Vesper takes the top spot in the first race of Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille 2022

Sailors once again are returning to the Gustavia harbour for the 11th edition of Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille after a two-year hiatus. The event is the third and penultimate event in the International Maxi Association’s Caribbean Maxi Challenge, which saw Sailing Poland take the top spot at the previous regatta. Vesper yacht at  Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille logoPhoto: Christophe JouanyEleven classes led by the nine turbocharged maxi boats, six CSA classes and three multihull classes, began racing at noon on Monday for five days. Regatta co-founder François Tolède is thrilled that racing has finally returned. “The line-up for this 11th edition is remarkable; in particular several competitive Maxis and TP52s will be very exciting to watch,” says Tolède. “And this week’s weather with a well-established tradewind, promises great competition on the water for all the classes competing.”

On Monday, 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. This course takes in many of the islands that make up the Saint Barthelemy Nature Reserve before returning to the finish near the start area. Bella Mente yacht at  Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille logoPhoto: Christophe JouanyHap Fauth’s Bella Mente returns with hopes of breaking their Les Voiles curse. “We haven’t had the best luck and are hoping this is the year that changes,” said Terry Hutchinson, tactician for Bella Mente. In the four times they have attended the regatta, the team have broken two masts, and incurred an over-early penalty.

Despite this the match was close between Jim Swartz’s Vesper and Bella Mente as the two maxis were battling it out. On the first downwind leg of the 28-mile race Bella Mente managed to overtake Vesper, but this didn’t last long as Bella Mente had a disastrous spinnaker drop, with the sail ending up being trawled and breaking several stanchions as the crew scrambled to recover it. Rambler 88 yacht at  Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille logoPhoto: Christophe JouanyAs 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 it” The regatta is the first Caribbean event for the Bella Mente team this year, “We’re going to get better every day; that’s the best part about it,” said Terry. “We definitely believe it’s not how you start the regatta; it’s how you finish it.”

Vesper was able to reclaim the lead during the race, resulting in her winning with a three second lead from Bella Mente who finished in second. The final results of the day’s racing also saw George David’s Rambler 88 finish in third followed by Wendy Schmidt’s Deep Blue in fourth and Prospector in fifth place.Deep Blue yacht at  Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille logoPhoto: Christophe Jouany“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, and tactically very challenging.”

The racing resumes today with conditions expected to be near identical as they were on Monday.