Les Voiles de St Barths Regatta Preview

Posted on April 10, 2017

Gustavia Harbor, St Barths(Gustavia, St Barthelemy)- The 8th edition of the Voiles de St Barth continues its amazing trajectory to be the class act of the Caribbean offshore winter racing circuit.  In a short period of time, it has become a “bucket list” event for many sailors that have come to love the spectacular, mountainous French emerald, a setting that evokes romance, fun for all, and tremendous joy sailing in such spectacular surroundings.  Les Voiles is renown for its extraordinary ambiance, the fabulous organization, the extravagant entertainment and daily awards each evening, the two beach parties to end all beach parties (Nikki Beach and Shell Beach Crew Party), and the picturesque, yet challenging races each day (selected by the PRO from a list of 35+ courses!).

This year’s event has its usual eclectic mix of boats, a reflection of the sailing fleet in the Caribbean during the wintertime in the northern hemisphere.  Sixty-seven boats in all are participating with fifteen Maxi’s highlighting the event along with five large, fast multihulls.  However, the real story of the event for J/sailors is that of the forty-four keelboats sailing the regatta, TEN of them are J/Teams (23% of the keelboat fleet)! Soon, Les Voiles could become the future J/Caribbean Festival!

J/109 women's team in St BarthHere are some highlights of the teams participating in this year’s event.  In the provisional CSA Racing 4 Class is Rob Butler’s J/88 TOUCH2PLAY Racing from Toronto, Ontario; they have been sailing the entire winter circuit so far and have faired quite well, placing in most of them- Key West Race Week, Heineken St Maarten, St Thomas International Regatta, and BVI Spring Regatta to date!  Another Caribbean winter circuit veteran is Jordan Mindich’s J/105 SOLSTICE, they too have sailed Heineken St Maarten and St Thomas and are featuring a J/105 North American Champion as skipper for this regatta- Bruce Stone from San Francisco, CA.  Finally, two J/109s are racing, both with local island pedigree.  The “Irish” crew from St Barth’s are sailing David Cullen’s POCKET ROCKET, they’re a formidable team and won CSA 5 Class at “the Heineken”.  The other local St Barth 109 crew is led by Sophie Olivaud, skippering LES VOILES AU FEMININ- an all-women’s crew from the island!

This provisional CSA Racing 4 Class is going to be tough, with the top three boats from previous events likely trading-off the class lead and top three results on the leaderboard.  The outcome depends on the breezes and type of courses, e.g. more reaches versus windward/leeward racetracks.  If it is lighter, the J/88 should predominate.  If it is reachy, the J/105 could crush.  If there is a lot of upwind, the J/109s could easily prevail.

J/111 JBoss sailing St BarthThe scenario playing out in the CSA Racing 5 Class is not much different.  Several veteran Caribbean racers up against some charterers (also very experienced teams)! The betting form in this group is actually quite complicated since it could also see an outcome based on weather conditions.  For example, if there is a fair amount of reaching conditions, especially in a breeze, the J/111 could simply walk off with all the silver.  Then again, get enough windward-leeward lumpy seas with any breeze and the two J/122s could do the same.  Or, have enough of a mixture of conditions in lighter winds and the trio of J/120s might prove everyone wrong and clean sweep the class powered-on by their massive “beach ball” spinnakers and huge light air genoas!

The lone J/111 is J/BOSS, skippered by Frenchman Stéphane Blanchard.  Her owner is from Martinique and the crew is half Martinique and half French.  The French crew has raced for the past four years on their J/111 called Le Jouet in Pornichet, France.  In past Voiles St Barth’s, they have finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in class.

J/122 sailing St Barths regattaThe three J/120s will have a real challenge on their hands sailing against the fastest 41 footers in the Caribbean- the two J/122s.  The J/122 EL OCASO is famous in Caribbean racing circles.  Over the past 3 years, it has won every class in every regatta at least once and twice was named Overall Caribbean Circuit winner.  This year, the boat has been under charter and is off to a flying start.  El Ocaso has sailed Gill Commodore's Cup (3rd), Heineken St Maarten Regatta (1st CSA 3) and BVI Spring Regatta (3rd CSA Racing 1). Bob Hillier from Lake Geneva, WI has chartered her again for VSB (he sailed her in St Maarten).  They have a good crew and most of the crew are Lake Michigan J/122 sailors that have won at least a half-dozen Chicago-Mackinac Races in class and at least once Overall! No pansies that crew is! The other J/122 from Antigua, LIQUID (Pamala Baldwin's boat), is a fast boat with a good crew.  They won Gill Commodore's Cup CSA 3 Class and have an experienced skipper, George Bridger, helping them take on the mighty EL OCASO!  It will be a dogfight in this class for class honors!

Les Voiles de St Barth posterWith the organizers choosing a renowned patron for this 2017 edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, the famous French offshore sailor Lionel Péan is the “godfather” of the race, it was only natural to extend this star quality to the event poster. As such, it has been designed by none other than the street artist Cyril Kongo. The self-taught painter has made a name for himself over recent years in the world of art and culture, collaborating with a series of prestigious companies, including Richard Mille, main partner to Les Voiles de St. Barth. An eye for composition and an exuberant color palette all give Kongo his unique edge.

The poster for the 2017 edition recaptures the painting Kongo created last year. “It really respects my work and I'm very proud of it,” said Kongo. “Through my family and friends, I have strong links to the sea and to the Caribbean. The insularity brings calm, reflection and serenity. In St. Barthélemy during Les Voiles de St. Barth, I've rediscovered the balance I feel in the West Indies, I feel particularly inspired.”  For more Les Voiles de St Barth sailing informationAdd to Flipboard Magazine.

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