Tuesday, April 6, 2010

D-day-1 for the first edition of the Voiles de Saint-Barth

All those who love fine yachting races in the wonderful setting of the Caribbean will have their eyes firmly focused on St. Barts from tomorrow when the first edition of the "Voiles" gets underway. Since 1992 and the now legendary "Loulou's regatta", never has the sailing community on the island been so involved. With the support of all the local bodies and the business community they are working to enable these turquoise waters once again to offer superb racing in the sunshine for the pleasure of sailors, who have come from all over the world. Thirty beautiful yachts and almost 200 sailors have turned up for this maiden event, which is set to become a regular on the Caribbean racing calendar.

Wind, sunshine, a festive and relaxed atmosphere, in conjunction with a serious organisation of races. These are some of the ingredients which François Tolède and Luc Poupon of the St Barts Yacht Club and his 45 volunteers are counting on to ensure that skippers and owners continue to enjoy themselves. "This return of sailing to St. Barts is in itself quite an event," explained François Tolède. "From this first year we want to please sailors and partners and ensure that the organisation goes smoothly, as they will be our best ambassadors to spread the word to other yachtsmen. The island magic is already working ashore. Everything is planned out on the water, in particular in terms of safety, so that the event is a happy one both at sea and back on dry land..."

The registration process went smoothly throughout the day today (Tuesday), and things will really get underway tomorrow morning with the first warning signal planned for 1100hrs local time (1700 hrs GMT)

A date on the calendar that is designed to last...
They were waiting for this and the St. Barts Yacht Club has done it. "They" are all those, who love elegant boats, who come to this place, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean come together, offering ideal sailing conditions with steady, strong breezes, turquoise seas and brilliant, warm sunshine. The friendly welcome and hospitality of St. Barts are well known. All that needed to be done was to offer a sporting challenge to encourage racers to turn up in large numbers from North America, but also from Europe, New Zealand and Australia. A challenge, which would allow those who love sailing an opportunity to enjoy the privilege of weaving their way around in the magic waters of the island of St. Barts.

Patron of this first edition of the "Voiles", the photographer Patrick Demarchelier, who lives on the island, is forgetting for one moment the world of fashion to escape aboard his Swan: "I’ve been enjoying sailing in these waters for a long time. I am of course delighted that is now possible to organise an event, bringing together all the attractions of the island and the surrounding waters. "The Voiles de Saint-Barth" is clearly a wish come true, a dream being fulfilled you might say, for those, who sail in the waters of Newport, Antigua and even the Solent, who are coming here to do battle in the sunny trade winds. This first edition looks like being a huge success in every way and I do not doubt for a moment that the “Voiles de Saint Barth” will become a regular date in amongst the leading events and unmissable regattas of the international yachting calendar."

For many years, the French sailor, Lionel Péan has been at the helm of Sojana, belonging to the British owner Peter Harrison. The big Farr-designed ketch has been a regular at yachting events in the Mediterranean and in Central America since 2003 and Lionel Péan is pleased to be in charge of Sojana this week in these waters that he knows so well and that he considers to be the most attractive you can find anywhere in the yachting world. "When the trade wind is blowing steadily in strength and direction, which looks like being the case this week, there are many possibilities open to the Race Committee for setting up tactically interesting races. There’s going to be some fine racing and that is something I enjoy...especially when we’re in warm waters," Lionel concluded with a smile.

Various courses in the trade wind
“The high-pressure area will guarantee that we’ll be in a trade wind that is steady in strength and direction” Luc Poupon, race director, appears to be very relaxed as he knows the island and the moods of the wind gods well. Indeed, the trade wind has been blowing strongly from the north east since the start of the week and looks like lasting throughout the regatta, “veering a little bit easterly in the middle of the week". So we can look forward to everything going without a hitch and the race directors have already drawn up no fewer than twenty different courses along the coast and around St. Barts, with the aim of ensuring a fair fight between the five classes taking part. Their choice will determine what sort of challenge the thirty crews will face this week. "There aren’t really any traps in the courses we have chosen" added Luc Poupon. "It takes a very long period of trade winds for any current phenomena to appear around the points. Our races are based around the islands and rocks. The sailors know the local phenomena in our waters, with wind shadows and acceleration around the headlands. However, they will have to be careful to avoid the shallows, and therefore keep away from the temptation of getting close to the beaches." The longest course is 32 miles and the shortest 15. It will of course be the strength of the wind that will determine each morning the course for that day. Luc Poupon and his team reserve the right to send the smaller boats on a shorter course, if the bigger boats are able to keep up high averages and cover the course at high speed.

Our thoughts go out to the Australian Peter ‘Spike’ Doriean
The American, Kenny Reed, skipper of the Maxi Puma turned up this morning aboard Rambler, but was clearly shocked by the tragic loss of Peter ‘Spike’ Doriean, who died in an accident yesterday (Monday 5th April), apparently after slipping over and falling to the floor in his bathroom in Saint-Martin. The 90-foot Reichel-Pugh designed Rambler (ex-Alfa Romeo I) is one of the stars that people are looking forward to seeing at the Voiles de Saint-Barth. Kenny Reed stated that his crew were very distressed, but that it was the will of Spike’s close ones that his memory should be honoured by them taking part in the event. So it is with great sadness and with their friend and fellow crewman on their minds that the sailors on Rambler will be taking part in this first edition of the "Voiles de Saint Barth".

Peter "Spike" Doriean, a well known Australian sailor and extremely talented professional crewman died in an accident yesterday in his hotel in Saint-Martin. Aged 38, he had taken part in many top class international races. Trimmer on Movistar in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race and member of the News Corp team in 2001-2002, he was also a regular in the TP 52 circuit on Audi Q8, in the America’s Cup and took part in several Sydney-Hobart races.