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A Brutal Day In Paradise

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  • A Brutal Day In Paradise




    After a two year hiatus due to the pandemic, racing at last resumed at Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille, the third and penultimate event in the International Maxi Association’s Caribbean Maxi Challenge. And what a start it was with the easterly wind firmly in the low 20s and gusting more with large waves rolling in from the Atlantic. Race Director Luc Poupon and the race team sent the Maxi class off from Gustavia on the south side of St Barts on a 28 mile course to the northwest towards St Maarten, taking in many of the islands that make up the Saint Barthelemy Nature Reserve before returning to the finish near the start area.

    “It was awesome – classic big wind St Barts; what you come here for,” recounted Jim Swartz, whose Judel Vrolijk 72 Vesper topped the Maxi class today. “It was really a great fun race, very shifty and gusty, tactically very challenging. Gavin [Brady, tactician] was having fun.”

    Of the race itself, Swartz continued: “We had a nice match with Bella Mente on the first beat - classic boat racing, which was really fun. Then we rounded the mark and under spinnaker downwind we were doing fine - they got ahead of us, but we were right with them.”

    Unfortunately their subsequent spinnaker drop didn’t do as well and the sail ended up being trawled, breaking several stanchions as the crew scrambled to recover it. It also prevented them hoisting their jibtop at a crucial time and all would have been lost had their rivals not had their own troubles allowing Vesper, lower rated under IRC, to prevail. The peppermint green former Maxi 72 now leads the Maxi class after day one.





    all images ? Christophe Jouany





    Despite a lack of training time going into this event, the well seasoned crew on Hap Fauth’s Botin 84 Bella Mente were doing well until suffering a halyard issue. As tactician Terry Hutchinson explained: “We were getting ready to peel to a soft sail when the halyard they were getting ready to use came out of the mast. It is not something that any of us have seen before…But we did a lot of good things and it is a long week of racing. That we only lost one point, we’ll take…”

    Otherwise, Hutchinson said, they relished the conditions: “Today was awesome, champagne St Barts sailing. The race committee set a really good course – a good mix of boat speed, tactics and boat handling. We had a good race going [with Vesper]: The two boats are pretty even in speed, yet we owe them a lot of time with some of our mods.” Most notably Bella Mente now has two extra foot on her stern. She now lies second overall ahead of George David’s Rambler 88, Wendy Schmidt's Botin 85 Deep Blue and the Mills 68 Prospector.

    The other maxis, competing in the CSA 3, raced a shorter 24 mile course rounding Ile Fourchue, instead of the Maxi course around Roche Plate slightly further offshore. Coming into the regatta race fit after competing at the St Thomas International Regatta, Jim Madden’s Swan 601 Stark Raving Mad VII prevailed among the lower rated maxis.

    “It was typical St Barts conditions,” recounted Anthony Kotoun, Stark Raving Mad VII’s tactician. “This is why we come here - sunny, windy, everything you’d expect and would want it to be with very creative, fun courses, all kinds of angles - the perfect antithesis to what we normally race the rest of the time, which makes it very intriguing. It was gusty – sometimes there were pinch points, next to the lee where it funnels, when it would be like hell on fire for a few minutes…”

    Having raced in St Thomas certainly reduced their errors in today’s brisk conditions, despite Jim Madden’s crew including several new recruits for this event.










    Karl Volker Frank's CNB 66 Escape had a troublesome day but still emerged third ahead of Italian Luigi Sala's Vismara 62 Yoru. Despite the challenging conditions, Yoru and Stark Raving Mad VII spent most of the day locked in competition, even though the longer Italian maxi holds the edge off the breeze.

    “There was some wind, but that is something that we like - it was challenging, but at the same time made for an enjoyable race,” said Sala, for whom this is his first time in the Caribbean with Yoru and the first ever time competing at Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille. “The wind was mostly low 20s, so it was no problem and we had no issue in controlling the boat at the various angles. We enjoyed the racing.

    “It was a very nice track, with all points of sail - a good opportunity to try everything on the boat. We now know what works and what doesn’t work so we will know what to do better tomorrow,” concluded Sala.

    Racing resumes tomorrow earlier at 1000 when conditions are expected to be near identical to today.

    by James Boyd / International Maxi Association



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  • #2
    Battle lines begin to take shape on second day of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille



    Yesterday's first day of racing at Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille lived up to all its promises, and today was the same and more for all the crews. Already, early results point to intense competition taking shape across the classes, maxi to multi, and everything in between.

    Kicking it off in CSA 1, Maximilian Klink’s Botin 52 Caro and TP52 Jolt 3, owned by Peter Harrison are early contenders for a great rivalry in the front of the pack, with Caro just edging Jolt 3 at the finish today. According to Justin Ferris, Caro’s main trimmer, the two teams are thoroughly enjoying the close competition.

    Caro is eager to erase the memory of the last time they raced in Les Voiles in 2019 when a collision with Selen?, Wendy Schmidt’s former maxi, ended both boats’ regattas. The Caro team is here this year with a new boat, built during the pandemic and which Ferris says they are still learning.

    In today’s 28-mile race, Jolt 3 had the edge early on with a better start and a strong first downwind. Caro was able to stay in close contact, which set the two up for a tacking duel as they got to the backside of Saint Barthel?my. “We must have done 30 tacks and it was boat-on-boat the rest of the way around,” said the four-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran. “We were just able to roll past them at the last island turning mark thanks to a slightly faster sailing angle. It was just enough to get through them and get away.”





    In the Offshore Multihull class, the close competition continues with Mach Schnell, the Gunboat 62 owned by Kent Haeger and Greg Slyngstad’s Bieker 53 Fujin. The two teams have lined up over previous editions, and according to Mach Schnell’s Dave Allen, the team relishes the close racing with the well-sailed catamaran.

    The Gunboat currently holds the edge with two first-place finishes, no doubt helped by past Olympian Annie Haeger (470 class) calling tactics and who splits the driving with her father, Kent

    Mach Schnell did not make today’s win easy, as a timer malfunction had them begin the race almost a minute late. “Starting so late, we had our work cut out for ourselves and had to fight our way through the whole pack of boats,” Allen said. “We chased Fujin the whole way; it’s hard to get past those guys. Plus with the bigger seas, you had to be very strategic on which way you sailed. It was much harder on one board, both upwind and downwind.”

    Looking ahead to the rest of the week, Allen is looking forward to more close racing. “But if we do our job and sail well, we should be OK. However, if we give anyone an inch of slack, we will be in the back of the pack.”

    In Racing Multihull, Chaud Patate, a F40 trimaran owned by Christophe Cols is currently in second place behind Team Arawak, a Jobert-Nivalt 52. The big wind and waves suited him perfectly. “It was a great day. We peaked at 21 knots, and had a good battle on the first leg with Team Arawak and we are super happy with how we performed.

    It’s a new boat for him, and while they raced in the St. Marteen Heineken Regatta, he admits they weren’t quite ready. “Les Voiles is our first real race. We are getting more comfortable with the boat and now starting to have some fun.”






    In CSA 6, Blue Skies, a JPK 10.30, finished today’s race in second place but still holds the overall lead in the class thanks to a solid win yesterday. French skipper G?rard Qu?not says, “Today was similar conditions to yesterday, but with a little more swell. We got off to a good start this morning, on the right side of the line and then we were able to play our game while managing the biggest boats of the other classes.”

    “Like yesterday, we crossed the finish line in the lead but unfortunately not with enough distance over the Melges 24 Team Island Water World to save our rating. We are fighting against the clock but the boats are so different that it is not easy.”

    Qu?not credits the downwind speed of the Melges, making it impossible to match up against. “Upwind, we go faster than them, but downwind, they sail two knots faster than all the other boats.”

    Laura Muma


    ***************************************

    St Barts maxi winning streak continues for
    Vesper and Stark Raving Mad VII
    Press release issued by the International Maxi Association on 19/04/2022



    On winding coastal courses resembling those around the Costa Smeralda, but with a sizeable Atlantic swell added to the mix, day two of Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille took place in similarly challenging conditions to yesterday with a 20+ knot gusty easterly.

    Fortune seems to be smiling on the prepared off the glamorous French Caribbean island for this third event in the International Maxi Association’s new Caribbean Maxi Challenge. In a repeat of yesterday’s outcome, in the Maxi Class Jim Swartz’s JV72 Vesper finished close enough to her longer Botin Partners-designed rival, Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, to win under IRC corrected time. Meanwhile in the CSA 3 class, Jim Madden's Swan 601 Stark Raving Mad VII prevailed again, but with Luigi Sala’s Vismara 62 Yoru second.






    Despite the tough conditions, in both classes a match race for the lead took place, none more cut-throat than among the former Maxi 72s where according to Vesper’s Kiwi tactician Gavin Brady, Bella Mente was looking for maximum engagement, circling them three minutes before the start: “It makes it interesting and we are definitely entertaining the owners, but it’s got to the point where it is better for us if they are just in front of us, otherwise they are always going for a penalty.”

    Brady continued: “They tried to set a trap and hit us today. I knew that something was going to unfold - we avoided them, but I had to grab the leeward wheel and spin us out of the way. Both boats slowed down to 3 knots from a reach! But we have been racing each other for years and have enough good sailors to deal with that. You just have to be ready…”

    Today’s courses were of a similar length to yesterday, 28 miles for the Maxis and 24 for CSA 3. This was predominantly in the lee of St Barts, but with a shorter loop up into the nature reserve northwest of the island and a longer beat at the top of which the boats experienced the full brunt of the Atlantic swell.



    Hap Fauth's Bella Mente at speed today. Photo Christophe Jouany

    Bella Mente’s co-helmsman and crew boss, two time Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike Sanderson, observed: “It is amazing - it almost feels like since the class has opened up, the racing has got closer.” Bella Mente is two foot longer in the stern and her bulb weight is being tweaked, but according to the Doyle Sails CEO they are currently suffering from being around 10 days behind Vesper in their crew training.

    As to today’s race with Vesper, Jim Swartz’s machine won the first cross and finished two minutes ahead under IRC corrected time. “There were four or five lead changes and we got tangled up with Deep Blue up the first beat and down the first run,” continued Sanderson. “There were plenty of opportunities - it was a super fun course and it was never over, right until the end. Vesper passed us on the reach when we had a few issues and we passed them on the last run into the finish, but we didn’t make up our time.”

    On board it was tough with green water regularly sluicing the cockpit. “It was impressive - jumping off waves and hitting 23-24 knots… The [bilge] pumps are working hard, especially on very inshore orientated boats like ours, with far too many holes in the deck. It gets a bit hairy.”

    Once again today, George David’s Rambler 88 was third in the Maxi class ahead of Wendy Schmidt’s Deep Blue with the Mills 68 Prospector sadly having to retire from racing due to crew health reasons.


    Foredeck crew hard at work on George David's Rambler 88. Photo: Christophe Jouany.

    Stark Raving Mad VII again had a good day although her winning margin of two and a half minutes over Yoru was smaller. Tactician, former Melges 32 World Champion Anthony Kotoun recounted: “It was a typical St Barts day: Windy, wavy and a great course - some upwind, some reaching, some navigation – exactly what makes sailing here so interesting and fun. Your lead is never safe and if you are behind you are never out of it. It is everything you ever hoped for in a sail boat race.”

    Lining up with Yoru, once again today proved that the longer Italian boat is better reaching and running while Stark Raving Mad VII performs better upwind. Victory for the American boat came today despite breaking a jib sheet and a halyard that caused a sail to drop twice unintentionally. “But the crew hopped right to it and had it fixed immediately,” said Kotoun. “It happened at the top of the island where it is windy and wavy. Luckily we had built up enough of a lead that we were able to take the conservative approach how to fix it without getting anyone hurt and still won.” Nonetheless the top of the course was exciting and according to Kotoun it is rare for their Swan 601 to hit 19 knots two days in a row.

    Conditions are set to abate marginally tomorrow with the wind backing into the ENE. The first warning signal will be at 1000 local time. Racing continues until Saturday with a layday scheduled for Thursday.
    by James Boyd / International Maxi Association




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