Tomorrow, on Monday, April 14, 2014, the registration details will be finalised for the 70 yachts participating in this year’s 5th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth to mark the start of a week dedicated to the pleasures of the best yachting. Almost a thousand sailors were involved this weekend in the final preparations to their yachts, which have arrived from all over the Caribbean, the United States, as well as the Mediterranean.
In merely four years, Les Voiles de St. Barth has managed to establish a clear identity and is attracting the world’s most skilled sailors, who are used to sailing in international events. With Jean Todt and Professor Gérard Saillant, President of the Bone and Spinal Cord Institute (ICM) as guest sponsors, there is a new charity dimension to this year’s Les Voiles de St. Barth. The organisers decided to offer an exceptional promotion to the foundation throughout the competition, with a gala event on the evening of Wednesday 16th April to bring together, not only the event’s partners, owners and racers, but also local bodies and business leaders from the island of St. Barth.
Les Voiles de St. Barth, a Must-Attend event
If we take a quick look at the list of those competing, we can see how the event has really taken off. Within a very competitive fleet that is of an increasingly high standard, we can find some of the leading stars of international racing. Specialists from the America’s Cup and TP52s such as Terry Hutchinson, Craig Monk, John Cutler (sailing yacht Bella Mente), Andrew Henderson (sailing yacht Caol Ila R) and Peter Isler (superyacht Rambler) will be doing battle for five days against some top names from the Volvo Ocean Race, (Mike Sanderson), ocean races (Cam Lewis, Manu Le Borgne…), and even the Vendée Globe (Bertrand de Broc). Coming from approximately 20 nations, hundreds of sailors have made Les Voiles de St. Barth a unique event, where people meet and fight it out, bringing along their knowledge and experience. After dominating their respective classes in the Mediterranean, we can see sailors like Franck Noël from Calais (Near Miss) and his top class crew, or the Portuguese owner, Pedro Mendonça (Baléaria) who after countless successes is now looking for some more excitement.
Maxi Yachts, IRC 52s, fast cruising yachts, multihulls with two or three hulls–the fleet at the 2014 Les Voiles de St. Barth gives us an incredible panorama of the best you can find in contemporary boat design. Light boats that hoist a lot of sail with fine lines, the Mini Maxis Bella Mente and Caol Ila R will be confronting Rambler, the Reichel Pugh designed 90-foot boat built to smash records, which will aim to show what it can do and show off the excellence of its concept. While the IRC 52 Baléaria, launched in 2005 under the name Bigamist, is likely to suffer from being overweight in comparison to the more recent boats like Near Miss with her mighty Polish helmsman Karol Jablonski, she will nevertheless be able to count on a talented and experienced Portuguese crew, led by Afonso Domingos and Rui Ramada Barros. Among the more surprising elements in this year’s Les Voiles de St. Barth, we can see within the IRC 52 Group the Reichel Pugh designed boat belonging to the Australian Robert Date, Scarlet Runner, who has made St. Barth one of the stopping off points in her world tour, which began back in July in Melbourne.
Time for the racing to begin
The organisers have declared that it is time for racing to begin, and quite rightly so, if we look at the professionalism that dominates today (Sunday) on the quayside in Gustavia, where all the racers are coming together. It is highly symbolic and reveals the true nature of the racing at Les Voiles de St. Barth, but everyone is totally committed aboard these boats designed for speed and performance.
Within the spinnaker group, where we find no fewer than 35 boats registered, there are the wide cockpits, huge twin wheels on the American Ker 43, Otra Vez, the Baltic 45 Jolt 2 and the mighty Kernan 47 True owned by the Canadian Leo van den Thillart, aided and abetted here by an expert helmsman from the Volvo, Jono Swain. Grand Soleils, Swans, J Boats and Dufours as well as X Yachts will be counting on their handicap ratings to win overall.
A huge charity gala in aid of the ICM
The Eden Rock Hotel St. Barths will be hosting a special gala event on Wednesday 16th April, presided over by Professor Gérard Saillant and Bruno Magras (President of the St. Barth local authority), during which an appeal will be launched with a charity auction of some prestigious objects. All of the partners to Les Voiles de St. Barth were excited by the idea of actively taking part in this charity event and have come up with some very special items, which will be auctioned to owners and their friends taking part in Les Voiles.