Under a gray sky that struggled to hold back rain, 70 teams competing at Les Voiles de St. Barth set out from the Port of Gustavia this morning for a third of four racing days that followed yesterday’s sunny Lay Day. With Spinnaker class 0 joining them, Spinnaker classes 1,2,3,4 and the Melges 24 and Non-Spinnaker classes returned to a course of 23 miles that they had sailed on opening day, while Multihull and Maxi 1 and 2 classes (with which Spinnaker 0 had sailed yesterday) sailed a longer 32 nautical mile course. It, like the shorter course, hooked almost completely around St. Barth in a counterclockwise direction before turning back for a clockwise rounding of the island and to a buoy set just downwind of the finish, all the while challenging the sailors with wind shifts, outcroppings and varying water depths for consideration in choosing the fastest route home.
For the most part, breezes ranged between 10 and 15 knots, lightening and shifting after occasional rain squalls, one of which passed through right before Spinnaker 0’s winner Vesper (Jim Swartz, U.S.) arrived–with a drenched crew–back at the dock. The victory was the fourth in the boat’s series, and if one rather than two races are held in this class tomorrow, there is no way this team will not win.
“It was definitely lighter wind than the first two days,” said Vesper’s upwind trimmer Rob Salthouse of New Zealand. “Before the start, quite a big rain cell off to the left pulled the breeze around to a left-hand direction. Basically we laid the corner (of the island) quite easily, which meant we had a slightly faster track rather than having to be on the wind. We had reasonable breeze across the top, and once the rain went through, it lightened off, and we had a light-air run down to the last rounding mark. Not a lot of on-the-wind work today, so that probably is why we finished a lot earlier than what most people expected. The good thing is the boat’s washed down now, so we don’t have to do that!”
Salthouse added that there was tight racing against Sorcha (currently in second overall), but it all sorted out in Vesper’s favor due to the team “sailing quite smart and changing gears quite well” for light-air mode.
James Blakemore’s South African entry Music in Spinnaker 3 has all firsts, too, and there is no way for the St. Barth team of AronnaX, currently in second, to catch it.
“We have been very fortunate,” said Blakemore, who is experiencing his second Les Voiles and sails with an eight-person crew that rotates in new young sailors from Cape Town as it can. “In the first race we had a lot of competition from Puffy, another Swan 53, but we managed to beat them on the downwind leg, and the same went on for the second day. The wind really suits us both. When we have 16 to 20 knots the boat performs at its optimum capabilities.” (In today’s lighter air, Puffy finished sixth, allowing AronnaX to leap-frog it to sit in second overall, so now the race is on for second place between these two boats.)
Another with all victories in its score line is Bobby Velasquez’s St. Martin entry L’esperance in the Non-Spinnaker class. Because of the team’s points, even if it does not sail tomorrow, it can’t lose.
“Today was a good sail all the way until about three quarters of the way back when a squall came in and the wind just went dead,” said Velasquez. “Then it was just a drifting match: who could drift the best. From there, the whole fleet was together until the last rounding mark and we took off from there and won.”
A good battle is shaping up in the Spinnaker 2 class between Ramanessin, chartered by Germany’s Christian Zugel, Richard Wesslund’s U.S. entrant El Ocaso, and Alex Sastre’s U.S. entrant Ventarron. In that order, all are one point apart, and today Ramanessin conceded to El Ocaso in a 1-2 finish.
“The wind was very random at the start,” said Nigel Young , Ramanessin’s tactician. “The start line was almost split in two with different breezes on one end and the other. When we started it was a nice breeze, maybe 12-15 knots and that was nice all the way up to the main turn (left around the island) and from there the breeze just started to drop.”
For Lupa of London, Jeremy Pilkington’s UK entry in the Maxi 2 class, today was the team’s toughest (but they still lead after a third today). “We had a really good start, really good beat and it was pretty simple sailing for us until we got down to the last bottom mark,” said Jonny Malbon, the boat’s crew boss. “We saw about 20 or 30 boats all parked and heading in different directions with no wind at all. We watched that unfold as we were going down the last downwind leg, so we tried to pick our way into that and almost hit the mark because there was literally no wind at all, and we were very lucky. We got a little puff of wind going into the finish.”
Malbon says his team needs to be third or better to keep the lead tomorrow. “That’s not going to be easy, because the other guys are racing so well.”
In the Multihull class, Lloyd Thornburg’s U.S. entry Phaedo 3 will be tough to beat overall, since they have not lost a race yet; however, with seven boats in the fleet, it is not an impossibility for Stephen Cucchiaro’s U.S. entry Elvis to rise from second to first on the leaderboard (if they win tomorrow and Phaedo 3 finishes last).
Claude Granel’s Martinique entry Martinique Premiere-Credit Mutuel in the Spinnaker 4 class turned in a fifth today to maintain its lead from yesterday, but Maelia is only 1.5 points behind, giving it a good chance to climb in the 10-boat fleet to first overall.
George David’s U.S. entry Rambler 88, with victories in all of its three races, leads Maxi 1 and effectively has won this class, while Puerto Rican entrant Lazy Dog has three firsts after today and continues to lead in the Spinnaker 1 class. St. Martin’s Andrea Scarabelli leads the Melges 24 class with Budget Marine GILL.
From Richard Mille, Founder of Richard Mille and Principal Partner of Les Voiles de St. Barth:
“For me it is essential to integrate the world of watchmaking into the world of sport, lifestyle, art and fashion with technical specifications that match to make a substantial product. I consider the real luxury to be working with people I love, and this is the case here. Today the event has become a very great one, and we have the potential to make it huge. When (Les Voiles de St. Barth Founder) François Tolede told me about Les Voiles de St. Barth, I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to get involved in the sailing world. The sailors that participate in the event know my watches and know me, so I feel like it has become a family. What is a big satisfaction for me is when I’m talking to boat owners, and they say to me that they are very happy with the event, because it a very family-oriented and friendly environment. This pleases me enormously.”