An international gathering of foiling boat and board classes, racing in the Caribbean, in November: What better formula could there be for a modern day sailing regatta? This is exactly what Sirius Events have created with their brand new Martinique Flying Regatta, taking place over 17-24 November.
The present revolution in foiling represents the most significant development in performance sailing has ever seen. It has touched every aspect from the giant Ultime trimarans and IMOCA 60s competing in the Route du Rhum, to the America’s Cup catamarans and monohulls to the Nacra 17 catamarans raced in the Olympic Games.
Martinique Flying Regatta will be the Caribbean’s first ever foiling regatta and this first edition has already attracted six foiling classes and 50 sailors.
The classes involved are the GC32 catamaran, used on the Extreme Sailing Series and the GC32 Racing Tour, plus its smaller brother the Flying Phantom. These resemble smaller versions of the foiling catamarans used in the last America’s Cups, the GC32 capable of peak speeds approaching 40 knots.
The GC32s competing are NORAUTO powered by Team France, skippered by Route du Rhum and Volvo Ocean Race winner turned America’s Cup skipper Franck Cammas. They will face Team France Jeune, who represented France in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in 2017, again led by 23-year-old Robin Follin.
Of the Martinique Flying Regatta, Cammas says: “It is a good opportunity to have foiling boats in the Caribbean to show them to the people there. Having all the classes together is very good. With the young guys from Team France Jeune we can match race in a much better place than Brittany in the winter!”
No event such as this is complete without the Moth, the singlehanded dinghy which began the foiling revolution. The Moth class remains the largest and most competitive foiling class globally, regularly contested by the world’s top sailors, from America’s Cup skippers to Olympic medallists.
Some of the biggest names competing at Martinique Flying Regatta will be in this class, including Figaro sailors Anthony Marchand and Pierre Quiroga and France’s top ranked 49er sailors, Julien D'Ortoli and Noé Delpech, who finished fifth at Rio 2016. However leading the charge is likely to be 2013 Mini Transat winner Benoit Marie, who finished 7th at this year’s Bacardi Moth World Championship.
“It is great to bring this type of racing to these islands, because they deserve it,” said Marie, who is a regular visitor to Martinique. “It is a great place to sail: 28°C, sunny and we are hoping for some trade winds. I am looking forward to it. It is not often we see the Flying Phantoms, the GC32s and the kitefoilers. You have to keep up with their developments, especially the Kitefoilers because they go really quick.”
The Moth is also the most international class taking part with entries from the UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. From the Netherlands is Calle Koster, once a leading Olympic 470 sailor with his brother Sven, but who now mainly races big boats. “The attraction is sailing my Moth in the Caribbean – I don’t think it gets much better than that, with the blue water and the fantastic temperatures,” Koster admits. “I have been doing a lot of sailing in the Caribbean over the last couple of years on big boats and every time I am there I am dreaming of having my Moth there. Now it is actually happening!
“The organisers have done a great job to make it cost effective for everyone to get themselves and their boats there, with deals on shipping, flights and hotels. There is not much going on in Europe at this time of year, so it is good to send your boat away and be able to use it in a much nicer location.”
Resembling the Moth, but simplified, and marginally longer and wider is Onefly – a one design created by Sam Manuard and developed by former America’s Cup skipper, Sébastien Col. Made with less exotic materials – the foils are carbon, but the hull is fibreglass, the wings alloy – the boat is designed as an entry level singlehanded foiler that is both less expensive and slightly easier to fly.
Among the competitors in this class are Gabriel Skozek, runner up in the Longtze sportsboat World Championship in 2015, and leading Figaro sailor, Team MACIF’s Martin le Pape.
The two board classes competing are the Windfoil (foiling windsurfer) and KiteFoil (foiling kiteboard). Among the former is Hélène Noesmoen, a leading Olympic RS:X windsurfer, who this year won the World Cup Series Miami event. However all eyes will be on the KiteFoilers following their adoption as a mixed class for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Several of the world’s top kitefoilers are entered, including Kieren le Borgne and Axel Mazella, ranked 10th and 13th in this year’s IKA KiteFoil GoldCup rankings. However most high profile among them will be IMOCA 60 skipper, Morgan Lagravière. Over the last year he has got serious about kitefoiling, having competed in the French championship and the last GoldCup event in Sardinia.
“It will be really good,” says Lagravière of Martinique Flying Regatta. “It is easy to sail in these summery conditions, compared to Brittany at the moment. I am looking forward to seeing the dynamic between all of the classes. It will be good to spend time with them.” He warns that this is not a prelude to another Olympic campaign: “I just want to improve. My goal is to return to the IMOCA class.”
The first competitors have already arrived in Fort de France, where racing will take place on the Baie de Fort de France. Here, with the bay protected by the island, competitors can enjoy flat water, winds of around 15 knots and temperatures of 28-30°C.
Manfred Ramspacher, CEO of Paris-based event organiser Sirius Events commented: “Creating an event exclusively dedicated to foiling classes will be a great first for the Caribbean. Martinique is an ideal place to hold this event as Fort de France's beautiful bay is perfectly suited for foiling due to its flat water and its regular winds. Thanks to the support of the Martinique Tourism Board as the main partner, this event should contribute to making Martinique an essential destination for sailing.”
Martinique Flying Regatta has been created and is organised by Sirius Events in partnership with the Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme and the city of Fort de France city plus Corsair International, Grand Port Maritime de Fort de France and Ligue de Voile de Martinique.
17 November: Practice launch day
18 November: Practice and demonstrations
19 November: Martinique exploration day
20 November: Race day 1
21 November: Race day 2 – long-distance, followed by skippers dinner
22-23 November: Race days 3-4
24 November: Race day 5 – prize-giving – special dinner