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Les Voiles de Saint Barth Richard Mille event preview: High profile newcomers set to compete

by Maguelonne Turcat 8 Apr 2018 22:44 PDT 8-14 April 2018
2018 Les Voiles de Saint Barth Richard Mille © Christophe Jouany

The French West Indies island of Saint-Barth is teeming with activity as hundreds of sailors prepare for the ninth edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Barth Richard Mille, which kicks off racing tomorrow. The regatta, which runs through Saturday, April 14, draws an esteemed international crowd of competitors with five days of exceptional on-the-water competition complemented by a flurry of shoreside fun and entertainment. This year, many new maxi, monohull and multihull teams are also joining in on the action.

"After Hurricane Irma, we wanted to do everything we could to help the islands this season," said Jeremi Jablonski (Westport, Conn.) who will be racing his Hanse 430 Avanti at the regatta for the first time. The team is just off winning its class at both the BVI Spring Regatta and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

"I came to Tortola in early November. We were one of the first boats arriving from the East Coast and the devastation there was heartbreaking. Based on our emotional experience of coming to the island this year, the next step was just to do everything we can, every event, every regatta," added Jablonski. "We need to come back and bring our friends back to the islands. Les Voiles de Saint-Barth is a well established regatta with a great reputation, amazing crowd and amazing boats and we're looking forward to competing."

David Welch's (Menlo Park, Calif.) 66-foot HH Catamaran Flash was launched this past fall and is making its racing debut at Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, which boasts a record number of multihull entries this year. "This is the only event we're doing in the Caribbean this season, and we will definitely have our work cut out for us," said Welch whose team will go up against fellow HH 66, Jim Vos' Nala and Lloyd Thornburg's Gunboat 66 Phaedo, which established the first speed record at Les Voiles de Saint-Barth back in 2015. "This regatta looks to have a great number of high quality teams competing and I'm looking forward to being part of what is shaping up to be a great event."

The Caribbean favourite is known for attracting competitors from around the world, and this year's 53 teams competing represent over 15 countries. Coming in from Brazil, is Eduardo Plass and his team on Soto 65 Camiranga, which will race in the Maxi Division this year.

"Our team has been campaigning for 10 years in South America and Europe but this is the first season we've raced in the Caribbean," said Samuel Albrecht, a two-time Olympian and tactician onboard. "The competition is new for us down here, which makes it more challenging but also more fun. We've heard great things about Les Voiles de Saint-Barth and look forward to getting out on the race course."

The regatta officially kicked off today, with a vibrant opening ceremony at the Quai General de Gaulle, in the island's port of Gustavia. This year's U.S. Ambassador, legendary musician Jimmy Buffett will be welcoming competitors as well. Racing is scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

On Wednesday night, at the popular Shell Beach, the event's lively crew party will take place, with entertainment, local Caribbean fare and a fireworks display. The official "Day Off" on Thursday is at the Saint Barth staple, Nikki Beach restaurant, where teams take a break from the competition to enjoy water activities and relax over rosé and lunch.

Racing kicks off tomorrow, Monday, April 9 at 12 p.m and wraps up on Saturday, April 14 with a party and prize giving at the Race Village. The overall Maxi Class race winner steps away from the regatta with the most coveted prize of all: The Richard Mille 60-01 Regatta Flyback Chronograph timepiece in addition to the newly created Richard Mille Maxi Cup. Another new trophy this year, the Richard Mille Record Trophy will be awarded to the team (racing in Maxi, Spinnaker 0 and Multihull Classes) that breaks the record in the 47-mile race to be held later this week.

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