Race hard, play hard: All in a day at Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille
Setting off this morning on 24- to 36-mile courses, the Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille crews appreciated the additional breeze (16 – 18 knots) that would deliver them back to Gustavia by mid-afternoon, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the race village in preparation for this evening’s beach crew party, and tomorrow’s Day Off festivities at Gypsea Beach.
After three days of racing, the fleet hierarchies are taking shape. Roy P. Disney’s Volvo 70 Pyewacket has a string of first-place finishes, as does Crybaby in the Diam 24s, the MOD70 Zoulou in CSA Multihull, and the Swan 50 Balthazar in CSA 1. CSA 1 remains a fleet to watch, with a three-way tie for second place between Stark Raving Mad IX, Pata Negra and Final Final.
While El Ocaso blemished its string of first-place finishes today with a third in CSA 2, the chartered J/122 still holds a four-point lead in the class. This is Great Britain’s Steve Rigby’s first time racing at Les Voiles and he has a predominantly Cornish crew on board, plus Saint-Barth local Nate Turtschi. Turtschi’s local knowledge is definitely paying off for the first-time racing team, “Especially when it comes to knowing where those rocks are,” said Rigby.
“Today we had a really good start, but then we picked up some weed (sargassum). We didn’t realize how much of a delay it was costing us, so by the time we finally stopped and backed the boat down, we just couldn’t really recover.”
With a look ahead to when racing will resume Friday, Rigby isn’t too opposed to the Friday and Saturday’s lighter air forecast. “We quite favor the lighter winds with this boat.”
In the Offshore Multihull class, the current leader is Todd Slyngstad’s HH 66 Nemo, who won the day in the Offshore Multihull class, followed in second place by Kent Haeger’s Gunboat 62 Mach Schnell.
However, the unofficial side competition – and obvious camaraderie – lies between the Slyngstad brothers, Todd and Greg. Greg is also racing in the Offshore Multihull class with his Bieker 53 Fujin.
Today, the brothers mixed it up as their boats came into the first weather mark, and after racing both appeared to good naturedly enjoy hearing the other recount their spinnaker hoist misfortunes. While Todd leads the class, the brothers agree that this week’s wind conditions definitely favor Nemo, whereas more wind would play to Fujin’s strengths.
Crybaby, Pierre Altier’s Diam 24 has a clean sweep of the trimaran fleet, and attributes their success to all the time his crew has spent together in the newer one-design class. Today, Altier and crew thoroughly enjoyed the 16 – 18 knot wind conditions on their 29-mile course, reporting back that the “Ski goggles and helmet were out today!
“We couldn’t have asked for a more complete regatta in the sense that we really had all the paces possible over the past three days,” said Altier. He attributed another part of their success today was to avoid the currents in the middle as they sailed in channels between the islands, and choosing to hug the rocky shorelines as much as possible to capitalize on the flatter water.
In CSA Multihull, Wellnesstraining/MG5’s Marc Guillemot and team are in fifth place, but are making significant progress every day. “We are primarily an amateur crew,” said the Frenchman from Brittany.
“This week, our maneuvers are getting cleaner and that puts us more into the mix of things. The course today had many tacks and gybes and sail changes, but what is most incredible is going by this incredible scenery and passing between incredible rocks and islets on either side.”
He said the team is really enjoying having Marc Pajot on board, the Olympic silver medalist (1972 in the Flying Dutchman) and 1982 Route du Rhum winner, and their goal is to beat Lodigroup at least once. “Our boat and team has the potential, and now it’s up to us to use it.”
Tomorrow is the regatta’s signature Day Off at Gypsea Beach. Racing resumes Friday, and concludes Saturday.