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Close encounters of the third kind at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

by Maguelonne Turcat 27 Aug 2017 12:53 BST 30 September - 8 October 2017
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez © Gilles Martin-Raget

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez promises a unique gathering, under the invitation of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, of the most beautiful classic and modern yachts in the world, closing the regatta season.

Set in the extraordinary light which characterises the end of September and early October, this year will once again have its share of surprises, discoveries and re-acquaintances.

Keeping up with the Moderns

Béni soit qui Wally pense could well be the maxim of this super-yacht class, who certainly don't lack...class! The Wally yachts are in a world apart with their combination of luxury and comfort combined with speed and manoeuvrability, an equation perpetually sought after by naval architects and always accomplished by Luca Bassani. 2017 is an important year for the class with the launching of the fourth Wallycento, developed in conformity with the box rule, following Hamilton (today Open Season) Galateia and Magic Carpet3. The arrival of the new Tango just out of the shipyard in July is highly anticipated. The battle will be fought off the coast of Pampelonne to bring home the BMW Trophy proudly held by the 107-footer Open Season.

IRC A class guarantees a thrilling start with 43 metre Baltic 130 My Song lining up against 35 metre Swan 115 Solleone; the formidable Farr 100 Leopard, title holder on corrected time also a contender alongside La Bete (formerly Rambler) sailing under a British ensign. In the twenty strong IRC B class, last year's 1st and 2nd place holders, homonyms Music (GBR – Swan 53) and Music (SUI – Baltic 50) will be playing it out. The risk of confusion not lessened by new entries to the same class Enigma VIII (NOR – Swan 66) and namesake Enigma (FRA – Sense 50)!

IRC C fleet have been chosen for the third year running as contenders for the Groupe Edmond de Rothschild Trophy, much coveted and fought for between the TP52, GP42, Swans, Farr40, 46 and 52, IMX and prototypes. Rivals Alizée and Arobas" prepare a rematch, whilst Renata – formerly Team Vision – in the hands of virtuoso Sébastien Col, hopes to be in for some spoils.

In Classes D and E competition will be fierce amidst closely matched fleets of more than thirty boats per category.

It's a Classic

A record number of 25 centennial will be present this year amongst some one hundred classic boats on the start line of the Voiles. The preservation and restoration of classic yachts has been brought to the forefront by the creation of class rules and events such as the Nioulargue, forerunner until 1999 to the Voiles de Saint-Tropez. Each year across the globe, passionate yachtsmen search out broken hulls, wrecks abandoned in mudflats, to embark on the adventure of refitting these derelict vessels to their former glory and to participate in this revered event. Certainly true across the Atlantic, we find at this year's Voiles several famous examples such as the New York 30 Linnet, the well-known NY40 Chinook, the exclusive NY50 Spartan, all designed by the talented Nathanael Herreshoff under the auspices of the New York Yacht Club and precursors to the current series of one-designs. Of similar origin, the P-Class Olympian and Chips with Q-Class Jour de Fête exemplify a renaissance of the "Universal Rule", the biggest and most well-known creations being the J-Class.

Beyond the admiration of much anticipated newcomers such as 1930 JI 6-meter Nada, helmed by Alexia Barrier, or 75 SQM Tuemmler from 1924, competitors of such diversity can meet on the same start line thanks to a handicap system configured on the standard measure and based on performance prediction calculations producing a corrected time result. Pressure is high for these magnificent champions from the previous edition: Spartan (*Epoque Aurique A), Kelpie of Falmouth (Epoque Aurique B), Rowdy (Epoque Marconi A), Leonore (Epoque Marconi B), Cholita (Epoque Marconi C), Moonbeam 4 (Grands Traditions), Yanira (Classic Marconi A), Outlaw (Classic Marconi Class B), Il Moro di Venezia (Classic Marconi Racer) plus the delectable Maria Giovanna II (Invitation Class), not forgetting Mariska (15 meter JI) who will race this year for the mythical Rolex Trophy.

* Epoque Aurique = Vintage Gaff Class

Fan zone

A festive ambience shared by all – locals, participants, the public – necessitates the implementation of certain security measures on the part of the organisers and public authorities. To this effect a "fan-zone" will be put in place on Thursday 5th (crew parade) and Saturday 7th October, restricting vehicle access to the port and to the vicinity of the race village. A daily presence of visitors to the area can match those of the high season, where numbers can reach between 50 to 80,000 people.

The Byblos in celebration mode

It all began 50 years ago, on a certain May 27th, 1967 like a fairy-tale... The Byblos and the Caves du Roy now iconic and of international repute, remain true to their original mission: to bring a touch of magic – unique and renowned; a signature that they share at the heart of their association with the Voiles de Saint-Tropez – treasured moments under the banner of luxury and conviviality.

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