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All set for a showstopping Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

by Maguelonne Turcat on 1 Oct 30 September - 8 October 2017
All set at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez © Gilles Martin-Raget

Amidst the festive inauguration of the race village and the thrilling, arrival of the classic yachts, with the wind, in a feeder race from Cannes, the curtain rises on what promises to be a showstopping 2017 edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.

The 53 Classic yachts competing in the Yacht Club de France's Autumn Cup made the most of a strong E'ly breeze to power along downwind into the bay, their timeless elegance melting into the throng of latest generation yachts, out training with a view to their first day of racing tomorrow. This evening, the event's contingent of 300 yachts are now all neatly lined up in the small port in France's Var region or sitting at anchor in the bay, with their 4,000 international crew members eager to get down to the action.

The Yacht Club de France's Autumn Cup

With 53 craft signed up for the Autumn Cup, the fleet paid wonderful homage to the 150th anniversary of the yacht club so cherished by its President, Yves Lagane. In a steady breeze of nearly 20 knots, the pretty classic yachts devoured the 23-mile course with gusto in the downwind conditions. The perfect scenario for the large 41m schooner Elena of London (Herreshoff 2009), it came as no surprise that she was the first across the finish line. Twelve minutes later, it was the 15 M JI Mariska (Fife 1909) who bagged 2nd place in elapsed time from right under the nose of the 55m schooner Germania Nova, which finished just 3 minutes later.

As has been the case for 150 years, the Yacht Club de France's mission is to contribute to the development of yachting in all its forms, from cruising to racing, and to defend and promote the values of solidarity, courtesy and moral elegance that nourish seafarers everywhere. What better philosophy to kick off Les Voiles...

The Modern yachts hit the racetrack

Over 120 Modern yachts, split into 5 IRC groups, will have the race zone to themselves tomorrow, Monday, to launch their first race of the 2017 version of Les Voiles. The IRC A group, which gathers together no fewer than 21 craft of between 20 and 33 metres, will see some of the fastest monohull yachts in the world battling for supremacy. Our thoughts naturally turn to the American record hunter Rambler, the new Maxi 72 Cannonball and the Reichel Pugh design La Bête. With over 40 entries, the IRC D group boasts the cream of the Mediterranean's amateur racers aboard some extremely high-performance 10-13m racer-cruisers designed by the likes of J Boats, X Yachts, Bénéteau, Dufour and Archambault... An incredibly hotly-disputed category, it will be the theatre for some of the most riveting action this week. Also worth a mention are the "Spirit of Tradition" boats Farfalla, Savannah and Vintage. There will be a lot of pressure on the IRC C boats, with some very fine boats (GP42, TP52, Swan, Ker, Farr, IMX, Nivelt prototype) chosen to compete for the Edmond de Rothschild Trophy, including the 2016 champion, the TP52 Team Vision, which has changed hands and is back under the name of Renata with match-racing supremo Sébastien Col at the helm.

Wallys everywhere

A season's best line-up with no fewer than 14 Wallys, ranging from 24 to 33 metres, the much awaited and highly spectacular jousting will kick off tomorrow in a dedicated round off Pampelonne vying for the BMW Trophy. By popular demand, the skippers and owners have opted for longer races this year, with courses spanning 20 to 30 miles. The three Wallycentos, Galateia (2015), Magic Carpet 3 (2013) and of course Tango, the latest of these Mark Mills' steeds, are likely to be leading the way, together with J One (Wally 77) and Open Season (Wally 107).

The French America's Cup team competing at Les Voiles

On the eve of his 45th birthday, Franck Cammas' appearance at this year's Les Voiles is a surprising first for this local lad turned America's Cup contender, who will be competing on a VOR 70 named Babsy, sistership to his Groupama IV, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2012. Intrigued by the festive aspect of this event and its huge blend of marine cultures and traditions, he'll be joined in the adventure by a sizeable element of the Cup's Team France, with navigational support from Lionel Péan and Charlie Dalin. "Les Voiles will be a journey of discovery for me. It's a world I'm not entirely accustomed to after several years with the America's Cup, it's ultra-professional universe and its flying boats, but I appreciate the festive aspect and the atmosphere. I'm here with some very good racers, who will be keen to perform well out on the water. I know this boat well and I love the environment and the Mediterranean landscapes; it's like going back to my beginnings. I'm going to enjoy making the giant leap from flying boats to the magnificent classic yachts. I'll be keeping an ear out here for all the latest news from the sailing world right now, the protocol for the next Cup, the Volvo which sets sail soon and the start of the Mini... I'll also be rediscovering big boats, big winches and big sails... The 14 members of the crew are sure to have their work cut out! The start phases, with so many competitors, are going to be tricky to negotiate so it'll be full-on, but what's wonderful here is that you cross tacks with all the different profiles from sailing, with both inshore and offshore backgrounds."

Inauguration of the Village

With the work now complete on the Race Village, the new, revamped version will be bigger and better than ever before, especially in terms of the terrace in front of the bar. This new configuration has also enabled the return of the Rolex hospitality area and some 22 exhibitors will be offering all manner of choice paraphernalia associated with Les Voiles. The Press Centre can this year be found in the large structure at the end of the street housing this wonderful race village.

The golden age of the 15-metre yachts

It was in 1907 that a new international rule, designed to bring some proper standardisation to bear across Europe in terms of rating, saw the light of day. Using the initials JI or Jauge Internationale (International rule), it would offer its golden age of yachting seven glorious years, interrupted only by the First World War. The 'fifteen metres' that formed part of this rule, were in reality yachts measuring some 22 metres in length, at the very cutting edge of the racing yacht scene. 20 yachts, the majority of which were gaff cutters, hit the water between 1907 (Ma'oona and Shimla) and 1917 (Neptune). Though the Anglo-Saxon naval architects seem to have the upper hand in this domain, with names as prestigious as Fife, Mylne, Nicholson and Anker, two craft are the work of French architects. Encarnita, commissioned by the Marquis of Cuba from designer Joseph Guedon in 1909, and Anémone II designed by C. Maurice Chevreux and built in Cannes. It was the development of the 12-metre Class after the war that would sound the knell of the 15 metre yachts. There are just four still in operation today, all perfectly restored: Mariska (Fife 1908), Hispania (Fife 1909), Tuiga (Fife 1909) and The Lady Anne (Fife 1912). They'll all be sailing throughout the week in Les Voiles within the context of the Rolex Trophy.

www.lesvoilesdesaint-tropez.fr

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