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Will the Voiles Be Lucky #7?

As nasty a 100-footer as there ever has been, Comanche takes the lead off the line in last year’s Voiles. 

© 2016 Voiles de St. Barth

When François Tolède and Luc Poupon created Les Voiles de St. Barth in 2010, their goal was to combine elite racing with unusual joie de vivre ashore. They have succeeded on both counts beyond what must have been their wildest expectations, as Les Voiles has become one of the great competitive racing events in the world, and perhaps the most fun. The entry deadline for next week’s four-race series isn’t until Monday, but so far 69 elite boats have signed up to compete in the seventh edition.

Ken Keefe of the KKMI yard in Sausalito is a driving force behind the success of the TP52 Vesper in Les Voiles, and is back again this year.

© 2016 Christophe Jouany

Highlighting the monohulls and the nine-boat maxi division will be Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s VLVP 100 Comanche. There will also be a number of maxi 72s, TP52s and VOR 65s. At the small end of the monohull spectrum are four Melges 24s, whose skippers have been brave enough to sign up knowing full well that race director Luc Poupon is hardcore, and would think nothing of sending them out on a 25-mile course in full-on tradewind conditions even if it were the last race of the event. It’s the kind of thing a guy who has raced across the Atlantic thinks is a proper test of sailors.

Greg Slygnstad, a veteran of a number of Voiles with his J/122 Hamachi, will be sailing his cat Fujin with an unusually large number of crew. Just kidding. These are the guys who built the cat at Gold Coast in St. Croix. 

© 2016 Fujin

Lloyd Thornburg’s record-smashing MOD70 Phaedo3 should easily pace the eight multihulls. Last night we bumped into Phaedo crewman Paul Allen of Santa Cruz, thinking it must have been a slow 80-mile delivery from Antigua because of the unusually light air. “It was great,” Allen said. “It blew 10 to 15 knots, so we were doing 25 knots.”

One of the most interesting multihull entries will be Greg Slyngstad’s Seattle-based Bieker 53 all-carbon catamaran Fujin, which will be tested against a Gunboat 60, an Outremer 50 and some one-offs. It’s going to be fun, especially since Greg and crew had a chance to tune up the new ‘fast cruising cat’ in the recent Heinie in St. Maarten.

We’re not sure who will be around from the Bay Area other than Allen and Kenny Keefe; the latter will be racing on the aging but still very successful TP52 Vesper.

That this kind of après-race entertainment would never fly at St. Francis YC’s Rolex Big Boat Series baffles the French, who think it’s perfectly normal. Last year there was male and female pole dancing, and there probably will be again this year. The gals got much more applause. 

© 2016 Voiles de St. Barth

When it comes to the Voiles, activities ashore are as important as those on the water, particularly for the oft-neglected crews. Topping the list are the famous Crew Night on Shell Beach and the lay day afternoon at the Nikki Beach restaurant, one of the most glamorous and chichi establishments in St. Barth. In addition to literal boats of sushi and huge bottles of champagne, there will be water polo, volleyball, Stand-Up Paddleboard Jousting (!), and an underwater treasure hunt for bottles of champagne. Naturally, there will be dockside concerts every night, pole dancing, videos of the day’s racing, and nonstop socializing.

Right now the wind is looking a little on the light side, but the weather picture is very complicated, so we’re looking forward to a lucky #7.


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