A total number of 48 yachts have already signed up for the Les Voiles de Saint Barth 2014, which will kick off in less than three months. Set to run from April 14 to 19, the event will once again bring a week of exciting races in the warm sunshine and fabulous setting of the popular Caribbean yacht charter destination – Saint Barth.
The good news is that at least eight spectacular Maxis, sailed by some of the world’s leading skippers will be competing alongside the incredibly fast IRC 52s, so we can look forward to some fantastic high performance racing. Top class racers from the United States, Australia and New Zealand are all eagerly looking forward to doing battle in the dream location hosting the fifth edition of the Voiles de Saint Barth. It’s easy to understand why, with such close and therefore thrilling racing. With three months to go before it all gets underway, owners and skippers are busy getting ready and drawing up their crews with one goal in mind – winning.
To do well in Saint Barth
The TP 52 Near Miss is currently aboard a cargo vessel on its way to St. Thomas, where she is due to compete in the Week of the same name, a good warm up for the Voiles de Saint Barth. Her owner, Franck Noel, always keen on to set new challenges, is already thinking about the Voiles de Saint Barth, which is his main goal at the start of the 2014 season.
The French head of the Near Miss project, Benoit Briand feels a certain amount of excitement and uncertainty. “We have won practically everything in the Med with the climax coming at the Giraglia last May. Franck Noel was looking for some new challenges, something he hadn’t attempted before, which would require a new way of tackling the races. The reputation of the Voiles de Saint Barth has spread throughout our little world and appears to correspond perfectly to what he is looking for, with highly competitive racing, some magnificent backdrops and ideal sailing conditions. Exactly the sort of challenge we were hoping for. So we have adjusted our race project. While Karol Jablonski will remain at the helm of the boat, a new top class afterguard will assist him with Marcel Van Triest as navigator, and world match racing champion, Rod Dawson as tactician. The crew will therefore be made up of more English speakers. We are taking the Voiles de Saint Barth very seriously and hope to do well there…”
For the pleasure of racing
John Hildebrand is boat captain of the Maxi yacht Caol Ila R*, a Mills-designed 21-metre long boat. The Voiles de Saint Barth is one of the key features on the race programme for the American owner, Alexander Schaerer, winners last year of the Volcano Trophy in the Mediterranean. “The Voiles de Saint Barth represents a new goal for us in a very different context from what we have been experiencing over the past three years in the Mediterranean,” he explained. “Both myself and the crew are fully motivated with the idea of racing at this top level in a dream destination, which is famous for its fantastic sailing conditions.”
The Dutch crew on the Marten 72 sailing yacht Aragon is also used to doing battle in the Mediterranean, but has now moved to the Caribbean looking for that perfect mix of competitive racing, a friendly atmosphere and some of the finer things in life, which all come together at the Voiles de Saint Barth. “After three seasons racing in the Mediterranean circuit, we wanted to compete in an event that was well run and demanding. The Voiles de Saint Barth has acquired that reputation and today, we are getting ready for that and looking forward to being there. The first contact we made was extremely serious and professional. We shall be turning up with the means to fulfil our ambitions, as we are drawing up a crew, which although based around a family to begin with, also includes America’s Cup specialists from New Zealand. Our recent performances in the Giraglia and the Voiles de Saint Tropez were encouraging, and for two years we have been busy making improvements to the boat. Sailing in Saint Barth neatly enables us to fulfil our ambition of placing ourselves alongside some top class boats and crews, without losing anything of the pleasure of racing with family and friends.”
The fleet at the Voiles de Saint Barth includes five very distinct classes, ranging from multihulls to maxis and IRC 52s, as well as a large number of the most modern Racing Cruisers, divided into two groups, spinnaker and non spinnaker, in order to allow as many amateur racers as possible to take part in the event. The festivities will be taking place out on the water, but also ashore with special events arranged every evening at the Race Village, where the sailors and locals from Saint Barth can get together and share their experiences.
* Caol Ila (pronounced coul-ila – a Gaelic term for the Islay Strait) is the name of a whisky distillery located on the isle of Islay near Port Askaig in Scotland.