Surprises on opening day of maxi racing at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

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Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

With a light wind forecast for this entire second week of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the race committee from the Societe Nautique de Saint-Tropez, aided by the International Maxi Association’s race officer Ariane Mainemare, worked miracles to get a first race started and finished on the opening day of maxi racing, in just 5-7 knots from the east.

From the centre of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, amid a mass of spectator craft and with more watching from onshore, the four classes were sent off in size order, with the superyachts in Maxi 1 first. However on the first upwind it was Dario Ferrari’s 75ft Cannonball, racing in Maxi 2, that made the best of the shifts and, after a long leg out to left, tacked back on to port, crossing all of Maxi 1.

While the course got shortened at the end of the return leg back into the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, finally Cannonball was overhauled by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed winning on the water by 18 seconds. However the trio of former Maxi 72 thoroughbred grand prix racers, excelled in the ultra-light conditions compared to their heavier, longer opponents and under IRC corrected time Cannonball, which won by 12 minutes, was followed by Peter Dubens’ North Star and Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou, ahead of Magic Carpet Cubed and the other 100ft Wallys, Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K and David M Leuschen’s Galateia.

“You needed to go left and then at a certain point the forecast had a big shift when you needed to go right. Our plan worked,” stated Cannonball’s Vasco Vascotto. “Today it was very light, but we know in Saint-Tropez you can have races like that. The wind built after 1400 and we saw 7 knots – Cannonball is a good boat in those conditions. In more than that the big boats are faster. Today was hard work. With Jethou we are very similar in these conditions and North Star is fast in the light too.”

On Magic Carpet Cubed Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones was enjoying the competition with Galateia, finally having the white Wallycento in their rear view mirror. “It is a good fleet,” said Owen-Jones, for whom this is his local regatta having first raced here in the late 1980s. “They made the best of what could have been a horrible day. I was afraid they were going to give up and stop at the first mark but they were brave and hung on and got lucky with the wind. Today it was shifty, so we took the middle and just kept the boat going well.”

While half of Maxi 2 had overtaken them by the finish, first across the line in Maxi 1 was Francesco de Santis’ Southern Wind 100 Morgana, only to be beaten under IRC corrected time by the McKeon-Vitters 108 Pattoo.

Tactician on Morgana, Brazilian Olympic legend and round the world sailor Torben Grael said of their race: “It is very difficult when it gets so light – anything can happen. Saint-Tropez is a tricky place, but having sailed here a few times, surely helps.” Grael might seem dialled into Saint-Tropez having raced here last week on Patrizio Bertelli’s classic Scud however last week there was much more wind.

“Today was good,” he continued. “We had some traffic but it wasn’t critical. We didn’t start together and get run over, so it was okay. Cannonball is much faster than we are in light conditions, perhaps in general. But we sailed a pretty good race and we managed to beat other boats in our class which are faster than us. We were ahead until it got very light.”

In Maxi 3, Terry Hui’s Wally 77 Lyra put in her usual exemplary performance finishing ahead of other favourites such as Alessandro Del Bono’s ILC maxiCapricorno and Jean-Pierre Dreau’s Mylius 60 Lady First III.

“It was slow at the beginning,” said Hui. “We went inshore to find wind. When we were approaching the mark we didn’t get our Code 0 up fast enough into the lock, but we managed to fix it quickly thanks to our good crew. It was very tight.”

His tactician, Danish SailGP and GC32 skipper Nicolai Sehested added: “We kept the others close to us – it was a tricky day with light winds. Terry drove very well today – when there is no heel it is very difficult.”

However with the breeze shifting and building slightly towards the finish it was Walter Pizzoli’s Swan 601 Les Amis that beat all the Maxi 3 big guns. Trimmer Gaetano Figlia di Granara commented: “We had a good race. We started on the right side and we had a good upwind and probably we won the race because we hoisted the Code 0 before the other boats and we could extend. And she is fast in light wind. For us it was good because we stayed with our group and then when the pressure stabilised we had the right sail up. Beating Lyra was a big surprise, but we will wait until tomorrow..”

Juerg Schneider’s Swan 65 ketch Saida claimed Maxi 4. While Schneider has won races on his local Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, this was the first in his 1973 vintage yacht with her fully amateur crew. He had to pinch himself to make sure the news was true: “We had a really good start and we went to the right side which was very nice and on the next leg we had some luck that the wind was shifting to the right direction and then we just had to go back in one line.”

Perhaps the Swiss lake type of conditions helped? “We were fully concentrated…” Saida finished ahead of the two 12 metres French Kiss and Kiwi Magic KZ7.

Racing is scheduled to start tomorrow again at 1200. The wind will still be from the east but marginally stronger.