With the recent launching of Rambler 88, George David (New York, N.Y./Newport, R.I.) is eyeing the next Les Voiles de St. Barth – scheduled for its sixth edition April 13-18, 2015 – as an early and critical step in getting his new yacht racing.
The once CEO of United Technologies who vastly expanded that corporation's global footprint, David has made an equally world-class name for himself and his previous Ramblers (a 90 and a 100 footer) in the yacht racing world, winning high-profile regattas and breaking, if not shattering, one prominent distance race record after another: Rolex Buenos Aires to Rio (2008), RORC Caribbean 600 (2011), Newport to Bermuda Race (2012) and Block Island Race (2011 and again in 2013) included.
So if David should find his way again to greatness, and there's no reason to think he shouldn't, we'll see the indications in the next few months as Rambler 88 trials in Rhode Island and trains in Florida.
“We're targeting the Transatlantic Race 2015 (for which Rambler 100 holds the record), but the RORC Caribbean 600 and Les Voiles de St. Barth are right up there, too,” said David when asked what events on Rambler 88's schedule would be most important. “Les Voiles de St. Barth is a great venue and event. It starts with St. Barth and all that means, plus typically-solid sailing breezes that bend around the island and have their gusts and lulls. This is a regatta where you need to get in front and stay in front; it rewards those who can sail where they want.”
David should know. His Rambler team has competed in all but one and won three of the five Les Voiles de St. Barth regattas held thus far. And although the event traditionally does not include long-distance racing like the events in which David hopes to post records, the short- and middle-distance races around and among the leeward islands that surround the eight-square-mile collectivity of St. Barth provide boat handling practice that surely can serve well the team's lofty ambitions on longer routes.
The four days of racing (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with a lay day on Thursday) also will help answer the pressing two-pronged question on everyone's mind: “What will Rambler 88 look like, and how will she sail?” As both owner and skipper who has been deeply involved in every aspect of the new build, David says the details of performance dynamics are deep in the design: “Along with (designer) Juan Kouyoumdjian, we debated length overall for a long time. We had the experience of longer/larger with Rambler 100 and concluded that boat was just too powerful but equally heavy. We'll see on the water.”
Meanwhile, Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, Minn./Naples, Fla.), an entrepreneur who has founded several highly successful businesses, is also preparing for an ambitious 2015 racing season with his Judel/Vrolijk-designed 72 footer Bella Mente, and his Bella Mente Racing team will join the racing and festivities at Les Voiles de St. Barth for its second time. Fauth expects to sail handicap under CSA against other large boats such as Rambler 88, but three or four additional Maxi 72s on the line are what he's hoping to see. President of the Maxi 72 class (formerly the Mini Maxi Class), Fauth explained that class owners were polled on where they wanted to sail next year, and Les Voiles made the final cut for the schedule.
“Of course, Les Voiles de St. Barth offers spectacular racing and social activities, so it was a popular addition,” said Fauth. “The 72s are well suited to the coastal racing format and perform very well in what can be blustery trade winds of the Caribbean.”
Fauth added that the most significant change on Bella Mente is a new Southern Spars mast with C6 rigging by Composite Rigging. “We worked very hard to design and build this mast to be the ‘all purpose' mast for Bella Mente,” he said. “We will have a sea trial in December, and our first racing event with the new spar will be Key West Race Week in January.” (Bella Mente won the Mini Maxi Class there in 2014.)
Significant core crew changes have also been made, including Terry Hutchinson as tactician, Skip Baxter, Brian MacInnes, James Dagg, Jim Turner, and a few more still to be determined. Adrian Stead also will serve as Strategist for some events. “We are very excited about the fresh perspective these crew will bring to our racing. Our returning crew members are excited to work with the new team members, and we kick that off in December.”
Like with Rambler, distance racing is a high priority in the Bella Mente camp, especially the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Rolex Fastnet Race. “Obviously we are looking to be the top IRC finisher in those classic distance races; we have come close in both, but this year we are looking to get the win,” said Fauth.
As for Les Voiles de St. Barth, nothing less than “great conditions and great competition” are expected. “St. Barth is such a fantastic place to race; it's easy to confirm this event on the schedule every year,” said Fauth. “The hospitality from the organizers is second-to-none, and we are really looking forward to getting back there!”
On the water, Les Voiles de St. Barth offers a combination of longer tactical coastal courses as well as multiple short-course days. Shoreside activities include Race Village gatherings and parties with live music each day/evening; a special crew party at Shell Beach on Wednesday evening; the watersports-filled (or alternatively rest-full) Lay Day on Thursday; and a concluding Awards Party with fireworks on Saturday. Competing boats can arrange for berthing at Gustavia's inner harbor and protected anchorage on the western side of the island of St. Barthelemy where the Quai Général de Gaulle is the event's headquarters. (Concierge services are offered for help in planning.)