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Elegance and performance at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

by Maguelonne Turcat 22 Aug 11:32 BST 25 September - 9 October 2021
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez © Gilles Martin-Raget

True to yachting's most beautiful gathering of modern and classic boats, the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez kicks off the 23rd edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez on Saturday, September 25, 2021.

Rising above the difficulties and uncertainties, the proven formula of this end-of-season highlight ignites the passion of thousands of sailors and boat aficionados alike. More than 250 sailboats, both modern and classic, are awaited by more than 100 volunteers on shore and on the water for two weeks which promise to be exceptional, all starts and race finishes being in front of the sea wall off the port of Saint-Tropez!

Week 1: Tradition and modernity

Looking forwards with optimism, the first week of Les Voiles once again offers a winning formula bringing together on local waters the entire spectacular fleet of classic boats with modern sailboats up to 18m28.

Accompanying Ikra, the 12 mJI at the heart of the original Nioulargue challenge - ever present after 40 years of attendance - the armada of classic yachts anticipated for 2021 promises a fiesta for participants and spectators alike. Amongst the nearly 80 classic yachts will be 21 sailboats over a hundred years old battling it out on the water in the wake of the Bermudan Yawl, Sky, launched in 1890 and with 131 years of sailing history.

The Grands Tradition category, certain of which exceed 40 meters overall, has no less than 12 entries sporting the most spectacular Gaff and Marconi rigs: schooners, ketches, cutters and yawls. Stars, out of category in the 2020 edition, include the magnificent red, navy blue and green hulls of the three American P Class, Chips, Corinthian and Olympian which will compete in the Epoque Aurique A class, as will the immaculate Scud, sure to capture the public's heart.

Within the group of vintage Marconis, another celebrity re-joining the famous Manitou formerly belonging to John F Kennedy will be Marge, an elegant Johan Anker design from 1937, entering into cinematic history thanks to the 1952 filming of René Clément's Plein Soleil with Alain Delon and Marie Laforet.

The modern yacht fleet is equally keen to be on the water. In IRC B, the title will be hotly disputed between maestros such as the 47-foot Pretexte, second last year in the hands of SailGP circuit champion Billy Besson, or Alain Monnier's untaintable Ecbatane driven by Jean-Paul Mouren. Not ignoring newcomers like the Italian Black Samurai or up and coming Futura, keeping a close eye on Jean-Pierre Dick and The Kid JP54 and Marc Lepesqueux's Sunset.

The IRC C fleet, counts no less than 31 registered, which will lead to some fierce competition on the start line. The boats to watch are Couleur Soleil with Robert Coriat's crew who last year were cup victors ahead of Gian Marco Magrini's Vito 2, but one can only imagine that Frédéric Puzin, winner of the B Class last year, will be a strong contender with Daguet 3.

For the IRC D, the biggest class with 35 inscriptions, the game will be a little more open as Buran, third last year and the year of its launch, will once again be present to defend a podium place, as with the IRC E Class- 20 inscriptions - who must establish a new hierarchy in the absence of the reigning 2020 champions. And finally in the IRC F Class, 22 boats will be on the starting blocks challenging the domination of Swiss owned Wally Nano Nostromino who won ahead of two Tofinou 9.50: Pitch and Team 42. The all new Tofinou 9.70, designed by Michele Molino, is equally eagerly awaited.

Week 2: Maxis, red hot!

With more than 45 boats ranging from18 and 42 m racing from Tuesday 5 to Saturday 9 October, the second week of maxi racing promises to be both exceptional and spectacular. Among the giants are the prestigious Wally yachts, extraordinary in their conception and loyal partner to Les Voiles, they are world leaders in their innovation, characterised by design, technology, performance and luxury. This emblematic brand is notably twice winner of the Compasso d'Oro design award.

On the water, the jousting between these giants will be brought to life by the unmissable rockstars Magic Carpet Cubed, Y3K, Green Eyes, Ryokan 2, Rose, and defending champion, Lyra. A dense fleet amidst which offshore maxis Rambler 88, Leopard III, winner of the IR1 class last year, with Volvo racers Ambersail 2 (VOR65) and Hypr (VOR 70) returning from the Rolex Fastnet Race, will attempt to break through.

On this note, first time participant at Saint-Tropez, the VPLP-Verdier Comanche whose crew is led by Dutch champion Mitch Booth will cut quite a figure, not only in terms of its size - 30,45 m long, 8m wide, 6,80 m draft, a mast culminating at 47 m high, 1100 m2 of downwind canvas - but also in its accolade of results, almost enough to make the two J-Class Valsheda and Topaz green with envy. Themselves promising a colourful duel, certainly in breezy conditions. With their 175 tonnes of displacement, they are almost six times heavier than Comanche !

The Tropézien public will equally be able to follow the performances of the most prominent 'pocket maxis' of the moment being Jethou and Vesper, two regulars at the Voiles, who will this year come up against North Star, another 72-footer running under the British flag.

As diverse as captivating, this most prestigious of big boat racing classes is in constant evolution as evidenced by the arrival of two new boats who will be present at the Voiles, launched at the beginning of summer.

Beginning with Black Legend 6, a 22m French conception by the young and talented naval architect Sam Manuard and put in the water in June 2021 at Black Pepper Yachts, Nante. Second remarkable novelty is the Baltic 68 'café racer' Pink Gin Verde, an inverted bow dayboat designed by the Spanish Javier Jaudenes and produced with particular attention to its environmental footprint. With a hull comprising 50% natural fibre, it is equipped with two electric motors and a hydro-generator system which enables it to generate its own power under sail.

Also eagerly awaited is the Reichel/Pugh design Nauta, Southern Wind, Morgana, built in South Africa and coming to Saint-Tropez for its debut race season. Finally, Maxi Class enthusiasts will also be delighted to know that Silvertip, designed by Dubois, a regular in New Zealand and who dominated the Maxi Yacht Cup organised in Auckland during the last America's Cup, will also be at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2021 putting themselves against their northern hemisphere counterparts.

Programme 2021

Week 1: Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, Modern and Classic
Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 September: registration for all classic yachts and modern yachts up to 18.28m
Monday 27 September: regattas for modern yachts
Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29 September, Friday 1, Saturday 2 October: regattas for modern and classic yachts
Thursday 30 September: Challenge Day-10th anniversary of the Gstaad Yacht Club Centenary Cup
Saturday 2 October: Prize Giving (Week 1)

Week 2: Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, Maxi Yachts
Sunday 3 and Monday 4 October: registration for all modern yachts above 18.29m
Wally, IRCA, Maxi yachts
Tuesday 5, Wednesday 6, Thursday 7, Friday 8, Saturday 9: regattas
Saturday 9 October: Prize Giving (Week 2)

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