From April 13-18 2015, Saint Barthélemy will play host to the sixth edition of Les Voiles de St Barth. No fewer than 80 boats and 1,000 sailors are expected to compete at the event, which has been a not-to-be-missed competitive gathering since its creation back in 2010, and for very good reason. The unique combination of sportsmanship and conviviality, which makes for excitement both on the water and ashore, attracts a growing number of competitors each year. Among them are some of the leading names in the sailing world, and they make an exceptional line-up at an event firmly anchored as one of the Caribbean’s major sailing meets.
Official Stage for the Maxi 72s
“Four days of top-level racing, concerts every evening and entertainment throughout the week – these make an explosive cocktail that has colored the great success and notoriety of Les Voiles de St. Barth since its first edition back in 2010,” says François Tolède, the competition’s Commissioner General. “For us, this sixth edition is a kind of realisation that the event is now clearly established on the international race schedule.” Similarly, the fact that the International Maxi Association (IMA) and the owners of the 72-foot Mini-Maxis have integrated Les Voiles de St. Barth into their 2015 program with the same ranking as prestigious races like the Caribbean 600, Key West Race Week, the Copa del Rey and the Fastnet Race is rather telling of the event’s increase in importance. And while Ken Read, Loïck Peyron, Peter Holmberg, Jim Swartz and Gavin Brady have already adorned the race’s winners list, a great many others have announced their intention to participate, including Bertrand de Broc, one of the figures from the Vendée Globe, and Brad Marsh, bowman for Groupama 4 skippered by Franck Cammas, the reigning champion of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Living up to Expectations
“In Saint Barth, we benefit from an extraordinary playing field, which is exposed to the tradewinds at varying degrees,” continues François Tolède. “The numerous surrounding islets serve as perfect course marks. In short, Saint Barth has all the ingredients that the most demanding racers dream of on the water. This sentiment is echoed on shore, as well, thanks to the event’s ‘French Touch,’ which translates as marvelous gastronomy and a welcome beyond compare.”
Tolède added that while the port infrastructure in Saint Barth is fairly limited, it is why the organisers have always aimed for a line-up of high quality rather than quantity. “We are justifiably proud that the history of Les Voiles de St. Barth is one of controlled growth and constant evolution and that we do not forget to remain in touch with the racers. They are the ones who make the event what it is, and we are here to live up to their expectations as best we can.” Indeed, this was one of the reasons why Tolède and Luc Poupon, Race Director of Les Voiles de St. Barth, travelled to the south of France last week to attend Les Voiles de Saint Tropez. “To attend an event of this kind enables us to get a better grasp of what the crews expect and find ways to flesh out our roster of top-flight competitors, whether they are from the Maxi or CSA classes. During the last edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, 15 nationalities were represented by different homeports for the entries, and 15 of the most highly recognizable American sailors joined our ranks. That was hugely satisfying, of course, and there’s no question that we also need to embrace our island fleets that are both English (from Antigua, the Virgin Islands…) and French (Guadeloupe, Martinique…) if we want to continue establishing a race that will stand the test of time. With six months to go until kick-off, we’re heading in the right direction on all fronts.”
Already a Healthy Entry List
To date, some 24 teams have officially announced their participation in Les Voiles de St. Barth 2015. Among them are devotees like the 72-footer Bella Mente, the Ker 43 Otra Vez and the TP 52s Balearia and Sorcha, as well as newcomers such as the 72-foot Ran V, the Volvo 60 Cuba Libre, and the Swans Northern Child and Stark Raving Mad. “If we compare the number of entries on October 1 with those this time last year, it equates to double the competitors, and better still, the line-up is more technical,” comments Luc Poupon, determined to put everything in place to ensure this sixth edition is a success. “As ever, the watchword is conviviality, so as to be a true reflection of the aspirations of modern yachtsmen and yachtswomen.”
– Kirsten Ferguson