Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez: Weather gurus
A bracing breeze yesterday, light wind today. True to form, the Bay of Saint Tropez has it all, spicing up play for the crews bent on hunting down every breath of breeze from one side of the race zone to the other, either aboard a modern steed or a venerable classic yacht, the latter category only hitting the racetrack today. In the early afternoon, a gently E’ly breeze enabled the Race Committees to launch all the categories on courses skirting the edge of the bay. Highly varied with some well-identified passage marks, the courses could easily be reduced in length so that each of the 130 crews signed up for this first week could validate one race. Out on the water, the gleaming gold of the gaff rigs and the varnished wooden hulls was mirrored in the glint of carbon on the modern boats for this communion of genres, which has always proven such a hit at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
Change of pace
Racers everywhere are often heard to say that you also need to know how to win in light airs. After yesterday’s ‘champagne sailing’, the Bay of Saint-Tropez regained its summer languor today and in the calmer seas, mastering the precision of this tricky exercise peculiar to wind-driven sports was key to success. However, it became all the more difficult when the wind deserted the race zone for a moment before the expected thermal breeze kicked in again, allowing the racing to ramp up again in earnest. In the end, a very different race was validated on this second day of Les Voiles, with some full-on jousting between a number of the favourites, including further duelling between Viola (Fife 1908) and Eva, (Fife 1906), two craft from the Epoque Aurique B (Period Gaffer B) competing for the prestigious Rolex Trophy 2020.
A ‘waiting room’ for the Classics!
In a brand-new feature, which has already been much appreciated by the racers, all the boats, whether they be Modern or Classic craft, set sail in unison from the start line off Portalet, right next to the port of Saint Tropez. An important modification for the contemporary yachts, who used to set off early each day to make their respective rounds off Les Salins at the edge of the Bay, it requires some serious logistical organisation. Georges Kohrel, Principal Race Officer at Les Voiles: “All the boats, Modern and Classic craft, leave the port each morning at virtually the same time. The Modern craft, which are the first to line up, naturally head towards the start zone, and this unchanging line moored off Portalet. At that point, we ask the Classic yachts to make for the back of the bay, to the west of a line from Phare Rouge to Hotel de Beauvallon, and to avoid testing the line until the Modern craft have set off. It’s effectively a ‘waiting room’ for the Classics. Once the Modern craft have left, the Race Committee for the Traditional boats takes over from its counterparts in the Modern boat category and announce that the zone is free, at which point the Classic yachts move over to the starting area. The finishes are decided in the same place with a specific line for the Modern boats close to port, and a parallel line for the Classics which is closer to the centre of the bay.
Newcomers; 6 Classics and 34 Modern craft
In 2020, an exceptional year in so many ways, it’s not all about negatives, restrictions, reductions and bans… Indeed, the 2020 edition of Les Voiles, with its new two-week format, has also appealed to a number of owners who have chosen to show off their steeds for the first time. Among these are no fewer than 6 Classic yachts and 34 Modern craft making their debut in Saint Tropez. Among the Classics, and alongside Corinthian (Herreshoff 1911) and Scud (Herreshoff 1903), very much in the public eye here, Les Voiles is also playing host for the very first time to Pantaia, a 1962 Illing design, Circe, a Bermudan yawl designed by Olin Stephens in 1949, Denebola, a 1952 Bermudan ketch and Hild, a Norwegian gaff cutter from… 1899.
At Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the 15th edition of the Rolex Trophy is celebrating an historic monohull category throughout the week. In fact, the Rolex Trophy 2020 is paying tribute to the Epoques Auriques B (EAB) or Period Gaffer B class. With the oldest built in 1897 and the most recent in 1913, these yachts are formidable racers. Viola, winner of the Rolex Trophy 2018, designed by William Fife Jr. was initially designed for cruising. Classed as an historic monument by France in 1993, this 15-metre monohull boasts a real aptitude for racing. Lulu, the oldest boat in French yachting circles, designed by the famous Gustave Caillebotte and Thomas Rabot, was built in 1897, a long way from the French coast in Argenteuil, in the Paris region. Despite her age, she retains a rare elegance and is sure to be an adversary of choice for the 5 other competitors vying for the much-coveted Rolex Trophy. After 4 days of racing, the best performing boat will bag the Trophy plus a Rolex watch no less.
THE SIX ENTRIES IN THE ROLEX TROPHY 2020
Esterel (1912 – 12m97), Eva (1906 – 16m58), Lulu (1897 – 15m00), Nin (1913 – 13m18), Véronique (1907 – 24m86), Viola (1908 – 15m50).
Week 1: Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez
Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September: registration for boats up to 20 meters (except for certain classes)
Monday 28th September: racing for modern yachts
Tuesday 29th, Wednesday 30th September, Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd October: racing for modern yachts and classic yachts
Thursday 1st October: Challenge Day
Saturday 3rd October: prize giving (week 1)
Week 2: Les Voiles Super Boats
Sunday 4th and Monday 5th October: big boat registration (Wally, IRCA, Maxi yachts, big Classic, big Schooner)
Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th, Friday 9th: big boat racing
Friday 9th October: prize giving (week 2)