The French West Indies island of Saint-Barth is a little slice of paradise, attracting jetsetters and cultured travelers from around the globe with its exclusive accommodations, local gastronomy, breathtaking beaches and swinging nightlife, and every spring this charming Caribbean hideaway becomes even more special when the world’s top sailors and best race boats gather for Les Voiles de Saint-Barth. With its simple and straightforward goal of “competition on the water and conviviality on the shore,” Les Voiles de Saint-Barth has continued to attract sailors from around the world, growing from the original 27 boats in 2010 to almost 70 on the starting line last year. 80 boats are expected in 2017.
A success since its inception, the regatta is lauded for pulling out all the stops for competitors, complementing a week of serious on-the-water racing with a flurry of shore-side entertainment. “We’ve raced all over the world and nothing compares to Les Voiles de Saint-Barth,” said Paul MacDowell who is returning to the event with the Mills 68 Prospector he recently acquired with co-owner Larry Landry and David Siwicki. Based in the U.S., the trio has competed together in many world-class racing events, including the 2015 Transatlantic Race where they took second place. Last year they led their team to success at Les Voiles de St. Barth winning their class with the Farr 60 Prospector. “This is an incredibly unique event. The island itself is just a magical and fun place to go. It’s like you’re in France, but you’re in the Caribbean. It’s not only the events the regatta hosts that are unbelievable, but also the vibe of the island as a whole. It’s that vibe that attracts all the top sailors. You have an incredibly competitive sailing event mixed with an incredible competitive partying event.”
The nearly 10 square-mile island is of European descent and its French roots are what inspire much of its culture and style today. The quaint haven is home to around 8,000 permanent residents, with picturesque gardens, stone docks and little red roofs garnishing its hilly tropical landscape. The waterfront port of Gustavia, where the regatta is headquartered, is always bustling with activity and yachts coming and going to the docks and the moorings in its harbor. For Les Voiles de Saint-Barth every year, the Quai General de Gaulle is transformed into a 15,000 square-foot race village where competitors enjoy nightly concerts and shows. It is also home to a live art exhibition that features local talents.
Every year, the regatta draws quite a crowd of esteemed owners and sailors with grand prix yachts, and like MacDowell and his team, Austin Van’t Wout is returning to Les Voiles de Saint-Barth racing a different yacht, his 72-foot luxury cruiser PH3. “The event, both on sea and on land, was very well organized and lots of fun, so this is the reason we decided to bring PH3 down to the Caribbean this year,” said Van’t Wout who is traveling from The Netherlands to compete.
In the boardroom, Van’t Wout enjoys pushing the envelope of innovation in his work offering raw material solutions for the steel industry, and he applies that same mentality to his sailing program. One of his main objectives is to always have his crew learn and improve their regatta skills and push PH3 to its limits. “Other than the Mediterranean conditions, Les Voiles de Saint-Barth is famous for its steady winds, which play well into the cards of PH3.”
Plis Play’s Captain Jan Santana explained that the yacht has been campaigned around Europe and this year Garcia wanted to cross the Atlantic to test out the competition in the Caribbean. “A few of our crew have previously raced in Les Voiles and they explained to Vincent that it is a great regatta that is as well organized on the water as on shore, on a pretty island,” said Santana.
“Les Voiles de Saint-Barth this year has been a really cool regatta. We’ve had lighter wind than you normally get here but that suits the TP52 style of boat. It has been great to have the owner of Richard Mille Peter Harrison* racing here for a few years and be representing the title sponsor and great for us to win for Richard Mille watches and for Peter who is always trying something new and always wanting to fit in more and more events. We love it here and hopefully we’ll be back again next year.” said Phil Harmer, Backstay Trimmer.
The 9th edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Barth will take place on April 8-14, 2018. www.lesvoilesdesaintbarth.com