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Cannonball, Lyra, Wallyño and Stella Maris crowned Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez maxi winners

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 6 Oct 2023 23:48 BST 1-8 October 2023
Terry Hui's 77ft Lyra - Maxi B winner - 2023 Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, final day © Gilles Martin-Raget

The final day of maxi yacht competition at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez took place on a large trapezoidal course off the Bay of Pampelonne in a 7-10 knot easterly in seas that ranged from flat to occasionally lumpy and irregular.

The 39 competing maxi yachts, ranging in size from numerous 60 footers up to Bernard Sabrier's 112ft superyacht Silvertip and the Spirit Yachts 111 modern classic Geist were divided into four classes, Maxi A for the fastest, topped by Karel Komarek's 100ft V and D for the slowest, with Jürg Schneider's Swan 65 ketch Saida lowest rated.

While Galateia, helmed this week by co-owner Chris Flowers, was frequently claiming line honours ahead of the other 100 footers, today the white-hulled beast finally won a Maxi A race under IRC corrected time too. This followed the victory of Wendy Schmidt's Deep Blue yesterday. Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones Magic Carpet Cubed also enjoyed her best result of the week with a third.

"It was more upwind-downwind conditions in the lower range, but it was more fun to go up and down, especially if you are leading! It made things a little bit easier," explained Galateia's strategist 470 Olympic gold medallist and America's Cup winner Jordi Calafat. "Magic Carpet was catching us in the light winds so we had to make sure we closed the door..." The larger yachts prevailed today partly because the breeze was dropping for those astern, hence why the race committee, including the International Maxi Association's own Ariane Mainemare was forced to make a minor shortening of the course.

Galateia's victory earned them the third step of the Maxi A podium behind Peter Harrison's Cannonball and Peter Dubens' North Star with one discard applied.

This event marked the first Maxi 72 victory for Cannonball since Peter Harrison acquired her a month ago. Previous owner Dario Ferrari's crew came with her, including ace afterguard double act Vasco Vascotto and Michele Ivaldi. "Their approach is in a different league and that is what made all the difference - the boat is great too," said Harrison. "This week what was interesting for us is that she worked well in strong breeze and we had good results in light breeze. I think how the crew have optimised the boat is the reason why. It has been a great week and I am very happy for the crew and the same for Dario Ferrari."

Harrison particularly enjoyed Tuesday's race when the wind peaked at 24 knots, yet Cannonball still came out on top in conditions that should have favoured the bigger boats. "I was surprised we were as strong as we were in that. The guys sailed the boat really well and I hung on! It was very exciting to steer with a lot of power going through the boat. I was surprised, to be honest - we really didn't expect to be as successful as we were."

In Maxi B, former International Maxi Association President Thomas Bscher's new Baltic 68 Café Racer Open Season won the event's last race, just as she did at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. British tactician Matt Humphries explained their race: "Before us, there was a big left shift during the Maxi A start but we realised quickly that it was coming back to the right so we got a relatively controlling first beat. Lyra, which is very sailed, just managed to get an inside overlap with us at the top mark, but once we'd given them room we managed to pass her."

However the crew is still on a steep learning with their new boat. "So far we've done nine races and in that we have had three line honours and two overall wins, so I think we are going in the right direction," said Humphries. "We are learning every day about the different modes. Thomas did a fantastic job in tricky conditions this week."

But nothing was going to displace Terry Hui's Lyra from the top spot in Maxi B and yet again the black 77 footer won her class at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. "We have a good team and we are learning every year but there is good competition and it is very tight every time," observed Hui. "The third day [big wind Tuesday] was very good. We would like that every time because we were surfing the waves - we stayed on some a really long time. Boat and crew is superb. This year we had some tight competition with Rose [Sven Wackerhagen's sistership] so we couldn't make any mistakes."

Of their race today, Lyra's Danish tactician, who is normally skipper of the Danish Rockwool team on the SailGP circuit said: "We had a good start and first upwind, but then we ended up with a fight with Open Season. There were proper upwinds and downwinds and there were plenty of passing lanes and it was a good fun course." Overall Lyra topped the Maxi B podium ahead of Rose and Thomas Biton's Maarten 72 Aragon with Open Season fourth.

In Maxi D a third bullet today for Matteo Fossati's Stella Maris sealed the deal for the Italian 64 footer, while a disappointing fifth for Jürg Schneider's 50-year-old Swan 65 ketch Saida dropped her to third overall, displaced by Jerome Bataillard's Shipman 63 Sao Bernardo.

This marked the end of a good autumn for Stella Maris after she won the Maxi 5 class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup last month. "This year is 'the double' - I have won two - it is a very good year," said Fossati. "Everything has been perfect here which I understand is not the case every year. Perhaps we chose the right year - or we brought the weather?!"

IMA President Benoît de Froidmont secured Maxi C with straight bullets and a day to spare yesterday on his Wallyño. But for a second consecutive time his silver 60 footer won both on the water and on IRC corrected time today. This left Jean-Pierre Dreau's Lady First 3 in second place and Maurits van Oranje's Mylius 60 Sud third.

"It was a fantastic week," said de Froidmont. "The crew is really on fire now at the end of the season. With light breeze and flat sea this week - it has been the conditions for the boat."

Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the International Maxi Association added: "As the SNST President said n his prize-giving speech, the event has gone back to its DNA. The wonderful sight of the harbour packed with a unique mixture of huge modern maxis alongside beautifully restored classics is what makes this regatta unique. The stresses of class splits and course choices pale into significance compared with this spectacle."

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.

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