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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez Day 8 - 24 Maxi yachts and schooners to colour the bay

by Maguelonne Turcat 5 Oct 2020 12:08 PDT 26 September - 9 October 2020
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez © Gilles Martin-Raget

As if by magic, in just 48 hours the port of Saint Tropez has been cleared of the 130 competitors that graced the race zone and the pontoons during the first week.

Act II of the new format Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez begins tomorrow, Tuesday 6, with the launch of the first races for three groups of large modern yachts belonging to the maxi yacht categories, together with the large classic schooners. For four days, through until Friday, in what is forecast to be a fairly bracing W'ly wind, Les Voiles will size up in scale with candidates measuring over 30 metres long. With sport and competition the main focus of this second week, the majority of the maxi yachts having been totally deprived of regattas this year, all their crews are champing at the bit.

This Monday is devoted to welcoming in the new fleets and registering the crews on the 24 Super Series yachts expected to hit the racetrack tomorrow. Two sublime gaff schooners, Elena of London and her impressive 41 metres (a 2009 Herreshoff replica) and Puritan's 38 metres (Alden 1930), will put in their first tacks on the race zone, just as they did pre-Covid. Among the Modern boats, 22 Maxi yachts, penned by the greats of contemporary naval architecture and yards - Frers, Farr as well as Wally, Swan, Mylius and Hoek - driven by top-flight crews, will slug it out through until Friday 9 October. For the public, it's the perfect opportunity to see the dazzling craft in action off the jetty in Saint Tropez and a rare treat with this year's very unique sailing season having previously prevented them from racing.

Courses tailored to the Maxis!

"From Tuesday to Friday, the Maxis will be racing every day," explains Georges Korhel, the Principal Race Officer "The start will be at 11:00 hours each day off Portalet. We're set to experience a Mistral system, conducive to launching some very fine courses. We're retaining the same courses as in week 1, but with the added possibility of some much longer coastal courses, as these Maxis are capable of maintaining some high average speeds. As such, we're going to send them off towards Lavandou, and if the Mistral, between 15 and 25 knots, is making its presence felt, we might be able to send them as far as Brégançon towards the middle of the week, with a 25 to 30-mile course.

"We're going to be working with the same teams as last week in terms of the Race Committee, supported by Ariane Mainemare, sent over by the International Maxi Association, our partner for the week, who is very much in tune with the specific features of these big boats. There will be two or three starts for the three competing groups. Meantime, the classic schooners will have their own start and will be the last to set sail. Les Voiles is the only race of the season for these boats. We're delighted they've made the effort to come along and we'll do our best to set up courses geared specially around them."

Modern and Class yachts: all eager to get out racing

For many of the boats and crews, Les Voiles is often the only race meet in these very strange times. Keen to get going, Jean Pierre Dréau, skipper of Lady First3, (Mylius 60), has managed to gather together all the familiar faces on the boat and is champing at the bit at the prospect of doing battle with a fine fleet of 80 footers and more that make up the IRC2 group. Olivier Gimmig, the boat's second in command: "As usual, it's Jean Paul Mouren who will be on the helm, seconded by Christopher Pratt on the nav, while Xavier Macaire trims the main. We'll be up against some formidable boats, including the other Dutch Mylius 60 Sud, and the Volvo 65 Sisi and her Polish crew. It's going to be breezy and it'll be lively too given how eager the crews are to get out sailing."

The same enthusiasm is echoed across the large schooners too. "Elena returned from the Caribbean in April, with a stopover in the Azores and Mallorca," explains Steve McLaren, Captain of the large 2009 Herreshoff design. "After two weeks in quarantine in Italy, we were able to kick off the season this summer with some sailing off Corsica. It's really been a unique year, with a lot of health precautions, though we've managed to get in a fair amount of sailing all the same. We're in Saint Tropez now and we're very pleased that Les Voiles is being held and that Elena is here. We'll be sailing with a reduced crew, 18 men as opposed to 40, for safety reasons. I'm Scottish and a number of the crew come from Scotland and it's tough for them this year due to the quarantine restrictions. Elena doesn't need a lot of wind but in a good breeze she's very powerful. We're counting on some good weather here."

Week 2: The Voiles Super Boats

  • Sunday 4th and Monday 5th October: big boat registration (Wally, IRCA, Maxi yachts, big Classic, big Schooner)
  • Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th, Friday 9th: big boat racing
  • Friday 9th October: prize-giving (week 2)

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