The Les Voiles de St Barth is set to take place April 8-13. Each remarkable song is marked with a rising crescendo that resonates with the heart. And so it is with this season’s epic series of Caribbean regattas, that its climax is soon to be relished at the Les Voiles de St. Barth. The event packs into five days (one for preparation, four for racing, and one – a 'layday' – for enjoying some serious French hospitality St. Barth’s-style) all that has become traditional in Caribbean regattas and much more that has not.
'What I did find last year, which was my first at Les Voiles de St. Barth, was that this is the one race I’ll never miss,' said Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagramoso, who has been tearing it up on the island circuit this year with his J/122 Lazy Dog. 'It was so much fun, a really great experience: the island is amazing, the people are amazing, the organizers are a huge plus, and I don’t think we ever had as much fun as that layday when we did a whole bunch of sushi eating and drinking at Nikki Beach.'
Sagramoso, however gratified when enjoying the fabulously French atmosphere of St. Barth’s and the organizers’ approaches to creating a holiday experience in and around racing, still has an unfulfilled desire to take care of here. Last year, he lost on a tie breaker to Frits Bus’s Melges 24 Island Water World (which is entered again this year). 'This year I will have no tie-breaker; I want it to go our way,' he declared. With so many 40 footers (the same length as Lazy Dog) entered this year, Bus will most likely compete in a different racing class; however, Sagramoso’s conviction in seeking redemption will run no less deep, seeing as he won the recent Heineken Regatta in arguably the toughest class there: one made up of 15 40-footers.
The ten-person crew on Lazy Dog – windsurfing buddies over the past 20+ years who are now doctors, lawyers, contractors and business owners – have been sailing every Puerto Rican regatta and as many in the Caribbean as they can to prepare for this season. (They are currently competing in the International Rolex Regatta and will move on to the BVI Spring Regatta before heading to St. Barth’s.) 'We are sharp and going all out,' he said, adding that the crew commitment aboard Lazy Dog also involves delivering the boat on its own bottom over the 175 miles that lie between St. Barth’s and Puerto Rico. 'We make it our priority to go sailing; then we have to suck it up the rest of the year to catch up at work. We might fall dead after all this racing, but there is a saying, ‘lo bailado no se quita.’' (Roughly translated by Sagramoso: 'If you dance, no one can take that away from you.')
Sixty-two boats are currently signed up for Les Voiles de St. Barth, with more to come. Of those, no less than ten are Swans and include the 100’ Varsovie, the largest boat in the fleet, and the next largest, the 80’ Selene; the 53’ Music representing the Royal Cape Yacht Club; and the 51’ Northern Child representing RORC. A regatta favorite is the 53’ Puffy, owned by Patrick Demarchelier, the famous French fashion photographer who splits his time between New York and St. Barth and whose career has flourished since the late ‘70s and reached one of several zeniths in the ‘90s when he contracted primarily with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
The CEO of Richard Mille Europe, Peter Harrison, has entered his 45’ JOLT2, a one-off yacht built of light weight carbon fiber to a radical Reichel/Pugh design. His core crew will be mainly from Britain, enhanced with one Italian crew member; in addition, journalists from Europe, USA and New Zealand will join as corporate guests.
'I have been sailing for many years in smaller yachts, which I still enjoy doing on Lake Geneva and in the Solent,' said Harrison. 'JOLT2 arrived in 2012 and was baptized on a very challenging Round the Island (Isle of Wight) Race in over 25 knots of wind. We also took part in the Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club Regatta in Yarmouth and in Les Voiles de St. Tropez with a mix of keen amateurs, pros and corporate guests.
Already in 2013, JOLT2 has sailed in the RORC 600 offshore race with a shorthanded crew of four, another 'baptism by fire,' according to Harrison. 'I am very much looking forward to bringing JOLT2 to Les Voiles de St. Barth to enjoy some fun and challenging racing in the sun! It’s the first time we will be competing there, and we can’t wait to experience the racing excitement up-front as well as the beautiful scenery of St. Barthelemy. Richard Mille is very proud of being a sponsor to what some people consider the best regatta in the Caribbean Series right now.
Les Voiles de Saint Barth
by Fabrice Thomazeau
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9:22 PM Wed 27 Mar 2013GMT
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