Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, aspires to maintain the spirit of yesteryear. Mixing vessels from the past with those from the present is a key feature of their approach. It has proved highly successful, as participants throughout the fleet share a genuine camaraderie and esprit de corps that is rarely found in modern competitive sport. Rolex has been part of this landscape since 2006, supporting the Rolex Trophy: a competition within the Tradition division for classic yachts over 16 metres in length “on deck”.
The 2012 Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez will be held between 29 September and 7 October. It is open to both modern and traditional yachts over 9 metres in length, with a limit of 300 entries. Racing, usually in the form of coastal courses the length of which depends upon the prevailing wind conditions, takes place on the bay of Saint-Tropez. Modern yachts race over five days, while the classics race over four days. In the middle of the competition, a day is reserved for private challenges, where enthusiastic owners remember the origins of the regatta.
Formerly known as La Nioulargue, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez was born of a challenge between two passionate sailors. In 1981, Jean Laurain, the owner of the 12-Metre design Ikra, and American Dick Jason, the owner of a Swan 44, Pride, agreed to race between Saint-Tropez and the restaurant Club 55 at Pampelonne, using as a turning mark La Nioulargue, a buoy marking the Nioulargo shallows some five nautical miles east-north-east off Cap Camarat. Ikra beat Pride, and following the enthusiastic embrace of Patrice de Colmont, the restaurant’s owner, the Club 55 Cup and La Nioulargue regatta were born. In 1995, a tragic accident led to a cessation of the event. The regatta returned in 1999 with a new name and revitalized spirit.
Les Voiles is a popular end to the Mediterranean inshore yacht-racing season. The harbour of Saint-Tropez fills with yachts, carbon-fibre sitting happily alongside varnished wood. The town brims with people, as crews and spectators mix together. The bay is a sea of sails, as synthetic fibres contrast with more natural materials.
The week of competition closes, appropriately, with a spectacular prize-giving at the 16th-century Citadelle overlooking the old port. Among the many prizes presented, the winner of the Rolex trophy will be awarded a Rolex timepiece.