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Les Voiles de St. Barth kicks off today

Events

Seventy teams will begin the Les Voiles de St. Barth today. Amongst yachts competing in the maxi division will be Comanche and Rambler, as well as eight other maxis between 63 and 90 feet in length, including Bella Mente, Lucky, Odin, Lupa of London, Selene and Aragon.

Comanche and Rambler will sail in the Maxi 1 class with Bella Mente and Lucky but will start on the same line as the other Maxis, which will be sailing in Maxi 2 class. Scores will be tallied separately for each class; however, a combined score for all Maxi Division entries at the regattas conclusion will determine the winner of the Richard Mille Caliber RM 60-01 Regatta watch.

The two Maxi classes and five Spinnaker classes are sailing under the CSA rating, as defined by the Caribbean Sailing Association, and have been split into their classes according to rating bands. “We have defined the classes with a true sense of equity,” said Les Voiles' General Commissioner Luc Poupon. “The idea is to create groups that are as homogeneous as possible so that the battle on the waves is as tight and exciting as possible.”

As for how that rating will play out in the Rambler vs. Comanche battle, no one yet knows, but all are curious. Optimizing for ratings was not a priority in the design or building of either boat, as both were conceived for straight-line speed, specifically to break distance records. (Rambler, at 88 feet, is 12 feet shorter than Comanche.)

“We're not here for rating honors,” said Comanche's helmsman Ken Read. “Our goal is to be first to finish (over the line), and clearly it will be a lot of fun lining up against Rambler, a very similar boat, for the first time. They'd like to beat us boat-for-boat, and we'd like to beat them boat-for-boat, so I think the sailing world is excited to see this. We're excited to see this.”

For any of the 27 different course choices with distances ranging from 10 to 42 miles, the start and finish lines will be set near Pain de Sucre and Gouverneur Beach, on the southwest side of the island. Something new this year for the smaller boats: two inflatable buoys in the colors of Richard Mille - the first in the bay of Saint Jean and the second in front of Gouverneur - will be placed so that the public can see the boats sail closer to the shore. Also new, the Race Committee has planned for one day, weather depending, to start the fastest big boats on course number 27 (a loop between St. Barth and the island of Tintamarre, to the east of Saint Martin) in order to give all reaching-optimized boats an opportunity to show their speed and establish a speed record for Les Voiles de St. Barth.

The race will have a Lay Day on Thursday 16th April, before continuing on to the second half of racing on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th April.

By Gemma Fottles

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