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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 Day 3

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 3 Oct 2023 23:41 BST 1-8 October 2023
Close quarters racing in Maxi C, as Wallyño takes Sud's transom - Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 Day 3 © Gilles Martin-Raget

While Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is renowned for its lazy autumnal breezes, today the crews of the 39 maxi yachts competing in the Bay of Pampelonne braced themselves for a well-forecast pummeling with winds that built into the mid-20s allowing the faster boats to hit 20+ speeds.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is organised by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, part of the French Sailing Federation, in collaboration with the city of Saint-Tropez, the International Maxi Association (IMA) and the support of the Yacht Club de France. It is the final event of the IMA's 2023 Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

Predictions were that the big breeze, coming after two lighter days, might upset the results. However in two of the four classes this proved not to be the case with Terry Hui's 77ft Lyra scoring her third bullet of the regatta in Maxi B, as did IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño in Maxi C.

For de Froidmont this came as a slight surprise as his slippery silver 60 footer is known for her light weather performance, while her wily crew have to rely more on their extensive offshore experience when the breeze is up. As he explained: "It was not the conditions for the boat, because it was quite windy and we had some technical problems before the start - we broke the electronics, so we were having to sail old style - just based on 'feel' - but it was quite fun.

"Compared to the rest of the fleet we were very happy with the boat's performance. The target was to sail safe. Breeze with no waves is quite rare here."

Today, under IRC corrected time, Wallyño finished 1 minutes 13 seconds ahead of Karl Pisec's Solaris 72 Black Pearl in turn 1 minute 31 seconds ahead of Maurits van Oranje's Mylius 60 Sud (sistership Jean-Pierre Dreau's Lady First 3 suffered mainsail damage pre-start today - but she and Sud are tied on points behind Wallyño overall).

Another supposed light air specialist, Terry Hui's 77ft Lyra, won Maxi B by a larger margin of nine minutes 10 seconds. Of more surprise was the Spirit Yachts 111 Geist coming second. While the 24-year-old Lyra is the more modern design, Geist is a modern classic, built in wood-epoxy and displacing 70 tonnes, but is younger - just two years old - and with modern day equipment such as a carbon fibre mast and a fin/bulb, rather than a long keel.

Her crew are modern day old salts including America's Cup sailors Paul Campbell-James and Pete Cumming as tactician and mainsheet trimmer respectively. Today's second place was Geist's best result to date, said Cumming. "Crew-work on a day like today was pretty important, so coming straight from the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup we had good teamwork and sail handling, combined with more breeze. Then we just had to heel her over..."

Tactics also came into play: "We always knew that because we are one of the slowest boats in our class, we didn't want to get into a position to get rolled. We knew there would be big right hand shifts in the bay, but we wanted to be the first to tack. So we did a classic 'Ed Baird start' - in at the committee boat, let the traffic go, then tacked off and sailed in clear breeze for the first time this regatta. We found the right shift we wanted and were third boat around the windward mark, which we held on to the whole way around the course."

He added: "We were surprised how well we went today with Lyra up the first beat [upwind Geist's longer waterline length paid off]. In the sea state we just chop through it all. Lyra slipped away from us downwind, it shows what the boat can do."

In Maxi A, the trio of former Maxi 72s proved that they could excel in the bigger conditions too, taking all three of the top spots with Peter Harrison's 72ft Cannonball prevailing over yesterday's winner, Peter Dubens' North Star and Sir Peter Ogden's 77ft Jethou.

Cannonball strategist Michele Ivaldi said of their day: "It was a great job by all of the team - good sail choice and tactics, the boat was going really well, upwind and down. Peter [Harrison] drove 95% of the time and did really well. He said it was the most fun he'd had in a long time - which is the whole point of the exercise..."

For Cannonball, today's victory was largely set up out of the start (unlike yesterday when they unsuccessfully attempted to start on port). "The first beat was tricky because we knew the wind was 220-230 degrees past the point, but 240-245 degrees in the bay before the start. We wanted to start on the upper part of the line and go straight for a while and tack across and we found a good lane back and from then on it was good." Jethou gained an advantage threading her way through some rocks, but Cannonball recovered and the two had a phenomenal, high speed match race on the run back. "That was super fun downwind with good breeze and good waves, for the last 10-15 minutes of the race with the jibtop doing 22-23 knots. It was one of the best races I have sailed here," concluded Ivaldi.

While the Chris Flowers-steered Galateia was first on the water and under corrected time among the 100 footers, it was Pier Luigi Loro Piana's ClubSwan 80 My Song that finished fourth under IRC. "They were the best conditions - we had a lot of fun after two days of light wind," said Loro Piana. "We are happy, but if you beat your competitors you are even happier. Downwind we did a very good job. Upwind there is room for us to do better."

He added that downwind today My Song's boat speed was matching wind speed - 20 knots in 20 knots of wind, etc. "We were planing and it was great to be given a 'little bit of oxygen'."

The biggest smile was on the face of Italian Matteo Fossati, owner of Stella Maris. While his 64 footer rarely makes an impression on the results table, despite enthusiastic campaigning in recent years in events such as the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and IMA Maxi European Championship, Stella Maris is currently leading Maxi D.

"It was very nice today's race - 20 knots of wind and really beautiful landscape," said Fossati, whose yacht winters in Ravenna while her crew comes from all across Italy. "Our boat is old and needs wind conditions like today."

Fossati is enjoying his first ever Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. "It is very nice because there are a lot of boats similar to us. In Sorrento or Porto Cervo our class joins classes of faster boats."

Tomorrow is layday for the Maxi class at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, although the 'Modern' and 'Classic' fleets will continue racing. However the Maxis have the opportunity to take part in match races and for the Club 55 Maxi Cup 100ft Magic Carpet 3 will line up against My Song.

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