The small French island of St Barth in the Caribbean has always been a little bit different. It’s special. It’s sophisticated. And frankly, St Barth’s laid-back luxury vibe and numerous luxurious villas boasting infinity-pools and million Euro views exerts an almost magnetic pull on some of the most wealthy people in the world. It’s the ideal place for people who want to get away from “the scene.” But not too far, wink wink.
Therefore, you don’t need to be a brilliantly humble sailing journalist to see why Les Voiles De St Barth sailing regatta that takes place every April attracts a certain type of sailor that appreciates great sailing and great parties in one of the coolest islands in the Caribbean.
Take MOD70 owner and skipper Erik Maris for instance. He and his team won this year’s Overall Multihull class, and was awarded the prestigious Richard Mille Multihull Trophy. But the truth is the Montre Richard Mille RM 60-01 titanium carbone TPT watch that he also won is worth a whole lot more than most sailing tropies.
Maris’s MOD70 was the only insanely fast MOD70 offshore racing catamaran entered this year, but Zoulou’s highly decorated navigator, Loïck Peyron, thoroughly enjoyed his time onboard and gave credit to the other multihulls that held their own against the powerful trimaran.
“It’s always nice to go almost four times faster than your opponents,” said Peyron. “We love taking part in Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille. This event was a great warm up for our team, as we look ahead to racing this summer in the Rolex Fastnet Race against more MOD70s.”
Meanwhile, offshore racing legend Roy P. Disney, who was a first-timer at Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille this year, said the course configurations provided a good challenge. “Racing around and through the surrounding islands makes the wind tricky,” he said. “We often saw 20 degree shifts, and big puffs swirling around. There’s a lot happening.”
Pyewacket, Roy P. Disney’s Volvo 70 not only won its class, it also celebrated winning the 2023 Caribbean Maxi Challenge, presented by Benoît de Froidmont, president of the International Maxi Association. The multi-event challenge is open to boats 60 feet and above, and this year included the RORC Caribbean 600, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille.
“The short course racing at Les Voiles is totally different from what the Pyewacket team typically does,” said Disney, who has competed in 25 Transpac 600s and won five. “I have really good guys who don’t make mistakes. If I didn’t have these guys, I’d be dead. Going around the buoys in this race is a lot more stressful in many ways, because offshore racing is more consistent.”
Les Voiles de St Barth, the grandiose sailing regatta held annually in St. Barth, not only reveals the Caribbean’s most spectacular anchorages but has also welcomed some of the world’s best sailors since its inaugural event in 2004.
The event, held on a range of vessels including catamarans, monohulls, and schooners, attracts hundreds of crews each year, eager to sail among the sun-soaked beaches, traditional French islands and lush landscapes.
The 10-day regatta is renowned within the sailing world for its beauty, charm and safety. Competitors, who come from all over the globe, are welcomed by a warm and festive atmosphere created by the key sponsor, Ernest & Julio Gallo, whose vivid pink wines act as a signature for the races.
Notable sailors including Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison, and Ocean Race winner, Paul Cayard, have competed in past years, making the regatta highly sought after and obviously one of the most illustrious sailing events in the Caribbean.
This year, teams from around the world came to compete with some of the most noteworthy sailors and competitors including Larry Ellison, Paul Cayard, five-time global sailing champion, Volvo Ocean Race 2016-17 winner, Ian Walker and four-time America’s Cup winner, Ben Ainslie. There’s also an impressive fleet of celebrity cruisers and passionate local sailors who are members of the St. Barth Yacht Club.
The 2018 regatta became an unforgettable event when it was concluded with the participation of Jean-Marie Salvan and his legendary yacht ‘Surprise’. The three-masted tall ship had competed in 13 consecutive Voiles de St Barth regattas and his presence was both a surprise and a great show of passion for sailing.
Les Voiles de St Bart proved yet again to be a magnificent celebration where competitors and spectators alike can join an amazing and unforgettable party. From the beauty of the Caribbean to the famous names in sailing, the regatta is more likely to become one of the premier sailing events in the world and an annual source of charm and excitement in St. Barth.