The Excellent Adventures of Island Girl: Les Voiles de St Tropez

Fast-forward two weeks. Crew arrived, trained, raced and gone. With a fair amount of partying in between. After this regatta I have newfound admiration and respect for the Race Committees in both Australia and the USA where I have been fortunate enough to race. Not that I did not appreciate them before but now even more so. I will admit that the weather was challenging, however the lack of communication with the competitors was staggering and the inability to get races off on time unbelievable.  

For example the first day was a good solid 15 knots from a constant direction however the 11am start time came and went with not a word from the committee. Finally the answering pennant was raised indicating a postponement. Still not a word on the radio. We finally started two and half hours late. You could not go far from the RC as they gave no warning as to when the AP would drop.

Sadly this was to be the briefest delay of the regatta. The latest start was 3.30pm – yes first and only race of the day and then a 19 mile passage race. We were getting back to the marina at 7pm. I know this is yacht racing but as I said communication was terrible. We did get the courses over the radio – 90% in French with the occasional English translation, but that was usually incorrect.  Just little things like the course number being translated incorrectly. We were lucky enough to have our token Irishman, Marcus Spillane, as our navigator and he had enough French to decipher the communications.

The best/worst example was one day the postponement being flown on shore and announced on the radio with a further announcement to be made at 12 noon. Well that came and went then 1pm and finally about 1.30 we saw some of our neighbours leaving. Apparently the AP had been dropped and advised via the Internet on the regatta website. Ok I have vented, now on with the good parts.

The crew were great fun, very professional and considering we had never sailed together before or raced this boat we finished a credible sixth out of 35 overall. We were in third for the most part but the last day was tricky and the light did not suit the mighty “Island Girl”. It is so much easier putting the boat back in to cruise mode with ten people rather than four.

On the lay day, Thursday, James and I drove to Nice where our son Nathan was racing in the Extreme Sailing Series in the Extreme 40 GAC Pindar. Marcus came with us as our driver, and yes we got there quickly. I think Marcus has missed his calling in life as he should been in Formula One. We had been watching the racing via the Internet for the whole trip so it was amazing to be close enough to actually see it live.

After a small false start as the car had a flat battery, we made it in time to see Nath before he hit the water. I have not seen him since May so it was a wonderful reunion. Marcus had a contact with the SAP team, one of the other competitors, so we got the full VIP treatment. He also got a ride as the sixth man on SAP.

The boats take an extra guest sailor for every race. Unfortunately the wind was not playing nicely and at best there was only ten knots. Nathan started the day with a second and kept in form to be fourth overall after eight races. Dinner with the crew on a roof top in Nice was the icing on the cake for a fabulous day.

As our regatta finished on the Saturday I borrowed the crew car and drove back to Nice to watch Nath on Sunday. Again I was wined and dined in the SAP VIP area and had a perfect view of the course. The racing is intense with eight races in a day and they only last about 12 minutes each. It is all about the start.

The competition is against some of the best in the world including Sir Ben Ainslie, Leigh McMillan, Peter Burling and Morgan Larson just to name a few. This is Nathan’s first foray into a multi hull and he came into the scene half way through the season so the learning curve has been huge. I was so happy to be there to see his best overall result of sixth out of 11.  

Next stop for this fleet is Sydney in December and I highly recommend all my Aussie followers to beg, borrow or steal a boat and get on the harbour to watch this spectacle. Ok maybe not steal, as I don’t want to be an accessory. It was sad to say goodbye to my boy and seeing him has made me rather homesick, especially for my three grand daughters.

Back to Port Grimaud and “Island Girl” with our next stop being Hyeres to catch up with some friends in the Laser masters. We have Sharon back on board with us for a week and she is now doing watches by herself. This makes a big difference in the over-nighters.

– Marita Wilmot

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