The 22nm round-the-island race was the icing on the cake of a successful first running of this regatta

After three days of racing on various courses, which were physically and tactically demanding, Luc Poupon and the race directors scheduled a race all the way around the island of St. Barts to close this first highly successful edition of the Voiles de Saint-Barth. A 22-mile long race between the rocks in a trade wind that remained strong throughout the week. In order to ensure that the festive atmosphere of the event was respected, the 23 yachts taking part all lined up on the same starting line at the same time at 1100 hrs to be given the off.

Rambler, thinking of Peter Doriean

As soon as the start procedures got underway, a huge tropical squall meant that the race area and the crews were drenched. A few minutes later, the skies brightened and as is often the case it suddenly went flat calm in the entrance to Gustavia harbour and on the start line. The yachts waited for a while with their sails flapping and the race directors launched the start procedures again, as the trade wind made its presence felt again with an 18-knot easterly blowing. The final clearance buoy set up less than a mile from the start saw a huge traffic jam build up, with the two giants deciding to come in on different tacks, Sojana on starboard and Rambler on the port tack. The tone was set, and this final race of the Voiles de Saint-Barth was underway with the same thrilling competition as on the previous races this week. In just over two hours, the impressive Reichel/Pugh-designed Rambler completed the course that was very tactical because of all the marks, but were finally beaten by Sojana on corrected time by just over one minute.
George David’s Rambler crew remained modest, and as they crossed the finishing line they were thinking of the Australian, Peter Doriean, their friend, who recently died in a tragic accident. As the boat’s tactician, the American Ken Read, explained earlier, the best way for the twenty men that make up the crew could pay homage to their team mate was to do their best throughout this event. The trade wind also helped her to show her full amazing potential. The speed difference with the Farr designed boat was simply too great for Peter Holmberg’s men on Sojana, who included the French sailors Loïck Peyron, Lionel Péan and Jacques Vincent.

Wild Horses… by 4 seconds!

It was the day’s big match after the huge success on Friday of the women on the W76 White Wings. The one all the crews and spectators at the Voiles de Saint Barth were looking forward to. Would Faraday Rosenberg and her 15 ladies repeat their performance, winning today’s race and in so doing win the event against the sistership, Wild Horses sailed by Donald Tofias and his boys? Everything remained uncertain throughout the 22 theoretical miles of the course around St. Barts. Clearly more and more at ease in their precise choice of route, White Wings once again showed their determination at the start and passed the clearance buoy way out in front of Wild Horses. The two big W 76 boats sped along leeward of the island, and it was in the long tacks in seas that were building that the all-female crew would ease off a little. Enough in any case to allow Tofias to get back in the race. He made a final dash for the finish on the downwind stretch and won by four tiny seconds. So victory went to Wild Horses in this particularly exciting Classic division, which was extremely fascinating to watch with such elegant racing, and with the presence of Kate, the gaff rigger recently built based on designs by Mylne, on the starting line to offer inspiration.

The sailors from St Maarten were just too much!

Robert Velasquez came to the Voiles de Saint-Barth confident in his crew from the Dutch Antilles and in the intrinsic quality of his First 45 L’esperance, having acquired decades of experience sailing around the West Indies. With four wins in four races, he was beaming with joy this evening and he made his pleasure felt, not finding the words to express his sheer enthusiasm, when talking about how kind the wind gods were this week. He triumphs at the top of the rankings in this group which included the largest number of participants at the Voiles, not and he never left the slightest chance for Raymond Magras’s valiant Dufour 34 Speedy Nemo, which had to make do with being runner up leaving David Cullen’s J 109 Pocket Rocket take third place.

The amazing J 122

Battling throughout the week against the splendid Swan 45 Puffy, belonging to the event’s godfather Patrick Demarchelier, the fast and daring little J 122 Lost Horizon skippered by the sailor from Antigua, James Dobbs triumphed this evening by achieving a fourth victory. Neither the strong breeze, not the heavy swell, which was sometimes very messy, nor the squally interludes seem to have affected Dobbs and his men, who found just the right tactics to overcome the power of the Swan and to see the name of their racing machine on the list of winners at this first edition of the Voiles de Saint-Barth

What they said:
Robert Velasquez (L’espérance) : Great week! great races! We’ll be back next year! My lads were fantastic and we’re really pleased to have won this first edition of the Voiles de Saint-Barth, by in fact winning all the races…

Karl James (Sojana) : We had a great fight with Rambler. There were some tough encounters as we rounded the marks. We really enjoyed this week of sailing, with a very fine crew, who enabled us to get the most out of Sojana. Now, I’m moving on to another giant, Ranger, the big J Class boat that will be racing in Antigua against her eternal rival Velsheda…

Some choice words from Loïck Peyron (Sojana): 2009 was a strange year; for the first time in thirty years, I didn’t sail across the Atlantic!
I was awarded the Red Cap. I’ve been anointed. Now I’m a real sailor!

Ken Read (Rambler): This great week of racing does not mean of course that we have forgotten about the loss of our dear friend, Peter Doriean. All the crew showed how professional they were throughout the races. We shan’t forget Peter. Life goes on. Rambler will be continuing to race in the States. As for me, I’ve got a lot of work waiting with the wonderful Puma Ocean Racing project.

Marlies Sanders, White Wings : Our crew was deliberately made up of women. There are sixteen of us in all under the control of our skipper Faraday Rosenberg. There is a fantastic atmosphere on board, with a great team spirit. Everyone helps each other all the time. We have been sailing rather like in a match race against Wild Horses, which is a W76 class that is absolutely identical to ours, except that she is in the hands of the men. So there is real rivalry between us. Our first day was not that great, as we were using it really to train, but we soon found our marks, finishing second in race N°2, and winning yesterday. The final day was therefore decisive, as if we had won it, we would have been on equal points with the boys and we would have won the event because of winning the final race. It almost happened! There’s an extraordinary atmosphere ashore, as it seems that everyone was supporting us and wanted to see us win. This was a fantastic week and we’re already making plans to come back next year.

 Photos: Rambler and L’Esperance both dominated their classes. Photos by Christophe Jouany / Les Voiles de Saint-Barth

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