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Yacht Club de France Coupe d'Automne at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

by Maguelonne Turcat 30 Sep 2018 12:48 PDT 29 September - 7 October 2018
Yacht Club de France's Coupe d'Automne at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez © Gilles Martin-Raget

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the 20th of the name, officially kicks off tomorrow, Monday, with the first day of races on the programme for the Modern yachts and the Wallys.

In this way, two tension-packed zones will be activated by Race Management, from the Gulf for the 5 competing IRC groups and off Pampelonne for the majestic Wallys. Some typically sumptuous jousting in prospect then in each of these highly competitive groups. Meantime, the Classics will take a welcome breather after their week of racing in Cannes and today's big sprint in the Yacht Club de France's Coupe d'Automne, before they too get down to action against the carbon yachts, some of them timeless boats dating back over a hundred years. As good humoured as ever, the week at Les Voiles promises to be resolutely sporty, summery, reasonably windy and furiously festive.

Elena of London, the first yacht to make Saint Tropez

Shortly before 13:00hrs, 55 classic yachts, split into 5 distinct groups, set a course due west from Cannes and its Régates Royales, bound for Saint Tropez. A stable easterly wind of around a dozen knots established itself in the bay of Cannes, freshening as the boats headed offshore, propelling the fantastic craft downwind to a finish line just below the Portalet Tower. Two familiar silhouettes dominated the fine 21-mile race in elapsed time, the massive gaff schooner Elena of London, and the gaff cutter Mariska, the former finishing just 6 minutes ahead after an impressive run under spinnaker to Portalet. Rowdy, (1916 Herreshoff) completed the podium in elapsed time.

Tomorrow: Maxi Voiles

Creating quite a stir by the sheer size of their rigs, some of them culminate at nearly 50m above the deck. Their charge down towards Portalet Tower is unquestionably one of the unmissable highlights of Les Voiles. The Maxis are out in force in Saint Tropez and among the names to watch are the Baltic 130 My Song, a 2016 Reichel Pugh design boasting 43m of technology, Ribelle, a 35m Malcolm McKeon sloop built in 2017 at Green Marine/Vitters and the fantastic 33m Philippe Briand design Inouï, which came out of the same yard in 2013. Also of note is that two of the three new boats in the star class – Twin Soul B and the new Lady First 3 – were both designed by the Italian architect Alberto Simeone and built at the popular Mylius Yachts yard. The battle promises to be both fierce and spectacular in the Maxi 72 class, with the British boat Jethou (Judel-Vrolijk) vying against the Italian boat Cannonball designed by Botin Partners Naval Architecture, which will boast a top-flight crew including the former helmsman of the US entry in the America's Cup, Ed Baird, teamed up with his French counterpart Sébastien Col.

Within the context of the Edmond de Rothschild Trophy in IRC C, a dozen or so craft measuring 42 to 100-feet in length will be eager for glory, including no fewer than four Swan 50s.

The Wallycentos for a battle royal

Among the Wallys, the BMW Trophy will herald some fierce competition after victory went to the Wally 77 Lyra in early September in Porto Cervo, the very first race for the new owner-helmsman at the controls of the reigning champion 2017. However, the main sporting appeal here in this 20th edition of Les Voiles will centre on the clash between the 3 Wallycentos: Galateia, Magic Carpet3 and Tango.

The J Class in Saint Tropez

Two large J Classes will be hitting the racetrack this week, Velsheda and Topaz. Designed in 1935 by Frank C. Paine, Topaz was finally built in 2015 by Freddie Bloemsma Shipyard and Holland Jachtbouw in the Netherlands. Velsheda was designed by Charles Ernest Nicholson and built in 1933 by the Camper and Nicholson yard in Gosport, UK. Extreme like all this yachts in this class, she has an LOA of 39.40 metres with a 4.80m draught. She was built for the businessman William Stephenson-Laurent, owner of the former Woolworths retail chain, and was named using the first three syllables of his daughters' Christian names: Velma, Sheila and Daphne.

Tahiti-Saint-Tropez, a 10-year love story

It is already 10 years that a twinning agreement full of friendship has linked Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez and Tahiti. The partnership takes many forms, including a crew exchange between Les Voiles and the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, both events directed by Georges Kohrel, Tahitian dancing and music and a fabulous Transpacific project between Los Angeles and Tahiti, a compulsory itinerary for numerous yachts heading down to the America's Cup 2020 in New Zealand. A Tahitian crew will also be competing in the Modern category.

Today's partners

Esprit Village: At the heart of Les Voiles' race village, the association chaired by Pascal Bonnet each day takes up very tricky challenge of providing a welcome atmosphere to the 4,000 competing sailors. Each evening, a dozen of his staff will be tending the bar and participating in the entertainment to ensure that the traditional good humour and sociability of Les Voiles prevails on shore as well as on the water. "Welcoming the racers is essential here. Our mission is to make sure every sailor has a big grin on their face so that the only thing they have on their mind is coming back again next year..."

Air France: a new service from Toulon-Hyères to Paris Charles de Gaulle. The Air France airline is back at Les Voiles again, alongside the organisation and within the Village. A stand welcomes visitors and participants and the Group's marketing team keeps its clients informed as well as promoting the new route from Toulon-Hyères. 1,000 destinations, across 40 countries, via the Roissy Charles de Gaulle hub, are now within easy reach of Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur clients.


Philippe Héral, President of the Yacht Club de France:
"The Yacht Club de France's Coupe d'Automne is a fantastic sporting link between two immense events, the Régates Royales and Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. It's not an easy race between the two, but it is a genuine symbol of the passions shared by sailors, skippers and owners. The Yacht Club de France is keen to influence a certain number of dossiers, including the French project for the America's Cup, as well as take a bigger role in the development of the organisation of the Olympic Games and have a greater involvement in offshore racing in collaboration with the UNCL."

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