The mistral has kept the fleet bottled up in port for two days - it was a good call by the committee


This picture looks more like the Outer Hebrides than the south of France where racing in Les Voiles de St Tropez has been badly disrupted by the Mistral which has been blowing steadily now for 30 hours and looks ominously as though it will truncate activities today, the last day of racing.

The picture shows plenty of white water and spray on the beach while Ronald de Waal’s Bystander, his impressive mothership for the J Velsheda and Senso One (partly hidden by a cloud of spray) ride it out in the anchorage off the main town. Senso, by the way, is back in town having had her bow patched up after a collision two days ago. Incidentally, she lost that protest and was disqualified for her efforts… (see Senso Bows Out blog).

The race committee curtailed proceedings very early yesterday at 1130 which, for some, may have come as a surprise. Surely a postponement would have been a better move? In fact the committee got it dead right and put their trust in meteorologist Pierre Lesnier who predicted the wind to increase in the afternoon – and indeed it certainly did with more than 30 knots true on the clock. Lesnier’s prediction was impressively accurate and his suggestion that things might quieten down by this morning also looks right – but will it be enough to convince the committee that all will be well on the race course?

Some sailors – Brad Butterworth from Numbers for one – reckoned at least some yachts should have raced – “that’s what they’re designed for,” he told me – but a straw poll of skippers suggested that the committee on this occasion had got it right and that the chance of carnage had been correctly avoided. This afterall, is not a grand prix event?

As the press were told in a special conference, ‘security issues’, not just the weather and the 2.5m swell in the bay, had been taken into account and this was clearly a reference to the tragic accident in Cannes last week when Wilf Tolhust was killed in a port and starboard incident on a windy day in the Regates Royales. This sobering incident has clearly focused attention on the point at which weather conditions make this type of racing dangerous.