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7 October 2006, 09:48 am
Glorious Sailing Conditions
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Les Voiles De Saint Tropez 2006
St. Tropez, France

When the classic fleet left the port for yesterday's racing at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the wind was light and conditions not very promising. But after a delay of less than one hour, a northeasterly breeze of 8-10 knots filled in under a brilliant clear and blue sky and all of the starts for the six classes went off in succession.
The Spirit of Tradition class and the big gaff class - EAA - both sailed a 14 nautical mile course up the coast to La Mourrenégre and back; all of the other classes sailed a shorter 11nm course to a Rolex bouy at Les Issambres; and all boats sailed through a gate at de la Seiche outbound and through a gate at de la Rabious on the return with the finish off la Tour du Portalet at the entrance to the port of Saint-Tropez.

In the Epoque Marconi (EMB) class B, the master of time and distance, Dennis CONNER onboard Cotton Blossom was off the line on starboard tack with speed at the pin end in the company of a pair of 8-metres, with two 6-metres close behind. The boat's speed was impressive, the obvious result of being well sailed and meticulously maintained. Dennis and his crew have done exceptionally well on the classic regatta circuit in the Med this year, winning at Porto Santo Stefano (Argentario Sailing Week), Antibes (Les Voiles d'Antibes), Imperia (Vintage Sails), and Cannes (Regates Royale). Today, a short delay due to a wind shirt - allowed the committee to reset the line. Cotton Blossom's start benefited from the slightly building breeze. Cotton Blossom finished first in her class and overtook several in the preceding class, which started close to 15 minutes ahead of them.

For the 'big boat' Epoque Gaff (EAA) class, the committee boat end was favored still and Altair was there, along with Eleornora, Tuiga, and Moonbeam. Mariette, a little early for the start, ran down the line almost to the pin end, a move she would regret as the breeze was stronger on the western side of the bay. Mariquita had no place to go at the committee boat end, and had to tack around to start behind the first row of boats. Nonetheless, she fell into step and simply accelerated back into good position.

Mariette, seeing where she wanted to be, tacked over but it was slow going as the rest of the boats were dialed in and speeding along in the flat water. Lulworth struggled a bit, clearly needing more breeze given her displacement.

The easterly breeze clocked around during the race, with the sea breeze filling in from the southwest in the mid-afternoon. For many of the big boat class it was a fetch, or one tack at most, to the gate at La Seiche and on to the windward mark. Rounding at La Mourrenégre and heading back for the lucky ones, with the breeze shifting it was a close reach through the gate at La Rabiou and onto the finish off the Tour du Portalet. For those that needed an extra tack, it was a big difference as, aside from Eleonora, Moonbeam IV, Mariette, and Tuiga are close to the same handicap rating. At the finish, the forerunners were Eleonora, Mariquita, Tuiga, and Moonbeam IV (note: at press time, race results were not finalized).

New this year, the Trophée Rolex will be awarded to the 'Tradition' division sailing yacht of more than 16 metres, which has the lowest score for the regatta (not including Thursday's racing). There are 52 boats eligible for the Trophée Rolex, and the winner will also receive a steel Rolex Submariner timepiece.

Racing for the entire 287-boat Les Voiles fleet - Moderns, Classics, and Spirit of Tradition - concludes Saturday. The prizegiving ceremony will take place on Sunday 8 October 8 from 11:00 at the Citadelle.
Regatta News (As Amended By ISAF). Image, LULWORTH, TUIGA, ALTAIR at the start :© ROLEX/Carlo BORLENGH
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