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Les Voiles de St. Barth: A Successful Sixth Edition! - Sky vue of the fleet
All the elements were in place to make the sixth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth an exceptional event: a magnificent fleet of 70 boats, including some that are quite out of the ordinary; varied and challenging race courses; perfect weather conditions; suspense right to the last tack in the last race for many classes; and a roster of various shoreside events that were fun for the sailors as well as the local population. A recap with François Tolède, managing director of the regatta.

François, what is your final take on this sixth edition?
“It is super positive. This year we had 70 boats of all different categories and we divided them into 10 different classes, which provided a fabulous spectacle on the water. Over the course of the previous editions, we noticed that the performance level was getting higher and higher. The crews are proving to be more and more interested in racing here and on larger and larger boats, some of which are so high-tech they make quite an impression. We hosted such “machines” as Comanche and Rambler 88 this year, which demonstrates that we are attracting sailboats designed to set transatlantic records… This is very positive and nice recognition for us. Conditions on the island impose certain logistics and a relatively large budget, but the regatta offers a multitude of benefits thanks to its “fun-race” format. Those who come to race arrive with their friends and families. They come before the race begins and remain for a few days after the awards ceremony in order to enjoy the island's legendary “French-touch” lifestyle. Overall, this sixth edition was not only successful for racing but also an economic success, a success in terms of media coverage, and the boats put on a beautiful show. That's exactly what Luc Poupon and I were hoping for from the very beginning, when we created Les Voiles de St. Barth. And that's exactly why we really want to set ourselves apart from traditional regattas.”

The first echoes are extremely positive. That must be very satisfying for you…
“Yes, we have had some really great response, from the sailors, the owners, and the locals. The race village was open permanently with free access for everyone. Our desire was to make sure that people felt comfortable there, and that was certainly the case. We had a great mix of people. And we tried to create a varied schedule of events including live music, fireworks, and a day off that the sailors really enjoyed. Today, we don't see any reason to change a formula that works. The only question we ask ourselves is, “How do we make things even better?”

What about the next edition?
“It will take place from April 11-16, 2016. All of our sponsors from this year will be back next year. As for the fleet, the number of boats has increased regularly since the first edition. From 13 in 2010 we have progressively grown to 70 this year. So we think we can legitimately expect at least 80 boats next year, and it is certain that we will see bigger and faster boats in the top classes, Maxi 1 and Maxi 2, as Les Voiles de St. Barth has become an official regatta for the International Maxi Association (IMA). It is even possible that we will have a third class with the Maxi 72s (formerly the Mini Maxis), if there are at least four boats in that category. And we might also have a MOD70 class, as there are several of those boats currently being bought by new owners. At Les Voiles de St. Barth, we are lucky to have great media coverage and not just in the specialized nautical press. Lifestyle media as well as watch publications, for example, are also interested in this regatta. The event has a surprising amount of coverage, which is great for us but also for the crews that take part in the event. The owners understand the importance of the media coverage, which is what explains the presence of “machines” such as the Gunboat G4, the world's first racing-cruising catamaran with foils. In addition, Les Voiles de St. Barth has the major advantage of being an owner's race. This is unquestionably one of the main assets of Les Voiles de St. Barth.”

Photo : © Jouany Christophe
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