St Barths: Where the Lucky Go Racing

Published on April 13th, 2016

There are worse places to be then Les Voiles de St. Barth. Like pretty much anywhere. The lucky this week are racing at the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy, where Scuttlebutt correspondent Jonathan Russo checks in with some of the owner/drivers:

Steve Benjamin (USA), TP52 Spookie:

The regatta is a combination of multiple ingredients that include challenging courses, reliable but shifty winds, and current. The races are extremely well run. There is just a high level of methodical organization.

Needless to say I love the ambiance of a French Island, the food, the parties. Its also the best sailing competition in the Caribbean… it just gets the best boats.

Les Voiles is more challenging because of the intense competition as well as the courses; we like it because we know we’re sailing against the best crews in the world and they’re all here. Everyone on our crew has to provide their best performance to have any chance of winning.

My key goals are top flight organization because the logistics matter. I like to get here early. The crew and I practice here more than anywhere. Les Voiles demands incredible teamwork. It’s usually fairly breezy, so we need to get the rating right so the boat is in the right configuration.

It’s also critical to get up on the weather and local knowledge. The weather is often variable, changes day to day, year to year. You have to interpolate both to understand what the wind shits are and what is going on in the big picture.

What this regatta requires is to put this all together and make it happen because the competition is so intense. Les Voiles, the island of St. Barth, and the regatta are the crown jewels of the Caribbean.

Andy Middleton (GBR), First 47.7 EH01:
Les Voiles is an interesting race course. St Barth is a beautiful island and I think the shoreline aspects of the regatta make you think of St. Tropez. Most Caribbean regattas are, well, very Caribbean, but this one has such a French flavor to it. It is the most unique of all the ones we do.

Because of the geography of the island, and all the out-islands, the course can vary so greatly. This presents a good challenge as you never know exactly what you’re going to sail. It’s much more interesting than windward-leeward racing.

Winning Les Voiles, aside from all the requisites like proper sail inventory and handling, as well as crew practice, all comes down to local knowledge. The wind shifts and currents are very tricky. There are a lot of localized sea states too, and since we are often sailing against local boats, you really need to think it through.

The most unique aspect of Les Voiles to me, however, is the skippers meeting. The briefing includes clear warnings about not hitting whales! This is a real fun regatta.

Photos by Sharon Green/ultimatesailing.com

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