Photo © Christophe Jouany / Les Voiles de Saint-Barth
One of the Caribbean's most enjoyable sporting events will see skippers and crew from around the world arriving to take part in the fourth edition of Voiles de Saint Barth from the 8th to 14th April. All are keen to extend the sailing season in the paradise waters of Saint Barth. This little corner of France in the Caribbean offers so much to charm and please those looking for the best yachting with an added French touch.
A strong international line-up
Yachtsmen from around the world have known about the attraction of the Caribbean for a long time and the Voiles de Saint Barth has managed since it started in 2010 to pack into one week the true spirit of international yachting. The harbour in Gustavia buzzes with conversation in languages with sailors from around Europe mixed in with those from America, the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Early prediction make the Dutch crew on the Swan 45 Satori one of the serious contenders for a place on the podium, but the trimmer, Maurits van Oranje remains very modest, "We don't take ourselves too seriously, but hope that one way or another, people will have a good opinion of us," he declared. "Apart from our skipper Gerard Verduyn, who has raced with some of the top international crews and leading sailors from around the world, most of our crew are not professionals, but they have had a lot of experience. We've been sailing together for more than 20 years on a wide range of boats..."
For van Oranje and his crew, what makes the Voiles so attractive is the quality of the organisation, which ensures a perfect mix of leisure activities ashore and excellent racing out on the water. "The geography of the island prevents the event from expanding," adds van Oranje, "so the Voiles can continue to offer great racing..."
The American, Alexandria Kilmon, skipper this year on French Kiss (Bénéteau 50) cannot praise enough the work done by the organisers, "who have found the perfect mix to ensure the success of the event." An artist by profession, she is particularly thrilled by the "fantastic sailing conditions," the extraordinary range of colours the sailors can enjoy with "all the different shades from sky blue to the deepest indigo with hints of pure turquoise, which are different wherever you look and change from race to race..."
High standards throughout and closely fought races
In the Classic Yachts group, Jaime Enos, skipper of the ketch Saphaedra which is 1965 vintage, will have just one other sailor aboard, Amanda Sparks. "We're used to delivering Saphaedra with just the two of us on board," explained Enos, "and since 2010, we have competed in classic races in Antigua and in New England. St. Barth is one our favourite events, and we're really looking forward to racing against Wild Horses and The Blue Peter."
Among the other entrants determined to defend their country's colours, is the Puerto Rican Sergio Sagramoso on his J/122 Lazy Dog, and the elegant Ker 51 Varuna belonging to the German owner Jens Kellingshusen.
Jean Pierre Dreau is back again at the helm of his super-maxi Med Spirit with a 100% French crew. Completely won over last year by the Voiles de Saint Barth, he set up his schedule this year to ensure he could compete in the event.
Simonas Steponavicius and the Lithuanians on the Volvo 60 Ambersail are equally passionate about the event. They are returning to the Voiles with an experienced young crew, which has already clocked up more than 100,000 miles of ocean sailing and are even more motivated now, as they look forward to announcing shortly that they will be competing in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Dynamite Idea is another superyacht designed by the Farr team. This 80-foot boat has successfully competed in major races on both sides of the Atlantic. Her skipper, Tony McBride, is coming to Saint Barth with some serious ambitions in the spectacular Maxi Yacht class and is aiming to win, "in spite of the very high standard of racing we can expect here..."