The festivities of Les Voiles de St Tropez are unrivalled. This end of season finale continues to grow in duration and carnival like atmosphere. But It was a tough week for the race committee in St Tropez this year. Far too much or far too little wind. Faced with the prospect of the yachts not being allowed out of the Port by the Harbour Master due to manoeuvring in the strong winds, it was a week for a good Plan B – Boules and Beach.
“It’s been a fantastic week with some very varied weather conditions. The sailors are unanimous in their opinion that this edition has been a very fine vintage “Tony Oller, President of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez
The classic yachts are split into 11 groups at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez according to their size, rig type and class measurement.
My focus this year was on the schooner division. My clients from America , a group of ten very keen sailors from Great Harbor Yacht Club Nantucket (three Commodores between them, past and current) had chartered Orianda for the regatta. They sailed her extremely well in a series of difficult wind conditions, enjoyed learning the complexities of schooner racing and even beat the larger schooner Puritan from the same stable, Classic Yacht Experience, (who often retired for more pressing concerns such as “cocktails!”).
It was the 51metre Elena of London, who took the title after winning all the races in the schooner category ahead of Naema, Orianda and Puritan. Somewhat confusingly the first day of racing all schooners raced in the “Big Boat Class” but on all other days of racing the ISA (International Schooner Association) had their own category and raced in a class of their own. The class was not recognised at the prize giving but in the spirit of Les Voiles we on Orianda went for a large lunch instead!
“The participants have grasped the fact that Les Voiles is a festival of sailing and not a world championship said .Georges Korhel, Principal Race Officer.
In the group of Grands Traditions, Sumurun, the Bermudan ketch (Fife 1914) sailed brilliantly to finish just one point ahead of the 15mR Mariska (Fife 1908). Moonbeam of Fife (Fife 1903) was third. Back on the dock the mighty Mariska stole the show. Word is out that she has been put for auction in Paris shortly and a courtship akin to Prince Charming and Cinderella ensured. Just who does this slipper fit?
Three magnificent 12mRs, spanning a decade of the America’s Cup competition from the seventies were also racing in Saint Tropez. The Italians on Il Moro di Venezia won on corrected time, in second placed the famous Ikra, quick whatever the conditions with top French racer Nicolas Bérenger, ahead of Pierre Bausset’s France.
In the Marconi A Classic division it was the Bermudan cutter Yanira, built by the Danish naval architect Bjarne Aas and masterfully helmed by the Spaniard Pepe Negrete who took podium. Validating three races and as many victories despite some fierce competition from Daria Cabal on the Bermudan cutter Saint Christopher (Sparkman & Stephens 1968) in second and Philippe Monnet and Yves Pajot taking third on Lys.
The most recent winner of the Rhum category in the 2018 Route du Rhum, Sidney Gavignet sailed aboard the Bermudan yawl Stiren (Sparkman & Stephens 1963) this week. She won the Marconi B category ahead of Fantasque and Meterblick for fun.
Just as spectacular, the group of Gaff Bs comprised of a number of metre boats, all of which are over a hundred years old saw a merciless battle between the season’s top three boats Viola, Kismet and Oriole. . Viola (Fife 1908), winner in Antibes and Cannes, took second place as she did in Monaco. Kismet (Fife 1898) triumphed despite a great finish by Viola in the last race. Oriole (Herreshoff 1905), came in third.
The Epoque Marconi A group consists of ketches, yawls, schooners and Bermudan cutters of nearly 20m in length. It’s the 12mR Bermudan rig Seven Seas of Porto (Crane 1935) skippered by Palma based Marcus Kemp that dominated this very elegant group, finishing ahead of the Italian sloop Emilia Prima (Costaguta 1930) and the American yawl Manitou (Stephens 1937).
In the very dense fleet of Epoque Marconi boats that features the 18 craft chosen as this year’s group to compete for the Rolex Trophy, it’s the 1949 Frers design Cippino II which has repeated her success at Monaco Classic Week.
Only Charles Dunstone’s immaculately restored Blitzen (Sparkman & Stephens 1937) managed to challenge her domination by taking one win. The Bermudan yawl Stormy Weather of Cowes designed by Olin Stephens (1934) secures a worthy third place.
One of the most competitive groups was the gaffers of 15 to 18m in length (the Epoque Gaffer A category which, saw one of Saint Tropez’ regulars take the win: the Gardner (1913) P Class Olympian. Ester (Hellgren 1901), the gunter-rig sloop rescued from the Baltic challenged Olympian at the start of the week but she remained unbeatable the end of the week, getting the better of Marga (10m Lilljegren 1910) also from The Classic Yacht Experience stable and Chips (P 13 Starling Burgess 1913).
James McElroy took victory aboard Aloha, a 1923 Bermudan R Class (Edson B. Schock), in a group comprising metre yachts and Bermudan yawls. It’s the 8m Sonda (MacGruer 1951), that takes second ahead of Java (Raymond Hunt 1938).
For the old familiars that don’t fit into any Class Measurement at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez, there is a new special ‘Guest’ category made up of 6 craft this year. It’s the Bermudan IOD Josephine (Bjarne Aas 1959) which posted the most consistent performance this week, making the podium every time. Maria Giovanna II (Olin Stephens 1969) is second ahead of Windhover (Luke 1904).
They make up the largest contingent of yachts at Les Voiles, ranging from the futuristic Wallys and other Maxis, to the fine racer-cruisers, which are split into six IRC groups.
In Wally, Lyra confirmed her place as leader to take the BMW Trophy, ahead of Galateia, Magic Carpet3 and Y3K, the latter two tied on points.
The IRC As were themselves split into 4 sub-groups comprising Superyachts, Maxis and Mini Maxis. The duel between the giants finally saw Velsheda take The Loro Piana Trophy, designed to reward the best racer of over 24 metres. It’s also worth highlighting the success in IRCA 2 of the Swan 82 Kallima, the Italian Mylius 80 Twin SoulB in IRCA 3 and the Mini Maxi Vesper in the very elitist group of 72-footers.
Solte, Genser Hasip’s Swan 53 has made a dazzling entrance at Les Voiles, taking the win in IRC B, a group of stellar 50-foot racers, getting the better of some of the event’s stalwarts, including the Mylius 50 Daguet 2 and Music, third this week.
Another familiar crew at Les Voiles, in IRC C this time, was that of Prince Frederik of Denmark on the TP 52 Nanoq, which triumphed in a strong group of 35 craft. Second was Howard Dyer’s Cookson 52 Rowdy 2 showing great form in their first season and third the TP 52 Spirit of Malouen.
38 yachts crossed swords all week long off Pampelonne in IRC D. Victory went to the formidable Farr 40 Bella Donna, ahead of the French prototype Albatros, and the Italian Galinari Vanessa.
The young prodigy in the multihull category, Adrien Follin, enjoyed a thundering finish at Les Voiles, snatching victory for the JPK Give me Five in IRC E. The Farr 30 Topas bags second place, followed by another Farr 30, this one German, Heat.
Finally, the ‘small’ racers in the IRC F group, comprising the Modern Marconi Tofinous and Code 0s, saw the three Tofinous dominate the competition this year: Camomille 3, followed by Pitch and the German Tofinou Aetos.
The 2020 event will last 15 days, with one week dedicated more to the big boats. We’re working with the International Maxi Association on this and it really appeals to our partners.” Tony Oller, President of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez
By Alice Widdows – Alice Widdows Regatta Management
Photos by: Ingrid Abery