With just a few weeks to go to the launch of the Voiles de Saint Barth, the latest date on the Caribbean racing calendar, all of the islands authorities are getting ready to host a long week of racing out on the water and a lot of celebrations ashore from 6th to 11th April.
On the programme during these six days: the finest sailing boats in the world from classic yachts to maxis, with at their helm many famous names from offshore racing and round the cans races. They will be taking part on windy courses, which will be thrilling and entertaining to watch, while on dry land the atmosphere will be given over to the finer pleasures of life.
While the names of all the skippers taking part are not yet known, we can look forward to the likely presence of Peter Holmberg, the winner of the Americas Cup in 2007 at the helm of the large ketch Sojana, the French sailor, Lionel Péan, winner of the Whitbread, Claude Thélier and the world match racing champion Claire Leroy, as well as Loïck Peyron.
Duels in the sun
The Voiles de Saint Barth promises some exciting duels. We can look forward to a battle between the British entrant, Mike Slades Icap Leopard, a super maxi designed by Farr with other equally prestigious boats, such as Rambler, the large sailing ketch, Sojana, the Swan 90, DSK, the 148-foot Saudade and the Briand-designed Hamilton II, which are sure to offer some great moments of yachting.
Those who love elegant hulls and classic sails will enjoy the fine racing that we have come to expect in these waters from traditional hulls such as Kate, White Horse, White Wings and Lone Fox. Kate will be making her long-awaited return to St. Barts before her winter rest. A magnificent sloop, she was built in 2006 based on designs by Alfred Mylne dating back to 1908. She will be doing battle with the extremely elegant W-76 class yachts, White Horse and White Wings, paying homage to the fantastic J-Class and 12 Meter yachts of the fifties. Juno, the magnificent schooner designed by Nat Benjamin will be one of the boats people will be waiting to see. Always a great sight, elegant and gracious, the 6 M International class will be well represented by Nada.
Tradition and modernity will come together to be the major components of the races to be staged at the Voiles de Saint Barth, with the participation of top-class crews from around the world, who will be working hard aboard these beautiful yachts.
A decidedly festive occasion
St. Barts, with its sunshine, beaches and unique atmosphere in the heart of the Caribbean is of course offering all the skippers, owners, crews and journalists taking part its particular brand of high living. Throughout the week, the Voiles de Saint Barth village will be in place on the quayside in the Port of Gustavia. This special convivial area ashore will bring together the sailors and locals. The highlights of the day will be projected on a large screen and there will be live music when the sailors return, so that everyone can enjoy some great evenings together.
In the same village, some products based around the first edition will be on sale. The Voiles de Saint Barth event has established a product line, with unique clothing for sun and yachting (T-shirts, polo shirts, shorts, caps etc…) featuring the logo of the event.
Prizes living up the standard of the event
With such a prestigious line-up, the top class partners wanted to reward the winners of the Voiles de Saint Barth in fitting style. The headline partner for the event, the watchmaker Richard Mille will be awarding the winner of the Maxi Yacht class their latest timepiece, the RM 028, a limited edition for the Voiles de Saint Barth.
The estate agents Wimco and Seabarth will be offering the winners of the 4 classes of Maxi Yachts, Racing Yachts, Racing Cruisers and Multihulls a weeks rental in luxury holiday apartments.
With Monguet Rum taking part, they will be offering the highly coveted prize of the Red Cap to everyone taking part in the event.
As for Taittinger for the victory champagne and the Rémy Cointreau Group, which will be awarding rum dated 1703, this confirms their commitment and interest in the event.
Superstar: Peter Holmberg, the helmsman on Sojana
Born on 4th October 1960 in the US Virgin Islands, Holmberg took part in his first Olympics in the 1984 Los Angeles Games in the Finn class, where he finished eleventh in the colours of the Virgin Islands. Four years later in Seoul, he went on to win the Caribbean Islands only Olympic medal, the silver. Since 1992, he has spent all his time working as a professional skipper-helmsman in the international match racing circuit, where he was soon to shine. In 1999, he was ranked third in the world. His achievements in 2000 and 2001 took him to the top of the world rankings. He is always very much in demand and quite naturally he joined the BWM Oracle Sailing Team that year for the Louis Vuitton Cup. The Swiss Alinghi team became interested and offered him the helm of their Class America boat for the Americas Cup in Valencia. An ultimate accolade for Holmberg, who went on to win the famous ewer. Holmberg is certainly considered to be one of the finest helmsmen of his generation.
The Maxi-yacht, Rambler
This large 90-foot Maxi is in fact none other than the ex-Alfa Romeo, which used to belong to the New Zealand-born, Neville Crichton. Launched in 2002, she can boast a remarkable list of successes. Designed by Reichel Pugh, she has in fact won all the major classics from the Fastnet to the Sydney-Hobart, a total of 70 major races. She is currently in the hands of the Chief Executive Officer of United Technologies Corporation, the American, George David, and is often skippered by the Americas Cup specialist, Ken Read. The Reichel Pugh design team gave Rambler a major overhaul, changing her bulb and keel and extending her boom so she can fly even more sail. The boat was therefore able to get close to 40 knots last summer in the Atlantic! Her duel with Icap Leopard will be one of the highlights of the Voiles de Saint Barth.