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Melges 15

Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille at Saint Barth Yacht Club - Day 1

by Laura Muma 18 Apr 2023 02:41 BST April 16-22, 2023
Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille © Christophe Jouany

In classic Saint Barthélemy fashion, Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille kicked off its 12th edition with a civilized noon start. Eight classes completed one race between 17 and 22 miles around the island, and in classic Les Voiles fashion, the competitors quickly learned - or were reminded of - the finesse and concentration required to sail well on these incredible turquoise waters.

The Mod 70 Zoulou earned line honors as first boat to finish with 55 minutes to spare, but with time correction finished in third place in CSA Multihull, behind the HH 66 Nala and Gunboat 60 Cui Bono. Loïck Peyron, interim Zoulou skipper until owner Erik Maris joins the Mod 70 crew on Wednesday, said, "This first day was magnificent. While it lacked a bit of wind, it provided the perfect first day to warm up."

The multihulls were the last of the eight classes to start today and Peyron thoroughly enjoyed picking his way through the fleets. "It is a lot of fun to be overtaking the monohulls one by one, and in particular the Volvo 70 Pyewacket, which goes very fast."

He wishes more of the Mod 70s remained in the Caribbean so the trimaran had more boat-on-boat competition, but, "even though our buddies have left for their next events in the Pacific, we still had a lot of fun. We compete against ourselves and work to earn every opportunity and take advantage of each wind shift."

In what promises to be a hotly contested class, CSA 1, Filip Balcaen's Balthazar's Swan 50 OD, earned its first win. Bouwe Bekking, eight-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and longtime tactician for Balcaen, said the lighter conditions created some additional technical challenges, of which the crew handled well. He gave credit in particular to the foredeck team who handled the multiple sail changes flawlessly.

"It was a really nice tussle today with close competition between us, Stark Raving Mad IX and Final Final," said Bekking. "We had many lead changes throughout the day, but then we got a nice little jump and from there on we were able to extend and do a little better than the rest."

In CSA 3, which includes the Melges 24 Team Island Water World and the Melges 32 Lazy Dog which finished first and second respectively, and the Cape 31 Adrenaline, owned by Darren Wright. Sailing on board with the Adrenaline team for the first time this week is Olympian and Canadian SailGP Team athlete Chris Draper, who admitted the Cape 31 is by far the smallest race boat he has sailed on during a Les Voiles regatta.

"But this boat is great fun," Draper said. "It's my first time with the team, and we're learning as much as we can from Dave Swete, the Cape 31 boat distributor who's on board with us. We're using Les Voiles as a jumping off point to then do the U.K. summer racing series. There are not many better places in the world to do that, than here in Saint Barth."

He admitted today was challenging, especially with the amount of sargassum in the water and no kelp cutter. "We needed to do various tactics to try and clear the weeds, but we managed it reasonably well, and then we just got really unlucky on the last beat. We came around the rock and then a massive left shift came through right as everyone behind us came around. So everyone just passed us.

Racing continues tomorrow with the first start scheduled for 9 a.m.

For more information visit lesvoilesdestbarthrichardmille.com/us.

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