Perfect conditions for the start of an exciting new regatta in the 'St Tropez of the Caribbean'
Day one’s sublime sailing conditions did their fair part in respecting the death of pro sailor Peter ‘Spike’ Doriean, a crewmember of Rambler, the maxi-yacht favourite taking part in the first Les Voiles de St Barths. The 38-year old Aussie’s accidental fatal fall at the weekend preceding the event has obviously overshadowed the start to a well-organized and anticipated regatta. Despite their reservations, his teammates aboard the 90ft Rambler took part in racing today following his family blessing (that’s what he would have wished) – and promptly did him proud with a line-honours and corrected-time victory in the Superyacht class. A minute’s silence was announced over VHF and held prior to the two starts at 11am this morning.
Les Voiles de St Barths is the new Caribbean equivalent of the long-standing St Tropez regatta, held in what’s dubbed the St Tropez of the Caribbean. It involves a nice combination of large, mid-size and classic yachts taking part in some serious racing, where, say the organizers, ‘the spirit of the event is to have fun’. Race Director Luc Poupon has done well to design 20 different potential courses around the small island, to offer challenging sailing for all classes in all conditions.
With perfect force 5-6 tradewind conditions, the two starts comprising 23 crews got off without incident in the flat water in the lee of the island, with the W-76 Wild Horses dominating the first start – her sister ship White Wings appeared to miss-time their approach, but undeterred, the all-female team clawed back the deficit to within boatlengths. But it was Donald Tofias’ Wild Horses that still headed the Classic Group on true and corrected time.
In the Superyacht class, Peter Harrision’s 115ft Farr Ketch Sojana hit the line at speed, while allowing some space at the pin-end for her smaller competitors. Her precision rounding of the first mark belayed the fact she was in expert hands of Peter Holmberg, with Justin Slattery tidily working the foredeck. But to windward of Sojana at the line was Rambler, who opened out a 30s lead by the first mark and never looked back – the long close and broad reaching legs and 2-3m swell on the windward side of the island were conditions that suited the ex Alfa-Romeo perfectly. With her first 15ft of waterline flying clear of the water she reportedly surfed at up to 25knots.
With a demanding 25nm course set on the flat-water leeward side, it was tight going in both the Racing class and the Cruiser Racer class, with the ever-reliable J/122 of James Dobbs winning the day in the former and the First 45 L’esperance spearheading the latter.
The object of Voiles de St Barths is to become part of the serious Caribbean circuit, by tempting the sailors competing in the St Barths Bucket in March and Antigua Sailing Week in late April to stay. ‘We may not have as many boats taking part as we would have wished (23)’, commented Poupon, ‘but in terms of talent, there is very good participation.’
Photo: Rambler to windward of St Barths, by Christophe Jouany / Les Voiles de Saint-Barth