Les Voiles de St. Barth competitors were able to enjoy a lay day before the final two days of racing on Friday and Saturday as it was mostly quiet dockside in the race village, at the Quai General de Gaulle. While a few crews tended to boat maintenance, others worked on their own personal maintenance, heading to the Nikki Beach resort on St Jean Bay for some stand-up paddleboard competition.
Given the group of competitive sailors racing here this week, not ones to leisurely paddle around, a series of heats were run on the bay’s turquoise waters, pitting crews against each other yet again. Many of the owners and crews opted to make a day of it, settling into the beachfront restaurant for a rehash of the first days of racing, over a glass of rosé and delectable local cuisine for which the island is well-known.
Last night under a full moon at Shell Beach, local villa rental agency Sibarth, hosted a party for the 700 competitors and their guests who enjoyed food and drink at Do Brazil, as well as entertainment including a spectacular fireworks display, all just a walk from 'downtown' Gustavia.
In only three years, Les Voiles de St. Barth has evolved into a popular stop on the Caribbean racing calendar. From 28 boats in 2010, to 48 in 2011, and 58 this year, it’s been a steady growth. The organizers, Francois Paul-Tolede and Luc Poupon, have been keen to build the event carefully and ensure that all of the myriad of details, that help to build a solid event, are considered. A big part of this is communication with the owners and crews who often are the best promoters of the event. Return appearances count for a lot, and a large number of competitors has returned two, and some three, times.
And while the event enjoys the local support of many of the top Caribbean boats – including Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog (Puerto Rico), Bernie Evans-Wong High Tension (Antigua), Fritz Bus’ Coors Light (S. Maarten) – it is notable that it’s also been embraced by the international competitors, which make up over half the fleet. This year’s regatta includes boats and crews from the U.S., Canada, U.K., the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Spain, and Lithuania.
The regatta benefits from the local support of the Comité du Tourisme de Saint-Barthélemy, which was looking for a way to maintain the level of visitors to the French island, with one or two new events, such as Les Voiles de St. Barth.
Nils Dufau, Vice President of the Comité du Tourisme said, 'The idea was to find something authentic that represents St. Barth’s in the best way. One that includes sportsmanship, and the history – and you always come back to the sea and sailing. St. Barth’s was built from the sea.'
Our philosophy is 'bouche a orreille' ('word of mouth'). So now we are assisting the event with support from Air France, as well as with media promotion to highlight these special events – ones, such as Les Voiles, that are appreciated by the local population, as well as visitors.'
Racing continues tomorrow with the first warning signal scheduled for 11am, for the seven classes competing. Tomorrow’s weather forecast calls for easterly winds of 10-12 knots.
Les Voiles de St. Barth website
by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson
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11:46 PM Thu 5 Apr 2012GMT
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