Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez – Variation on a Theme

– The Classic yachts put on a show at Les Issambres
– Modern yachts: the rapid IRC Cs make light of the weather
– My Song lifts the Maxi Club 55 Cup

The endless summer in Saint Tropez unveiled a day full of contrasts today and treated the Modern and Classic yachts to some temperamental conditions, which called for the sailors to draw on all their talent and inspiration. However, a rather shifty E’ly wind in terms of strength and direction, filled in and enabled another race to be validated for each of these large groups of traditional yachts and pure racer-cruisers. Solely the Maxis were absent on this their lay day, but they’ll be back in action tomorrow, Thursday, for some frenzied jousting offshore of Pampelonne, whilst the other fleets celebrate the creative spirit of Les Voiles with a day devoted to Challenges and Centenarians.

The Classics show off their finesse
The Classic yachts set sail in two phases today. The expected E’ly wind put in a timid appearance in the gulf at midday and with it came the promise of a prompt start to racing. The reality was rather different. Once the pretty gaffers set off on a 12-mile course for Les Issambres, the wind gods ran out of puff, leaving the Race Committee, the rest of the Classic fleet and the 4 Modern classes floundering in the warm sunshine until the starting gun released them on their way at 14:00 hours. The Marconi rigs, spurred on by the sleek 12mRs, yawls and Big Boats thrilled the spectators, perfectly lined up along the start zone and luffing up in unison on the starting signal. Kiwi Magic, the 12 m 1986 Farr design had the edge in the middle of the line and was first to nimbly put in a tack in the light airs, to windward of her rivals. It was a similar scenario a few moments later as the yawls battling for the Rolex Trophy took flight. Once again it was Manitou (Olin Stephens 1937), which snatched the reins and resolutely kept the rest of the fleet on her tail. The ballet of crews took on an unusual intensity during a particularly hotly contested start, the gaff and Bermudan schooners, ketches and 15mRs all trying to hunt out the same vein of breeze on the line. A display of majesty, spectacle and pure regatta racing… Halloween (Fife 1926) and Belle Aventure (Fife 1929), skilfully found an opening at the committee boat end, the light airs demanding both anticipation and dexterity from the crews. Handling the enormous cathedrals of sails and the giant waterline lengths of the Big Boats is never easy, yet this category managed to round off the Classic yacht starts with poise and purpose. The wind continued to build at that point, much to the relief of the race committees, making it possible for the sailboats to really accelerate between the various course marks close to Les Issambres, before finishing off with a beautiful long run gliding along under spinnaker on flat seas. Sheer delight for the helmsmen and women and the spectators thronged along the seawall.

Change of pace for the Modern yachts
A little later, the gulf was utterly transformed off Le Portalet for the fleet of Modern yachts racing in IRC. The E’ly wind was easing, smoothing the ruffles out of the race zone and whetting the appetites of the sailors who were keen to let their steeds fly. The IRC Cs competing for the BMW Trophy immediately showed what they were made of, leading the way around a lovely looped circuit in the western gulf spanning around 17 miles. With the wind filling in, the manoeuvres became increasingly spirited and the top spots took some earning. Before the breeze deserted the racetrack, the leaders in IRC C slugged it out in a fine mano a mano. Adrien Follin and his Cape 31 Give Me Five dominated this group, in contact with Daguet 3, Frédéric Puzin’s Ker 46. Meantime Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog actually proved to be top dog in IRC B, whilst Yaziga, Philippe Falle’s First 53, really raised her game today, she too scoring a bullet. Doubtless the podium will be split between these two crews, that is unless Peter Byford and his Mylius Daguet 3 manage to sneak amongst them. Richard Fromentin’s JPK 11 Cocody clearly loves Saint Tropez in IRC D. Still early days, he has the edge over Yves Ginoux’s Farr 36 Long Nose XI. Absolutely smashing it with two wins already is Guy Claes and the JPK 10 Expresso3 in IRC E. A potential winner then on Saturday for these pacey racers measuring 8 to 12 metres. However, the threat posed by Pascal Fan and his King of Blue or Peter Simon and Julia is all too real.

Maxi Club 55 Cup
Today the Maxis made the most of their lay day, but Magic Carpet3 (Wally) and My Song (Swan 80) had another challenge on their hands as they embraced the true spirit of Les Voiles and the Nioulargue, on a course bound for Patrice de Colmont’s Club 55. In the light airs, it was My Song which won this friendly duel. Tomorrow, Thursday, two more Club 55 Cups, the “historic” and the “classic”, will be disputed on this legendary course.

Thursday, Challenge Day
In a nod to the creation of the Nioulargue, ancestor to Les Voiles, Thursday heralds Challenge Day. As such, the crews challenge one another on the Nioulargue course with two or several boats according to whatever takes their fancy at the time. Out on the water we’re sure to see a trio of 12mRs made up of South AustraliaFrench Kiss and Kiwi Magic, plus duels between Cacou and Jobic, and Couleur Soleil versus Synergie, to name but a few…

And the Centenarian race
Created in 2011, the Gstaad Yacht Club’s Centenarian Trophy boasts a specially created and constantly refined handicap, which enables boats of very different sizes with a variety of rigs to compete on an equal footing in a race where the first boat across the line secures line honours.

Programme 2023 (all results and race information online on Les Voiles website)
Wednesday 4 October: regattas for the Modern and Classic yachts, Day Off for the Maxis and Club 55 Maxi Cup
Thursday 5 October: Challenge Day and Club 55 Cup for the Modern and Classic yachts, regattas for the Maxis
Friday 6 October: regattas for the whole fleet, Prize-giving for the Maxis
Saturday 7 October: regattas for the Modern and Classic yachts,
Sunday 8 October: Prize-giving for the Modern and Classic yachts

Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez
President: Pierre Roinson
Principal Race Officer: Georges Korhel
Regatta Secretary: Frédérique Fantino
On-the-water logistics: Gilles Doyen
Communication and Executive Assistant: Chloé de Brouwer
Editorial: Denis van den Brink
Websites: www.lesvoilesdesaint-tropez.fr ; www.societe-nautique-saint-tropez.fr
Facebook: les Voiles de Saint-Tropez Officiel

Photo credit: SNST / Gilles Martin-Raget
Video: SNST/Guilain Grenier, 6G

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