Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez: Once upon a time in Saint Tropez…

It was amidst a soundtrack comprising hand canons on large schooners, sea shanties from the schooner Naema and the drone of bagpipes from the top spreader of the gaff schooner Elena, that the 3,000 sailors competing at Les Voiles returned to port this evening, delighted by their day of fierce competition in a capricious breeze.

The large schooners vying for the Rolex Trophy, together with eight groups of classic yachts, managed to rack up one fine race today, light airs making things tactical. Meantime, the Modern sailboats completed their third race of the week on a coastal course, along the fringes of the gulf to the great delight of onlookers.

The gaff schooner Elena gets among the racing fleet – Gilles Martin-Raget pic

With strong breeze at the start of the week and light to medium wind today, the five groups of Modern sailboats have had it all out on the racetrack. Suffice to say tomorrow evening’s winners will have posted a very consistent performance, given the great range of weather conditions served up at this year’s Les Voiles.

With less than 5 knots on the start line today, the hunt for breeze became a complete obsession, with some of the series being subjected to two General Recalls. Fortunately, the coastal course towards Pampelonne saw the breeze pick up a tad over the course of the afternoon, enabling them to add another race to their tally.

With less pressure and less swell, the leader board has been severely shaken up. Indeed, the TP52s in IRC C (BMW Trophy) were impressed after the fantastic win posted by Robert Gwozdz’s Grand Soleil 44 Es Entia.

Pretty as a picture in St Tropez – Gilles Martin-Raget pic

Furthermore, the crew on Nanoq not only secured second place in today’s race, but they’re also now in a position to vie for outright victory tomorrow as the other big player among the TP52s since Monday, Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste, is currently down in the sixth spot.

It’s a similar scenario in IRC B (North Sails Trophy), with the First 53 Yaziga bagging sixth place in a race won by the rival First 53, Patrick Schmidt’s Ritual, ahead of the Solaris 50 Nergy. As a result, Albert Batzill’s Baltik 50 Music is in with a chance of a podium place tomorrow for what will be the last day of racing for this fleet.

The gigantic schooner Elena of London has dominated play in elapsed time in the light airs of the gulf and is naturally at the top of the Rolex Trophy rankings. However, her handicap has caused her to lose her grip on the lead tonight, albeit by a matter of minutes, to the benefit of the schooner Viveka (Pine 1929). Danish schooner, Orianda completes the podium.

Close up of the Moderns racing – Gilles Martin-Raget pic

In the Grand Tradition category, there is precious little separating Halloween (Fife 1926), today’s winner, Tuiga (Fife 1909) and Sumurun (Fife 1914), which are competing for the Besserat de Bellefon Trophy.

There is also a battle royal among the magnificent gaff cutters, which notably include the three stunning P Class yachts. The 10mR Marga (Liljegren 1910) has the upper hand over Gaudeamus (Barg 1914) and the venerable Kismet (Fife 1896).

Of particular note in the Epoque Marconi category vying for the Byblos Trophy is the defeat suffered by Blitzen (Sparkman & Stephens 1938), which was just pipped to the post by the Olin Stephens design Skylark (1937).

Seven schooners are competing for the Rolex Trophy and have been putting on a real show in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez since the start of the week. All of them have a rather unique history coloured by the imagination of over a century of architectural genius. Here’s a brief outline…

Aschanti IV of Vegesack (Gruber 1954). Marconi schooner. Previous names: Marie Pierre – Afaneti – Aschanti of Saba.

34.80 m, steel hull. Vegesack is a charming little whale fishing port to the north of Bremen, on the river Wesel

Elena of London (Herreshoff 2009) Gaff rig schooner. Built in 2009, Elena is a meticulous reconstruction of the 1928 transatlantic race record holder of the same name. 55 m. Steel hull.

Naema (Mylne 2013) gaff rig schooner, 41 m, steel hull. Previous name: Noelani.

Orianda Schooner (Dahlstrom 1937). 26 m. Built in Denmark for the country’s royal family. Built of oak.

Puritan Gaff rig schooner (Alden 1930) 36 m. Steel hull, served as a patrol boat for the US coastguard during the war.

Shenandoah of Sark Gaff rig schooner – three master (Ferris 1902). 54 m. Steel hull. Weight: 300 tonnes!

Viveka (Payne 1929) Marconi schooner with staysails. 25 m with no boom on the foremast. Cedar and mahogany hull on an oak frame.

Georges Korhel, Principal Race Officer commented on the day: “We switched today’s starts around so the Classic yachts were invited to set sail from 11:00 hours, whilst the Modern yachts were scheduled in from 12:30 hours.

“Our reasoning was simple. To give the Classic yachts more of an opportunity to compete in the day’s light breeze. It’ll be a similar set-up tomorrow too. Indeed, to enable the boats to make the most of the expected Mistral, the Classics will set off at 10:00 hours, followed at 11:00 hours by the Modern yachts.”

All information: http://www.lesvoilesdesaint-tropez.fr

Maguelonne Turcat

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