Les Voiles de Saint Tropez celebrated its 15-year existence with splendour and grand spectacle this year. The popular Mediterranean regatta was hosted by St. Tropez, a fantastic French Riviera yacht charter destination, from September 27 to October 5, 2014.
The wind and sea gods gifted them with some exceptional conditions offering 4,000 sailors from the world over, on some 300 Modern or Classic yachts, a packed week of racing, enjoyment and conviviality. And so the curtain falls this Sunday after a final moment shared between competitors with the traditional prize-giving for the 20 competing classes. There were some nice surprises amidst the list of winners, starting with the names of newcomers like Olympian, which triumphed among the gaffers and Dorade among the Marconis, as well as confirmation of the safe bets from their respect circuits, superyacht Magic Carpet3 among the Wallys and sailing yacht Robertissima III (ex Ran) among the large IRCs.
André Beaufils, President of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez: “Another edition draws to a close and every year we find ourselves starved of superlatives in our bid to translate the general satisfaction. We have just enjoyed a beautiful edition. Every year we try to improve what is perfectible with small, added touches, and we continue to find little elements to modify. The competitors were able to get out on the racecourse everyday so they are happy. Our partners are delighted. Their guests cannot stop singing their praises. All our teams, both on shore and on the water have done a remarkable job in a great atmosphere. I am a happy President. After each edition we have a debriefing and we decide on what needs to be improved. That has been the case this year with the renewing of two of our Race Committees. For the future, we are considering making some minor modifications to the race village, if only to adapt to the work of the harbour master’s office, which will be in effect next year. The owners of the large classic boats are always appealing to us and we’re looking for solutions to satisfy as many of them as we can. We’re certainly going to address the balance between the number of traditional and modern yachts and we’re reconsidering our categories so as to best respond to the desires of certain categories of boats. The very core of my satisfaction is rooted in the observation that all our volunteers work with such passion and good humour. Those who are at the venue make Les Voiles their own, anxious that everything runs smoothly. Everything is coloured by good humour.”
A snapshot of Les Voiles 2014
‘Grand Tradition’ group
As its name suggests, this group gathers together today’s largest classic craft and naturally it was dominated by the power of the immense charter yacht Elena of London (Herreshoff 2009) and her 1,300m2 sail area, ahead of superyacht Mariquita, the large gaff cutter by William Fife (1911) and the young centenarian charter yacht Moonbeam IV (1914).
Epoque Aurique A (Period Gaffer A) group
This year the category gathered together 14 sumptuous gaff-rig cutters, schooners or sloops, measuring 9 to 19 metres in length, half of which were over 100 years old. Up against the stalwarts of the podium in Saint Tropez, Nan of Fife (Fife 1896) and Bonafide (Sibbick 1899), it was newcomer Olympian, an American P Class from 1913, which triumphed supreme, leaving Chinook (Herreshoff 1916) to battle over the runners-up prizes with another surprise newcomer, Folly (Camper and Nicholson 1907) helmed in Saint Tropez by German Frers.
Epoque Aurique B (Period Gaffer B) group
A category placed under the glare of the spotlight this year by the awarding of the Rolex Trophy, this highly prestigious group is very coherent in terms of performance and is widely considered to be the ultimate expression of the classic spirit. The group’s triumphs went to the oldest yachts in the entire Les Voiles’ fleet. Launched in 1885, the gaff cutter Partridge honoured her fabulous creator, John Beavor Webb, by getting the better of the formidable yet dynamic ‘small gaffers’, Jap (Fife 1897) and Lulu (Rabot-Caillebotte 1897).
Marconi A group
Among those carrying triangular sails or Marconi rigs, a most splendid spectacle was offered up by one and all, both in terms of pure aesthetics and the sporting intensity of the races. The American 12 m JI Seven Seas of Porto (Crane 1935) showed herself to be a cut above the rest, utterly dominating every race. The pacy sloop Rowdy, (Herreshoff 1916) hadn’t experienced such stiff competition for a long, long while. However, she managed to salvage something from the wreckage by securing second place ahead of another star of Les Voiles, the famous Marconi yawl designed by Olin Stephens, sailing yacht Manitou (1916).
Marconi B group
The Class Q designed by Paine (1930), Jour de Fête, entrusted to the expert hands of Pascal Oddo, triumphed during each of the three races validated in this group. Leonore, the other Q Class designed by Johann Anker, was unable to respond other than by keeping the Marconi sloop Sirius (Stephens 1930) astern of her to snatch second place.
Epoque Marconi C (Period Marconi C) group
This was another group, which was remarkably well balanced and gave rise to some delightful battles. Of these, it was the now legendary newcomer (Sparkman and Stephens 1930) Dorade yacht, helmed by her American owners Matt and Pam Brooks, which triumphed after a superb hand-to-hand combat with the no less legendary Skylark of 1937 (Olin Stephens) and Cholita (Potter 1937)
Epoque Marconi D (Period Marconi D) group
Smaller in size, the protagonists of this group from between the 1920 and 1950s raced entirely coherently. The May design Arrow from 1924 imposed ahead of the Cornu design Jalina (1946) and Sonda, a sublime 8m from 1951 designed by Gruer.
Classic Marconi A group
The large Italian Marconi sloop Il Moro di Venezia was embroiled in a fierce combat throughout the week but ultimately managed to resist the attacks of the formidable 12 m JI Sovereign skippered by the Bérenger brothers (Boyd 1963) and Ikra Boyd 1964). Eventually Philippe Monnet was able to get his 1956 Sparkman&Stephens design Lys onto the podium to conclude the achingly tight racing in this group.
Classic Marconi B group
The André Mauric design Marconi sloop Fantasque took the win ahead of Maria Giovanna (Stephens 1969) and Outlaw (Illingworth 1963)
J Class: Ranger supreme
Four J Class boats really were a feast for the eyes amongst amateurs and experts alike offshore of Pampelonne. These giants managed to complete 4 races and charter yacht Ranger, a beautiful replica by Jackson dating back to 2003, utterly outwitted her adversaries superyacht Velsheda (2nd) and Lionheart yacht.
15 m JI; The Lady Anne’s revenge
Though the Annual Trophy for the 15 m JI was already in the hands of sailing yacht Mariska (Fife 1908) before Les Voiles even kicked off, the Britons on The Lady Anne (Fife 1912) made it a point of honour to conclude this fine year with victory in Saint Tropez. Mariska snatched second with one Pierre Antoine Morvan at the helm, ahead of Hispania (Fife 1909) and Tuiga.
“Vintage” 12 m JI
Four Vintage 12 m JIs were competing in their own race circuit at Saint Tropez. Wings (Nicholson 1937) secured the win with two victories of the three races run, ahead of Vanity V (Fife 1936) and Vim (Stephens 1939)
Tofinous and Code 0
They represent the classic spirit in its modern version and so it was that the Tofinous and Code 0s were able to race on the same race zone as the classic yachts, combining their carbon sails with the large cotton sails. It was the Tofinou 12 Camomille who bagged the win ahead of the other Tofinou 12 Milou and Aloha 2, François Bouy’s Code 1.
Five groups from the IRC rule were this year accepted on the Modern round in Saint Tropez.
This category witnessed an absolute jewel of a battle between the impressive Maxi 72 prototypes, with Robertissima III (Judel Vrolijk 2009) taking victory and sailing yacht Jethou (JV 2012), just beaten to second place by luxury yacht My Song, the Nauta 84 designed by Reichel Pugh in 1999.
The X Yacht INXS RD by Philippe Frantz made a stunning comeback after a calamitous first day to rack up four race wins and dominate the densest and most homogenous group of the modern yachts. She was some three boat lengths ahead of Les Voiles’ stalwart, James Blackmore aboard Music, the large Frers-design Swan, and the other Music, a Swiss Baltic 590.
Another newcomer to Les Voiles that really made her presence felt is the TP 52 Nanoq and her “all star” crew led by James Spithill, who secured victory thanks to a marvellous start to the week. Astern of her was the other TP 52 Gladiator skippered by Tony Langley, and Spirit of Malouen VI skippered by Sébastien Petit Huguenin.
Some of the greatest international builders can be found amongst this eminently competitive group. Adrien Follin and Give me Five were victorious by a narrow margin against Frédéric Bouillon and his Wallis. Michael Mueller on Pappes made it onto the third step of the podium.
It was a fine victory for the A35 Chenapan with 3 successes out of the 5 races validated, ahead of another A35, Tchin skippered by Jean Claude Bertrand and the Lago 950 Java Bleue, skippered by the lovely Jacky Maitre.
Equalling the record, some twelve Wallys graced Les Voiles in their dedicated round off Pampelonne. Magic Carpet3 took the win, though the grand slam eluded them after they lost their hold on victory in the third race to Magic Blue, which managed to secure second place overall ahead of the 94-foot superyacht Galma.
Rolex Trophy (1st Period Gaffer B yacht): Partridge
Edmond de Rothschild Trophy (1st Modern yacht over 16m): Robertissima III
BMW Trophy (Wally Class): Magic Carpet3
Town of Saint Tropez Cup (1st Modern yacht outright): Robertissima III
Yacht Club de France Trophy (YCF): Alcyon
Trophéminin (Women’s Trophy) (1st female crew): No Limit
French author: Denis van den Brink