Les Voiles de St. Barth day 1 - Just enough

Fleet racing downwind - Les Voiles de St. Barth
The first day of racing at Les Voiles de St. Barth, dawned with flags lightly streaming, instilling hope that there would be enough wind. The race committee was quite pleased to get all seven classes off the line in the five starts.

After studying the range of course choices, the race committee settled on a 17-nautical miler that kept the fleet entirely along the southern coast, where the pressure held.


The faster boats – the Maxis and the IRC 52s – managed to sail the complete course, while the smaller, slower boats would find their race shortened, to finish at the Roche le Boeuf, off Gustavia.

At press time, provisionally the class leaders were: Lazy Dog (Spinnaker 1), Defiance (Spinnaker 2), Dorade (Classic), Paradox (Multi), and the J/120, Jaguar Island Water World (Non-Spinnaker). Ten boats did not finish before the 1800 local time limit.

The Maxi and IRC52 classes were combined for their start. All three 52s put themselves at the pin end with Jim Swartz’ Vesper leading off the line, followed by Ashley Wolfe’s Mayhem, and Peter Cunningham’s Powerplay to weather. The addition of eleven Maxis on the upwind beat played a role too, allowing Mayhem to continue heading inshore, while the other two 52s were forced to tack out.

Maxi class - Les Voiles de St. Barth

Tony Rey, tactician on Powerplay said, 'We have our three-boat fleet in IRC, but we’re starting with all the maxis and super yachts. We were on the bad end of an exchange with three of them and had to do big dips. That put us from controlling the two boats to suddenly being third. But, we made the most of it and chipped away. We had three lead changes in our little group: it’s a good sign of a great week coming that there’s close racing in six knots of wind. As soon as the breeze comes up at the end of the week (as forecast), it’s going to be dynamite!' Mayhem held on to finish first, followed by Powerplay and Vesper, which caught some of the ubiquitous Sargassum seaweed around their keel and had to stop and clear it off.

One of the boats that Powerplay had to duck was the Baltic 112 Niyala, which finished second to Rambler in the eleven-boat Maxi class. Dockside, tactician Bouwe Bekking recounted, 'The forecast was bad – there was no wind expected. And to our big surprise, there was 10-11 knots, so it was the right call of the race committee to let us go. And it went well for us. Given the displacement, it’s really hard to sail against Rambler because Niyala weighs 90 tons and they weigh about 30 tons, so when the breeze started dropping, they just accelerated away from us. But apples for apples, we did very good against the other cruising/racing boats.'

Sojana and Whisper - Les Voiles de St. Barth

Les Voiles’ Spinnaker 2 class has a diverse mix of competitive boats, including several Swans, a Volvo 60, an X-Yacht, a Pogo 10.5, and the Carkeek 40 Decision. Designed by South African yacht designer Sean Carkeek, the boat was built by McConaghy in China for father and son Stephen Murray, Sr. and Jr.

Skipper Stephen Murray, Jr., hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. His father Steve Murray, Sr., sails on the boat as well. Sailing as tactician is Steve Benjamin, who will take delivery of hull #2 of the 40-foot design. Skipper Stephen Murray, Jr., has had past success in other classes, winning the 2010 IRC East Coast Championships, the SORC overall, and the Star class districts. Of his newest boat, Decision, Murray says, 'It’s everything we’d hoped for and then some. It’s like a miniaturized 52, but more powerful for it’s relative size.'

The Carkeek 40 design is inspired by the High Performance Rule (HPR). Carkeek, who is on the technical committee for HPR, said, 'I designed it based on my experience designing TP52s (of which he has designed 15). Boats smaller than 50 feet don’t generally rate well under IRC.'

Decision was launched last fall and recently competed at the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas, where it was doing well before breaking the bowsprit. With just a week to affect a repair and deliver the boat from St. Thomas, getting to the start line in St. Barth’s was quite an achievement.

Racing continues tomorrow with an 11:00am start.

Firefly - Les Voiles de St. Barth

Results here