Les Voiles de Saint Tropez 2015 has kicked off, marked by fitful, unsettled 7-16 knots of south-east breeze and awkward seas. The J Class duo, charter yacht Shamrock and charter yacht Ranger, were undoubtedly the centre of attention on the Bay of Saint Tropez on the first day of the regatta, both racing under IRC.
The two Js are competing in the 27 boat IRC Class A, a fleet which has sailing yacht Rambler 88 as the scratch boat, but which provides both yachts with a range of close competition on the water. Ranger started badly on the first day of racing and had to fight back into the pack, but finished strongly keeping the Frers 60 daysailer Spectre, the 45m Andre Hoek Pilot Classic yacht Elfje, the Finot-designed FC Cube 30,5-metre sloop Nomad IV, as well as the 22m Reichel Pugh-designed yacht Aragon, behind them at the finish line off the entrance to the harbour.
The majestic 1930-built, original Charles Nicholson-designed Shamrock yacht’s opening beat was appreciably better. Sticking to their game plan off the busy start line, she tacked immediately out to the right, into the best breeze and with a nice, clear lane were ahead of Ranger at the first windward mark. And the satisfaction on board Shamrock was still at a high when they approached the second mark bow to bow with Ranger. They had to duck Ranger. But only just.
From there luxury yacht Ranger, the J Class champion at this regatta last year, started to find her best pace. A very good second beat saw them venture to the right and make big gains, getting them back on terms with the boats which should be their rivals on the water. The 22 NM’s course offered two long beats, two runs and a couple of pedestrian reaches. Following a very light start, the wind peaked at 16 knots on the second upwind, but faded again towards the finish with 10-12 knots. Ranger’s skipper Erle Williams was hoping they had done enough to place in the top half of the fleet on corrected time, but rues the flat-footed start, which cost them early minutes.
The Ranger superyacht crew are using this regatta to see what improvements they can make to the vessel and their own performance, prior to the J Class Regatta at the America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017. This is expected to host up to nine J Class yachts.