Sunday, 26 September 2010

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

by Maguelonne Turcat and Giles Pearman

Organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2010 will take place from Saturday, 25 September to Sunday, 3 October. For this edition, competitors will be divided into three categories: Modern, Spirit of Tradition and Tradition.

Like other legendary races, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, formerly known as La Nioulargue, was born of a challenge set by some passionate racers. In 1981 Patrice de Colmont, restorer of the famous Beach 55 in Pampelonne, had the idea to race a defined distance against a fellow navigator, American Dick Jayson on Pride, between Saint-Tropez, Saint-Raphaël and La Nioulargue, the buoy that marks the famous shallows in the Mediterranean.

After a few years other sailors decided to join them in their racing and thus began the great adventure that is Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. Every year sees a record number of participants and the organizers can be proud of this successful event that links tradition and modernity by uniting historic sailing vessels with those on the cutting edge of technology. The last big get-together of the Mediterranean sailing season, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez will welcome more than 300 boats from all over the world for a week of races and in-port festivities.

This exceptional event gives both spectators and amateur sailors the chance to not only bump into a variety of famous sailors such as Dennis Conner, Marc Pajot, Loïck and Bruno Peyron or even Bruno Troublé, but also the leaders in the business world who are keen on sailing like Lindsay Owen Jones or Jean-Charles Decaux.

The frst week of October is often full of surprises in regards to the weather. Although the bay of Saint-Tropez may be known for its light breezes, it is not unusual during the week to see the mistral wind come by and spice up the regatta, offering up some of the most beautiful sailing scenes imaginable. The number of internationally well-known photographers present on site during the event is a strong indicator of the popularity and infuence of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.

Les Voiles 2010

The 2010 edition of Les Voiles de Saint Tropez promises to be exceptional. In spite of the intentional restriction on the number of participants, the Société Nautique is preparing to play host to nearly 300 traditional and modern competitors, which equates to over 3,500 crew members gathering together in the bay of Saint Tropez for a week of racing and festivities. The year 2010 will be marked by the number 15: 15 countries represented, 15 registered Wallys, 15 traditional hundred year old boats on the Var region’s race zone.

Modern: a record number of Wallys!

Combining exceptional performance, uncluttered design and unique styling, the Wallys still form one of the major attractions of Les Voiles. No less than 15 craft are registered this year, making it one of the season’s largest gatherings of Wallys. Several boats launched in 2009 will be tacking about Saint Tropez for the first time: the Wally 80 Bagheera, the 90 Highland Fling and the 100 Indio, to name but a few. The suspense still remains unresolved as regards finding out who will succeed Y3K, winner in 2009. Magic Carpet2 made a very strong impression by winning this year’s Palmavela (Palma) and the Nespresso Cup (Portofino), whilst Indio stood out in the Loro Piana races (Porto Cervo).

Velsheda's bow. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

Among the largest craft, including the gigantic masts of the J classes, Shamrock V and Velsheda, we will be able to see the highly elegant silhouette of the ketch that holds the Atlantic record under sail, Mari Cha III.

Not as long but just as aesthetically pleasing, the Tofinou 9.50 from the Latitude 46 yard, which blends classic lines with a modern hull, carbon fittings and a teak deck, will be out in force with over 15 participating boats. Such a line-up that will enable them to enjoy a specific ranking and race in elapsed time.

Also much awaited at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez are Black Bird and Black Legend, two examples of the brand new “code zero” built by the Blackpepper yard in the Arcachon basin with the participation of the renowned sailor Yves Parlier.

Tradition: 15 competing hundred year olds

With the honour going to the old boats, it’s Partridge who will this year steal the thunder from the largest traditional craft by celebrating her 125th birthday with grace and elegance. With her plumb bow, her massive bowsprit and her beautiful extended counter stern, Partridge is a small copy of Galatea, the English America’s Cup challenger in 1886. Recovered from a mud berth, her restoration took nearly twenty years of passion and determination to rediscover her original sailing capabilities and the charm of her characteristic outline.

Among the amazing stories of traditional yachting, Skal doubtlessly takes the prize for resurrection. This 16m gaff cutter, designed in 1930 by the American architect Philip Rodes, successfully participated in two transatlantic races, before gradually losing her original lines in the UK as she passed from one owner to the next.

Purchased by her current owner in 2003, the boat suffered a major peril of the sea during a delivery trip to France, which resulted in her sinking following an engine failure off the Raz Blanchard. The Stagnol yard was then contacted to organise her refloating by the SNSM (the French equivalent of the RNLI) and divers from BSM29. It was a miracle that the boat could be rescued in this way. The disaster seriously damaged the structure, but extensive and delicate restoration work enabled her to be returned to her original configuration.

Added to this, the 2010 event is likely to see the arrival on Saint Tropez’ race zone of Atlantic, the replica of Charlie Barr’s famous 70 m schooner. From the moment she was launched in the United States in 1903, the yacht from the New York Yacht Club was noted for her striking beauty and speed, which she demonstrated during her first sea trials by reaching 20 knots. At that time nobody could have guessed that, just two years later, she would set a record for traversing the North Atlantic which was to remain unbeaten for nearly a century. The replica of Atlantic was launched in March 2009 at the Van Der Graaf yard in Holland, after a two year build, before being rigged in La Rochelle. This year will mark her very first season in the Mediterranean.

All the traditional yachts measuring over 16 metres will, for the fifth year running, be eligible for the Rolex Trophy, which was won in 2008 and 2009 by the very elegant New York 40, Rowdy.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez