have been regulars since the outset, look forward to a certain spirit of yachting and having already signed up this winter for the delights they have come to expect in the warm, windy spring around Gustavia. The six classes that are competing have seen the usual suspects registering, but there are also some new names, who wish to join in and make it onto the leaderboard in this event, which has become a classic in the Caribbean circuit.

The group referred to as the Spinnaker category, which brings together boats measuring between nine and 18 metres, is already full up with all the Swans, X Yachts and CNBs. The local sailors, Patrick Demarchelier (Puffy Swan 53) and Raphael Magras (Mae-Lia) are eager to show what they can do on their home waters with all their local crewmen. This year, on the starting line, they can look forward to facing some serious contenders like The Kid, Jean-Pierre Dick’s JP54, and Satori, the Swan 45 owned by the Dutchman, Gideon Messink, in what is a truly international and highly competitive class.

Sojana, the giant ketch belonging to the British owner, Peter Harrison, which is so beloved by her boat captain Lionel Péan, would not miss out on this Voiles de Saint-Barth event for anything in the world. She made her way to the Caribbean early in the winter and as usual will be one of the star attractions in this prized group of Maxis. She will be facing Jean-Philippe Pinatel’s Med Spirit, which will be flying under French colours. The organizers are pleased to be able to announce that another superyacht designed by Farr, Idea of London, will also be attending. 78 feet in length, she has competed successfully in all sorts of races on both sides of the Atlantic.

Size is not everything in this prestigious Maxi class; each group boasts its list of competitors from the highest ranks of international sailing; the America’s Cup. The presence of the spectacular IRC 52s, that was encouraged last year, is the perfect example of that. The American Jim Swartz, title-holder with his Vesper, is this year’s guest sponsor at the Voiles de Saint-Barth, and is certainly one of the best ambassadors of the event for other owners and in particular for those who own these 52-foot racing boats.

'The Voiles de Saint-Barth is now a top class event, which attracts the finest teams and boats,' explained the American Jim Swartz, patron of honour for the 2013 event. Swartz, just like the previous guest sponsors, Peter Harrison and Jimmy Buffett, is a sailor who has had an impressive list of successes. North American champion and East Coast IRC champion, he won the Voiles de Saint-Barth in 2011 aboard his IRC 52 Vesper. He know all about the quality of racing in St-Barth. He competed in the previous three editions and is back this year with Vesper and her all-star crew of 16, which includes some of the leading lights from the America’s Cup like Gavin Brady, Jamie Gale, Brett Jones and Chris Larson.

'The key to the success of the Voiles de Saint-Barth is that it is extremely well-balanced with all the different classes competing with some great battles in each class,' Swartz said. 'Add to that the race courses, which are always different and adapted to the requirements of each class, a highly professional race committee and you are guaranteed a successful event. All these qualities attract professional teams of the highest standard, but there is still room for amateurs, who want to get out there and enjoy themselves.'

The battle between Vesper and a newcomer to the Voiles de Saint-Barth, the Ker 51 belonging to the German Jens Kellinghusen, will be one of the most interesting duels in the event. The owner from Hamburg has called upon the services the young university team with which he has done so well since 2010 on board a Rogers 46 also called Varuna. It was at the end of the 2011 Transatlantic Race that Kellinghusen became really interested in TP 52s, but his wish to compete in ocean races led him to go for a brand new Ker 51 designed for offshore sailing but with an interesting rating for day racing.

28, 48, 65… these figures show the progression in the number of entrants in the first three editions of the Voiles de Saint-Barth. They speak for themselves and confirm the event has succeeded, in spite of a race calendar that was already full of events and which a difficult economic climate could so easily have upset. François Tolède, Luc Poupon and their teams believed in it and were not going to accept any hiccups. St-Barth, with its paradise climate, its idyllic waters, its maritime culture and warm welcome, offers all those who love fine yachts all the ingredients that are needed for sheer enjoyment out on the water, fantastic sailing conditions and an opportunity to meet up with other enthusiasts. Les Voiles de Saint Barth

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