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Festival of Sails 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez - The Mistral Colours the Gulf: No racing

by Maguelonne Turcat 27 Sep 10:52 PDT 24 September - 8 October 2022
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2022 © Gilles Martin-Raget /

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez brings together all the ingredients of a festive extravaganza: sea, sun, sublime sailboats and breeze. For once though, the latter component got a little overeager today, forcing Race Management to keep one of the most beautiful fleets in the world in the port of Saint Tropez.

30 knots of established wind were served up in the gulf itself, gusting to 50 around the edges... Without a moment's hesitation, the 132 Modern sailboats and the 85 Classic yachts wisely remained dockside, enabling the big crowds to get up close to these delicious racing steeds of all shapes and sizes.

Georges Korhel and all the teams at the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez are keeping a close eye on the weather data as they wait for the Mistral to ease so that the marvellous show can go on...

"Shenandoah, I'm so looking forward to seeing you..."

The 54.35-metre Shenandoah of Sark is undoubtedly one of the stars of Les Voiles and the 17th edition of the prestigious Rolex Trophy. Originally commissioned from naval architect Theodore Ferris by the American investment banker Charles Fahnestock and inspired by the lines of Meteor III, a yacht belonging to German emperor and King of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the fabulous three-master built by the Townsend & Downey shipyard in New York was launched in 1902.

Rescued by Baron Marcel Bich, she took to the water again in Newport for France's first America's Cup campaigns. Following a complete overhaul, she flies the equivalent of the original downwind sail area, namely 2,000 m2, but some of the spars and mastheads have been reinforced.

To celebrate her centenary, her owner at the time treated her to a circumnavigation of the globe, which notably included skirting around Cape Horn in close to 50 knots of breeze during an extraordinary cruise through the majestic channels of Patagonia.

The name Shenandoah has Native American roots and means 'The daughter of the stars' as well as being the title of an iconic American folk song or sea shanty designed to keep the sailors motivated during arduous manoeuvres.

Madcap, the amusing eccentricity of Les Voiles

As we know, Les Voiles gathers together the most wonderful yachts in the world and this Mediterranean event is synonymous with exquisite elegance and performance in the quest for marine perfection. However, somewhat unusually, the 2022 edition of this wonderful spectacle is delighted to play host to a working boat. She is more than a hundred years old and she does sport a gaff rig, but her primary mission is not associated with racing or enjoyment, rather she carries out tasks on behalf of ports. She goes by the name of Madcap and she's the oldest working boat of her kind still sailing.

Launched in 1874 in Cardiff, she spent the majority of her time offshore of Bristol, before being renovated and classified as an Historic Monument in her new home of La Rochelle. With breeze forecast at Les Voiles, Madcap's concrete ballast and 24 tonnes of weight mean that she knows no fear when it comes to the wind gods or the god of the sea.

Postponement of the Sardinade

An eagerly awaited high point on shore, the Sardinade des Voiles, which is a veritable feast for all the participating sailors with grilled sardines taking centre stage, has now been moved to Thursday at 20:00 hours on the Môle Jean Réveille.

Quotes from the organisers

Georges Korhel, Principal Race Officer: "The decision to cancel today's races really was a foregone conclusion and indeed it was unanimously approved by everyone involved. The current Marine Storm Warning sums up this classic Mistral situation to a T with the wind sweeping across the gulf at over 30 knots. As a result, the boats are remaining in port today. We're expecting the wind to drop off considerably tomorrow, Wednesday, so that racing can resume."

Renaud Godard, President of the CIM measurement committee: "The CIM has taken on new management in 2022 with even more of a focus on promoting classic yachts, supporting races and renovation projects. Our rules are intangible and set out with the clear aim of protecting these jewels of maritime heritage from any distortion, which may change the nature of them. As such, carbon is prohibited, particularly in the rigs, and no plastic is allowed in the hulls.

"Our intervention is firm but tolerant. We understand that boats like Elena are reconstructions rather than renovations. We're regularly kept up to date with ongoing projects by associations like the AFYT (French Association of Traditional Yachts) and we recently intervened on boats like the 1874 Madcap and the 1929 schooner Viveka, both of these in attendance at Les Voiles."

Today's partner - Rolex

Since 2006, Rolex, the manufacturer of prestigious, high-precision timepieces, has been honouring a class of classic boats, which represent the very best of their kind at the time they were built. This year, the honour goes to seven large classic schooners with an overall length of 25 to 55 metres, some of them centenarians, to compete for the 17th edition of the Rolex Trophy.

Rolex has always sought to associate itself with activities which mirror its own by being characterised by excellence, precision and team spirit. In this way, the brand naturally formed a close bond with the prestigious world of sailing by signing their first partnership, which dates back to the late fifties. Today, Rolex is the Title Sponsor of fifteen major international races, including the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the Rolex Fastnet Race, as well as the prestigious Rolex TP52 World Championship not to mention the particularly spectacular Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup. The brand is supporting the new SailGP circuit, which pits national teams against one another on one-design catamarans in some of the most famous port venues. Rolex also partners some of the most admired yacht clubs in the world, including the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the Yacht Club Italiano, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Italy), the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK) and the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez (France).

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