The festival days are here again

30/09/2016, Saint-Tropez (FRA,83), Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2016, Day 5

It’s been a long wait since last year’s edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, but finally the action will kick off again tomorrow in the South of France for 4,000 international racers and their 300 Classic or Modern yachts. Indeed, the Yacht Club de France’s customary Autumn Cup will give everyone a foretaste of the sumptuous feast of racing to come when several dozen Classics glide into the bay of Saint Tropez from Cannes, midway through the afternoon, powered by what promises to be a bracing and rather chilly northerly wind. 

Classic Sunday; Modern Monday With the arrival of the Classics from Cannes setting the tone tomorrow, Monday will be coloured by the highly eclectic fleet of Modern yachts. The futuristic-looking Wallys, which beautifully combine design and performance, are sure to attract attention once again. In fact, 2017 heralds the 20th anniversary of the Magic Carpet saga, which has long been associated with one of the most solid sporting teams of the series led by its owner Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, triple champion in elapsed time of the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Wallycento Tango, skippered by Marc Pajot, a top Olympic sailor and world champion, will be putting in her first tacks in anger in this wonderful setting this year. Clearly sport and spectacle will be a common thread among the big IRC boats too, with Canonball, a 72-foot maxi built by Premier Composite Technologies in Dubai according to Botin Partners design, likely to create a stir against the series’ giants and hot shots: My Song, Rambler, La Bete (former Rambler), Varsovie and Wallyno… Among all the series, there will of course be the familiar myriad of racers from all kinds of sailing backgrounds, ranging from the America’s Cup to the speedy Mini 6.50s; the latter boats due to set sail from La Rochelle tomorrow on what will be their 40th anniversary. It will come as no surprise then that on one VOR 70, the former Puma, there will be two French winners of the Volvo Ocean race (ex Whitbread), Lionel Péan and Franck Cammas, for whom this will be the first time they’ve raced together on the same boat… Racing will also commence on Monday for the Trophée Rolex, which has been played out at Les Voiles since 2006. To follow on from the « Grands Tradition » category in 2016, this year the trophy will reward the best 15 m JI. The four fabulous boats that make up this series, Tuiga, Hispania, The Lady Anne and Mariska, are all over a hundred years old and perfectly embody the golden age of yachting and their legendary architect, William Fife. From Tuesday, the traditional yachts will hit the racetrack, with a debut appearance at Les Voiles by Chips, an elegant P Class cutter designed by the America’s Cup genius, Starling Burgess (Ranger, Rainbow) in 1913. She will compete alongside more of Burgess’ jewels: Jour de Fête (Q Class), Olympian (P Class) and Spartan (NY 50).

The Yacht Club de France’s Autumn Cup The Yacht Club de France is 150 years old, making its Autumn Cup all the more special for its President Yves Lagane. A race linking “Les Régates Royales” in Cannes and Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the Cup always kicks off festivities in Saint Tropez in spectacular fashion. With several dozen yachts split into four classes, the fleet appear on the horizon at Tour du Portalet with all their sails aloft, bows pressed, in the bid to be first to complete the 21-mile sprint.  All the competitors aboad the traditional yachts must be at the Race Committee’s disposal at 11:00am off the port of Cannes. A solid 15 to 20 knots of NE’ly breeze is expected, with the prize-giving to be hosted in La Batterie in Saint Tropez at 20:00pm, followed by a cocktail.
This year, Les Voiles takes place entirely in October: Why? As a rule, Les Voiles takes place over the weekend that bridges September and October. A particularity of the 2017 calendar gives the option of two weekends that fall into these criteria. Hence the traditional feeder race from Cannes to Saint-Tropez hosted by the Yacht Club de France’s autumn cup determines the date, kicking off the festivities at Les Voiles on Sunday 1 October.
Quotes: André Beaufils, President of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez “We’re not reinventing Les Voiles! Year on year we try to please owners, skippers and racers, both on shore and at sea. Any new features are introduced with a view to being in harmony with the event, which always has beautiful classic and modern yachts to discover, with the site evolving according to the contingencies of the port and our partners. Supported by our loyal partner Rolex, the revamped race village will host 22 exhibitors throughout the week, with a large bar forming the post-racing hub each evening.”

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