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Cyclops 2022 May LEADERBOARD

Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille Day 1 - A superb start!

by Laura Muma 19 Apr 06:22 BST 17-23 April 2022
Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille © Christophe Jouany

The 11th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille is now under way, as race organizers sent competitors on multiple courses ranging from 16 to 28 miles that utilized the best of Saint Barthélemy's geography and signature sailing conditions in the easterly trade winds of 20 - 25 knots. Some teams were obviously more comfortable than others, but the action was indeed there in each of the 11 classes, setting the tone for a great week ahead.

One of the smaller boats in regatta, Niall Dowling's Arabella is a new Cape 31 currently leading the sporty CSA 2 class over Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille veteran and class winner in 2019, the Melges 32 Lazy Dog owned by Puerto Rican Sergio Sagramoso.

"We're a little boat, so the upwind sailing is hard work, but the conditions today were fantastic," says Dowling, in just his third regatta with the new boat. "It was flat water for most of the race course, and going downwind we were hitting similar speeds as the wind."

It's been more than 20 years since the U.K.-based Dowling has raced in Saint Barth and it's even better than he remembers. "The racing has such beautiful scenery and it's pretty amazing going around the nearby islands that serve as marks around the course. You're right up next to some of the rock faces; it's pretty spectacular.

"Not to mention, we're used to sailing in cold weather and cold water, so to be in shorts and t-shirts enjoying a cold Heineken after racing is really special."

Another sailor marveling at the scenic but challenging courses is first-timer Rob Grant from Santa Barbara, Calif. He's racing on board Pata Negra, a Lombard 46 in CSA 5. Chartered by skipper Bernie Girod and his longtime California-based J/111 crew, they raced on Pata Negra in the 2019 edition, finishing in second. The team returns again, starting today with a first-place finish in CSA 5.

"These are the most fun courses I've ever raced on," says Grant, who stood in today as helmsman while Girod recovers from an injury. "Being able to go around all these incredible land features as marks, it's just amazing. I'm blown away. I figured it would be good. But it's better."

Pamala Baldwin, who lives in Antigua, has raced Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille many times and considers it her pinnacle regatta each Caribbean season. The last time the regatta was held in 2019, she and her J/122 Liquid team won the CSA 4 class.

"The regatta lasts five days. It's a marathon and if we have to settle for third place today, the gaps are only counted in seconds," says Baldwin. "It promises to be a great fight throughout the week."

In fact, Liquid is less than one minute on corrected time behind her competitors, Jokers on El Ocaso by John Maybury and Blitz by Peter Corr. The time difference is negligible in many other classes as well.

Among the Maxis, today's match was particularly close between Jim Swartz's Vesper and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente. The two maxis were battling it out and Bella Mente overtook Vesper on the first downwind leg of the 28-mile race, but after Bella Mente had a disastrous spinnaker drop, Vesper re-claimed the lead. Currently in third place is George David's Rambler 88, followed by Wendy Schmidt's Deep Blue.

Full results available here.

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