REPORT | Les Voiles de St Barth 2019

DIRECTOR BRADSHAW KELLETT: The 2019 tour for Les Voiles de St Barth started in Antigua for my wife Tori and I to prepare Triple Lindy for the delivery to St Barth in the French Virgin Islands. We arrived and were welcomed by our usual driver JB, who took us to the yacht where it was immediate action stations – straight into work.

We were entertained by the local expats in the evenings after the hot day’s work, including with “sundowners” at the Antigua Sailing Centre, St Anne’s (one of the mansions overlooking the yacht club and marina) and dinner at Cloggy’s on the Antigua Yacht Club pier.

We embarked for St Barth, 90 miles away early one Wednesday morning and had a superb downwind cruise with our friends on the other Cookson 50 Kuka 3 and arrived at the island that afternoon in time to move into our new crew house and head out to dinner in one of the many waterfront restaurants in Gustavia harbour.

St Barth was the beginning of where we saw true destruction of Hurricane Irma last year, with the yacht club being washed away with a concrete slab all that remains – on which North Sails had set up their pop-up loft for the regatta.

The berthing in Gustavia is stern-to Mediterranean type mooring, with our friends on Kuka 3 berthed next door – we enjoyed the camaraderie between the various yachts. Our berths were a stone’s throw away from the Mount Gay/Veuve Clicquot/Heineken tent and a relaxing location to spend an hour at the end of each day’s racing before retreating to the infinity pool of the main crew house.

Les Voiles de St Barth was a great week-long event with one or two races each day in the clear waters around the islands of St Barth and St Martin. Like the RORC Caribbean 600 earlier in the year, we again had a constant 18 to 25 knots of wind. Triple Lindy took third in Spinnaker Division 2 out of 12 yachts of various makes and models, with two Cookson 50s, Class 40s, an IMOCA 60 and other yachts of this size range.

The offshore start lines were long and relied on the navigators’ time on distance calls to not start early, in which we found out in one race, as we were penalised from a first to a third.

The lay day of Les Voiles de St Barth at Nikki Beach is famous throughout all crews who have ever competed. If you have been to St Tropez and know of Le Club 55, Nikki Beach is the Caribbean equivalent. There are such festivities as the swimming treasure hunt for Veuve Clicquot champagne sunken into the bay in front of the beach, tug of war, raft racing and of course eating & drinking!

Triple Lindy entered the treasure hunt and eating & drinking competition as well as the tug of war where the ladies of Triple Lindy, with Tori as anchor, excelled! I am also led to believe that we also won the most amount of champagne, rum and beer purchased (not everything purchased was consumed, of course!).

The prizegiving was held on the stage in front of the marina tent the evening the regatta finished. Every yacht that received a prize was asked to bring all crew members onto the stage to receive their celebratory white straw hats and prizes. Music accompanied each presentation and a fun evening was had at the prize giving.

Triple Lindy departed St Barth early the following morning and hoisted our practice spinnaker for the 90-mile leg past St Martin and on to the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda. We had two gybes to lay Richard Branson’s Necker Island before laying into Leverick Bay where we berthed for the night. Leverick Bay is opposite Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s (YCCS) Caribbean annex, which is where we would have berthed, but unfortunately, nothing of YCCS remains since Hurricane Irma and the annex sadly has no future plans.

The next day we checked into the British Virgin Islands and had a tour around Virgin Gorda. The island has been cleaned up considerably since the hurricane, but some houses are still not fit to live in and the once-busy boat yard is now littered with the remnants of yachts that have been salvaged and written off but not yet moved.

That afternoon we left Virgin Gorda to head to Pirates Bight on Nelson Island, the breeze eased below 10 knots for the first time since we started in the Caribbean this year, so we motored to Nelson Island via the Four Sisters for a swim and a snorkel.

We arrived in Pirates Bight in the early evening and had dinner reservations in the only restaurant on the island, but no way of getting there. Our navigator promptly swam over to the charter boat neighbours with a magnum of champagne in-hand and was able to borrow their tender for the night to get to dinner and back. The neighbours ended up getting most of the galley stores, Triple Lindy shirts and a lot more alcohol, including the Calvados!

We headed to St John the next morning to check into the USA in order to head to St Thomas to prepare Triple Lindy to be loaded onto the ship to Newport, RI. This is where our largest roadblock of the tour occurred. The, “very nice lady” at US Border Patrol decided that our Italian crewmembers had the wrong visa and had to go back to the British Virgin Islands in order to get on a ferry to enter the United States Virgin Islands.

Fortunately, we had hired the fastest boat on the island as our customs agent, so he quickly whipped Giancarlo and Issabella back to Britain’s Tortola, in order for them get on a six-knot ferry to St Thomas to meet with the remainder of our team in the USA. The reports of Tortola were surprising in the fact that Giancarlo and Issabella said that Tortola has not cleaned up since the hurricane, so there are charter boats, cars, trucks and houses littering the hillsides.

Once we had Triple Lindy ready for shipping, we all started to retreat to our individual homes. New York, Rome, Antibes and Sydney for this delivery crew. Next is June, when we head to Newport to prepare for and do the Newport to Cowes Transatlantic Race which starts June 25.

Stay tuned!

 

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