St Barths: Where swank and sailor meet

Published on April 17th, 2014

The Les Voiles de St. Barth has attracted 68 teams to the island of Saint Barthélemy, with divisions for Maxi, IRC 52, Spinnaker, Melges 24, Non Spinnaker and Racing Multihull.

After two days of racing, a lay day on Thursday saw competitors suffering through lunch at Nikki Beach, stand-up paddleboard racing, and rum concoctions.

Before racing continues on Friday and Saturday, Yachting World provides a report from participating skipper Philippe Falle on his first impressions of the event…

After years of sailing and racing in many of the most exotic locations in the world the magic of arriving somewhere new has still not been lost. As I approached St Bartholomew’s, a French Island in the Caribbean, I held a certain amount of apprehension due to the rumours of extortionate prices and the need for a mortgage to be able to afford just a cup of coffee and a croissant!

Outside the Port of Gustavia is a large anchorage which is subjected to a continual swell, so finding a spot to drop our hook that was not too deep was the first challenge to overcome.

Our race boat, a Grand Soleil 43, does not have the luxury of a windless, or even a bow roller! After three attempts in the soaring Caribbean sun we had successfully found our place and were able to relax as the boat gently rolled and a few turtles swam by inquisitively popping their curious heads out of the water to check out their new neighbours.

First on the agenda was to go ashore to clear customs, a job that is part of Caribbean life but can take up a large part of the day on arrival and departure. As we headed ashore in the tender I was surprised by how clean and modern everything looked. Stepping ashore the first car I saw was a Porche, it was a taxi and possibly slightly unnecessary on an island with rustic concrete roads only just wide enough for two cars to pass. It was the first sign of the opulence that the Island is famous for.

The first shop was Rolex, the next Cartier, the Louis Vuitton shop proudly sat next Prada and the list goes on as every luxury brand imaginable were located in an oasis of chic boutiques. It certainly did not feel like I was in the Caribbean any more, St Barths shouted out sophistication, quality and extravagance, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum to anything else I have seen here.

The true essence of St Barths very quickly became obvious as the normal chore of clearing customs was a simple and quick procedure that was accompanied by friendly and helpful port officials. The service in the first bar was warm and welcoming and equally matched with every other bar or restaurant visited. The quality of the food proved to be exceptional and more akin to London prices and certainly no more than the BVI’s. My first bottle of Carib, a local Caribbean beer, was 3.5Euros which is cheaper than in the Alps. – Read on

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