François Tolède, Luc Poupon, and all of the team behind the organisation of the Voiles de Saint-Barth knew that it would be something of a challenge to convince yachtsmen and racers from around the world to include this race in the West Indies on their race calendar. After that the challenge was just as big, as they wanted to win them over by using their know how to combine a friendly event with a serious racing regatta. And yet, the skippers and owners that climbed on to the podium yesterday evening during the prize ceremony were unanimous in expressing their genuine satisfaction and enthusiasm: “We’ll be back!” was the cry that went out to the large crowd, who came along to honour the heroes of the week, such as George David (Rambler), Robert Velasquez (L’espérance) and James Dobbs (Lost Horizon). A first attempt that was to be a masterpiece this week, as the Voiles de Saint-Barth has left its mark on the 200 sailors that took part, and they will now be the best ambassadors to encourage other fans of fine sailing races from around the world to accept the invitation to attend.
The ingredients that made this week so successful
It seems obvious to all that this week St. Barts brought together all the ingredients that usually can only be dreamt of when thinking of such a regatta: warm, brilliant sunshine, turquoise seas with a powerful swell and strong trade winds, which were stable in direction and strength at around 20 knots throughout the regatta. Luc Poupon and the Race Directors did the rest, intelligently and creatively coming up with four superb courses, a different one each day, bringing together the beauty of the backdrop and huge technical diversity. This choice of 20 to 30-mile long coastal runs allowed four hotly contested races to take place for each of the four groups taking part. The mixture that François Tolède was aiming for, bringing together all types of boats, from large maxis full of technology, to classic yachts, worked wonderfully well. Out on paradise waters there was a festival of sail, with gaff rigs mixing their orange colours with the carbon of the futuristic battened sails.
Duels that will go down in history
Some great and elegant winners stood out this week. They leave behind them in their wake memories that will never fade of some fantastic duels. In particular, we are thinking of the closely fought contest between George David’s incredible “Rambler” against the Scot, Mark Fitzgerald and the giant ketch “Sojana” with a crew of stars, which included the Frenchmen Loïck Peyron, Lionel Péan and Jacques Vincent, who were pleased to share life on board with the living legend Peter Holmberg. Thrilling and exciting, the closest duel of the week was the one that brought together the all-woman crew of the Classic W 76 “White Wings” skippered by the young American, Faraday Rosenberg. The brave young ladies lost out by 4 seconds to the sistership of their Joel White designed boat, “Wild Horses” belonging to the American, Donald Tofias. We should mention too the long close fight with confrontations and close contact sailing between Patrick Demarchelier’s Swan 45 “Puffy” and the remarkable J 122 “Lost Horizons”…
The quayside in Gustavia came alight last night during a prize ceremony in keeping with the tradition and spirit of friendship that people expect now in St. Barts. All of the crews received rapturous applause from the public, when they were invited on the podium by the organisers and partners to the event, led by Bruno Magras, President of the St. Barts Council, Hugues Lemarié from the Rémy Cointreau Group (Mount Gay Rum), Anne Dentel, President of the Hoteliers Association and Head of the Sibart Agency, (Sibart Rental and Wimco) and Dominique Gerente representing the event’s headline partner Richard Mille, who has so enthusiastically supported the “Voiles”. The master of ceremonies for the evening, Jimmy Pahun set the tone for an evening that was to continue long into the Caribbean night for many of the sailors. The emotional highlight of the evening was a special moment indeed. As George David, owner of Rambler was receiving his prize of honour in this event, a Richard Mille (RM 028) watch, he took the microphone to remind everyone in a few simple, heartfelt words that they were all thinking of Peter Doriean, who died in a tragic accident on St Maarten last week. A minute’s silence united all the sailors gathered for this ceremony. Life goes on! The party continued with a firework display launched at Oscar Fort, which signalled the start of a long, hot night.
François Tolède, President of the Voiles de Saint Barth Organising Committee
“Along with the 45 volunteers, I feel really pleased. This feeling is the result of all the kind words and thanks from the racers and owners, and also because of the satisfaction of all our partners from the public and private sectors, who have already renewed their confidence by committing themselves to a second edition. Then there is the joy that was expressed by the people of St. Barts as they were also involved in our festivities. The gods were kind to us all week with absolutely perfect weather conditions. Our race committee made the most of it, by setting up some previously untried courses. Some of the yachtsmen, who had wanted to be with us, but for various reasons were unable to be present, sent us e-mails this morning to offer their congratulations and to tell us they really regretted not taking part. All the lights are green and so we are already working on the next edition, which is likely to take place at around the same time of year, but we have not yet fixed the precise date, but will be announcing that shortly.