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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 Day 1 - Cannonball blasts ahead

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 1 Oct 2023 22:07 BST 1-8 October 2023

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez set sail today with the race committee led by PRO Georges Korhel and assisted by the International Maxi Association's Ariane Mainemare, defying predictions in managing to get a race in for the 39-strong maxi fleet, despite light winds. Through the afternoon the breeze barely touched six knots and was more usually closer to four.

Starting and finished immediately off Saint-Tropez, much to the delight of spectators crowded around the Tour du Portalet, the maxis sailed what was supposed to be a windward-leeward with the leeward mark in the mouth of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez and the weather mark to the east. Two laps of this, culminating into a run back to the finish off Saint-Tropez would represent a 25 mile course. In the event only the Maxi A1 and A2 classes sailed the full distance with the course for the smaller classes shortened after one lap.

In three out of the five classes, the winners were familiar. The last time the maxis raced on the Golfe was at Rolex Giraglia in June where IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño and Dario Ferrari's former Maxi 72 Cannonball scored straight bullets in three races. Both continued their winning ways today in their respective classes.

Despite Peter Harrison acquiring Cannonball, her original crew, led by Michele Ivaldi and tactician Vasco Vascotto, remains the same. Today her winning margin was nothing short of a miracle: 32 minutes 29 seconds ahead of Sir Peter Ogden's Jethou under IRC corrected in Maxi A2, while in the combined Maxi A class she was 24 minutes 15 seconds ahead of Maxi A1 winner, Wendy Schmidt's 85ft Deep Blue.

"It was a fantastic day - good conditions for the Cannonball," said Cameron Dunn, who operates the runners on board. "It was a tricky first beat getting out of the bay in 4.5 knots, but we managed to get a race in. We didn't get the start we wanted, but it was good enough and we managed to get lucky in the corner with a little puff. Vasco and Michele did a fantastic job. The sail choices were important - a couple of boats behind made wrong choices but we made a good calls. Peter did a good job driving - he is getting used to the boat now."

Deep Blue was on top form today, under IRC corrected time finishing 6 minutes 13 seconds ahead of Andrea Recordati's 93ft Bullitt, in turn 23 seconds in front of the 100ft V, first of the 100 footers.

"We've done quite a bit of work - we have a new shorter keel as well as adding a water ballast system," explained Deep Blue's Project Manager, Terry Halpin. "That has transformed the boat so we are feeling very positive that is it is a much more competitive. Today was our first long light test and we are pleased."

In the light conditions the maxis had crew sitting to leeward but on Deep Blue many were to leeward down below. "We had a nice clean lane at the start, and laid the right side until we got out and got to the lift. Then it was straight line after the point," Halpin explained where tactician Rob MacMillan had pointed them. "We do feel now that relative to other boats we are able to hang on." Aside from the start, Deep Blue managed to thread her way through at the finish when the fleet ahead had concertinaed together approaching the finish.

V, the 100 footer, was a Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez regular in her former guise as Tango.

This is only her new owner's third ever regatta so to finish third in Maxi A1 was a welcome result explained tactician Ken Read. "We are really happy in the little changes we have made in how we sail the boat and tweaks to the boat from last regatta to this, but it is still a brand new situation for everyone and we are learning." He added that they had managed to get a good start which had made the rest of his day easier.

In all the classes, the first out of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez mostly still found themselves top of the pile by the finish. "It is a pretty one sided race track so it is nice escaping first. You have to be in that top pack otherwise you are fighting for your life for the whole time," continued Read.

As to why Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez remains such a popular event on the maxi circuit, the North Sails President added: "The scene here on the dock is unprecedented. It is like nothing else we have in our sport. It is hard not to have a smile on your face..." The quayside in Saint-Tropez is perpetually teeming with spectator there to see the wide array of maxi yachts and ancient classics. "Some of prettiest boats on the planet are here. It nice to see such a variety of boats on the same space."

In Maxi D, Matteo Fossati's 64ft Stella Maris was first under IRC corrected time but in the class above it was the familiar form of Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño which won Maxi C ahead of the Mylius 60s Jean-Pierre Dreau's Lady First 3 and Maurits van Oranje's Sud.

Wallyño's ace French tactician Cedric Pouligny explained: "We had a pretty good start and managed to go to the right side of the beat - but not completely right, inside Les Canebiers bay it was pretty weak. Some went too far but we just managed to tack at the right moment." As in the other classes, the heavy lifting was done prior to exiting the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, by which time Wallyño held a huge lead albeit with Lady First 3 just ahead. Wallyño caught them up on the way to the top mark despite suffering from being caught in the lee of the bigger boats they encountered coming back downwind. Pouligny was pleased with the sail selection and how the crew had handled the sail changes from the A1 to the Code Zero and back. They had also done well in the last moments of the race where conditions had become tricky approaching the finish line off Saint-Tropez.

Maxi B was also won today by a Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez regular victor - Terry Hui's Wally 80 Lyra and this was despite this event being the only one the Chinese-Canadian has raced with his team this season. "It was a good day for us," commented tactician Nicolai Sehested, taking time off from skippering his Danish Rockwool team on the SailGP circuit. "We got off the line and got out the front. It was a whole team effort - good boat speed and good steering from Terry, which makes my life easier. We were the furthest right boat. We went all the way into the Bay, but we did a step up so we didn't go in early on. Fortunately we have been here a few times. We were just sailing the boat fast and clean which made life easier out in front."

Tomorrow a coastal race is scheduled, starting at 1200 from the bay off Pampelonne Beach.

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