Photos: Christophe Jouany

Into its third year

65 entries already for this year's Voiles de St Barth

Wednesday February 6th 2013, Author: Barby MacGowan, Location: none selected

A strong Racing division

The group referred to as the Spinnaker category, which brings together boats measuring between 9 and 18 metres, is already full up with all the Swans, X Yachts and CNBs. The local sailors, Patrick Demarchelier (Puffy Swan 53) and Raphael Magras (Mae-Lia) are eager to show what they can do on their home waters with all their local crewmen. This year, on the starting line, they can look forward to facing some serious contenders like The Kid, Vendee Globe skipper Jean-Pierre Dick’s JP54, and Satori, the Swan 45 owned by the Dutchman, Gideon Messink, in what is a truly international and highly competitive class.

The Maxis, a sight to see

Sojana, the giant Farr-designed ketch belonging to Peter Harrison, is a Voiles de Saint-Barth veteran. She made her way to the Caribbean early in the winter and as usual will be one of the star attractions among the Maxis. She will be facing Jean-Philippe Pinatel’s Med Spirit, the Welbourn 93. The organisers are pleased to be able to announce that another superyacht designed by Farr, Idea of London, will also be attending. 78ft long, she has competed successfully in all sorts of races on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jim Swartz, patron of honour and a leading player

Size is not everything in the Maxi class - each group boasts its list of competitors from the America’s Cup. The presence of the IRC 52s, that was encouraged last year, is the perfect example of that. American Jim Swartz, title-holder aboard Vesper, is this year’s guest sponsor at the Voiles de Saint-Barth, and is certainly one of the best ambassadors of the event for other owners and in particular for those who own these 52ft racing boats.

”The Voiles de Saint-Barth is now a top class event, which attracts the finest teams and boats," explained Swartz. Swartz, just like the guest sponsors, Peter Harrison and Jimmy Buffett, is a sailor who has had an impressive list of successes. North American champion and East Coast IRC champion, he won the Voiles de Saint-Barth in 2011 aboard his IRC 52 Vesper. He knows all about the quality of racing in St-Barth. He competed in the previous three editions and is back this year with Vesper and her all-star crew of 16, including some of the leading lights from the America’s Cup like Gavin Brady, Jamie Gale, Brett Jones and Chris Larson.

"The key to the success of the Voiles de Saint-Barth is that it is extremely well-balanced with all the different classes competing with some great battles in each class,” Swartz said. “Add to that the race courses, which are always different and adapted to the requirements of each class, a highly professional race committee and you are guaranteed a successful event. All these qualities attract professional teams of the highest standard, but there is still room for amateurs, who want to get out there and enjoy themselves."

IRC 52 Varuna challenging Vesper

The battle between Vesper and a newcomer to the Voiles de Saint-Barth, the Ker 51 Varuna belonging to the German Jens Kellinghusen, will be one of the most interesting duels in the event. The owner from Hamburg has called upon the services the young university team with which he has done so well since 2010 on board a Rogers 46 also called Varuna. It was at the end of the 2011 Transatlantic Race that Kellinghusen became really interested in TP 52s, but his wish to compete in ocean races led him to go for a brand new Ker 51 designed for offshore sailing but with an interesting rating for day racing.

Save the date

28, 48, 65… these figures show the progression in the number of entrants in the first three Voiles de Saint-Barths. They speak for themselves and confirm the upward progress of the event, despite a full race calendar and a difficult economic climate.

François Tolède, Luc Poupon and their teams believed in it and were not going to accept any hiccups.

Watchmaker Richard Mille and the clothing manufacturer Gaastra joined tourism professionals and local bodies from the outset, believing in this project, now a fixture on the Caribbean circuit.

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