Skunked in St Barths

Published on April 15th, 2016

Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy (April 15, 2016) – For the first time in Les Voiles de St. Barth’s seven consecutive years of existence, racing was cancelled due to lack of wind.

Sailors gathered on the quay to await a morning announcement that first postponed them ashore and then, two and ½ hours later, confirmed that tomorrow – the regatta’s scheduled final day – would be the next opportune time for them to leave the docks and resume this world renowned contest, which hosts both professional and amateur sailors aboard an array of boats, from technologically cutting-edge maxis to high-speed multihulls to classic cruising yachts.

“This is very surprising,” said François Toledo, director of the Organization of Les Voiles de St. Barth. “In principle, the trade winds in April (between 18 and 22 knots) are well established, but not this year. It’s part of the game; these are the laws of Aeolus (the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology). We cannot restart the wind, yet there is hope for tomorrow. Between six and eight knots are expected, which will give us the possibility to do something.”

Sebastien Col, strategist on Momo in Maxi 1 class, took it all in stride. “In the Mediterranean, we are used to wind outages, therefore, we are not disturbed. We will have to ensure that Saturday we win, as we are fighting for first place with Proteus, the other Maxi 72 in the fleet. We know it will play out within seconds, as the boats are very close in terms of performance.”

Behind the Maxi 72s, the Reichel Pugh 82 Highland Fling and the 100-foot Wally/Cento Galateia are tied on points. “We both have seven points,” said Highland Fling’s tactician Mike Toppa, “but if the regatta were to end today, they would get third place on the tiebreaker, so we need to go out and race!” Toppa said his team lost a close race to Galateia “by seconds” on Wednesday, and the Maxi 72s (sometimes called Mini Maxis), with their “more efficient and newer designs”, have been untouchable. “We’re fighting for third but looking at it like we’re fighting for first in the non-Mini Maxi class,” he laughed.

Current leader in the Maxi 2 class, the Southwind 94 Windfall, chose to withdraw today after doing a full rig inspection during yesterday’s lay day. “We found there was some quite serious damage to the standing rigging,” said afterguard member Ian Walker, the Volvo Ocean Race’s most recent winning skipper, “so after assessing the risk of breaking the mast, the decision was made to discontinue racing. The boat has left and already is in Antigua. They’re going to do a repair there and get the boat back to Europe. It’s very disappointing for the owner, first and foremost, but for the crew as well.”

All ten classes each have two races under their belt, completed on the regatta’s first and second days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and seven classes have leaders who have won both their races. Those leaders are the TP52 Vesper in CSA 0; the Melges 32 Lazy Dog in CSA 1; the Soto 53 Humildad Zero in CSA 2; the King 40 Corr’s Lite Racing in CSA 3; the Jeanneau 3200 Credit Mutuel – Maximarine in CSA 4, the Class 40 Earendil in Class 40; and the Kelsall Triple Jack in Mulithull. With a 3-1 scoreline, Team Island Water World leads the Melges 24 class.
Officials were confident that sailors would enjoy their free day on the island before finishing up business tomorrow. Suffice it to say, there are worse places to be stuck ashore.

Heard on the Quay:
Jack Boutell, tactician aboard the NED 51 Tonnerre 4 in CSA 0: “To someone who doesn’t sail it may sound simpler sometimes to sail in less wind, but in fact I think sailing in less wind is a lot harder than sailing in a lot of breeze. It’s obviously less physical, but I think mentally it’s a lot harder and you have to really concentrate to keep the boat moving all the time. There is also a big tactical situation where if somebody has a tiny bit more wind next to you they could be going twice the speed. If you have normal-to-strong wind everybody is, to a degree, going the same speed.”

Eric Baray, helmsman of the J/122 Liquidin CSA 3. “It is extremely rare to be confronted with a breakdown of the wind here. Tomorrow (Saturday), we know that it will not be very strong, but in any case, the pleasure of sailing will be there. This will essentially be about finesse. It will be important to properly distribute the weight, monitor the trim of the boat, focus on the settings and rigging, and make beautiful roll tacks.

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