In Saint-Tropez, hundreds of modern and historic sailing yachts will meet for the 20th time from 29th September to 7th October. The Voiles de Saint-Tropez has become one of the most important sailing regattas in the world. The special attraction is not only the famous venue, the weather, the atmosphere and the large number of yachts, but also the unique mixture of the most modern high-tech yachts and legendary sailboats over one-hundred-years-old.
Majestic sailing yachts cruise at the end of the season in front of Saint-Tropez © Gerhard Standop
Out in the bay of Saint-Tropez, these days you can find maxi-yachts such as the more than 40-meter-long My Song by Italian fashion label Loro Piana, the famous Wally Genie of the Lamp by Prince Charles of Bourbon and both the Sicily and the 104-year-old and recently redone Moonbeam IV, one of the nicest classic gaff cutters. Since last year, the boat belongs to Tom van der Bruggen, the inventor of the wooden blocks known as Kapla.
For seamen and sailing aficionados, Les Voiles is a fixed date in the calendar. Those who are not fortunate enough to follow the regattas on a private yacht can book trips of various duration on the numerous accompanying boats that are there, except for calling the racing event. Also from the land visitors have first-class view. The classic yachts start right in front of the pier and return to the same spot in the late afternoon for the finish line.
In the sailing village next to the Capitainerie, crew members and spectators meet, there are maritime products to buy, you get informed about the current state of the races or you can just watch the hustle and bustle with a glass of wine. The mooring of the boats in the evening is always a spectacle worth seeing, but you have to be a little careful so as not to be hit by a mooring line that flies ashore with a loose swing.
Do not be surprised to hear a violin or a bagpipe! Musicians on the boats play to accompany boarding and take off; it's amazing how far the sound of the instruments carry over the water. The latest trend is cannon bombers, with which greet several crews during the afternoon arrival in the harbour and scare passersby.
Early risers will be surprised by the bustle: coffee and fresh croissants are a relaxing way to watch the morning goings-on in the huts, preparing the boats, or loading drinks and packed lunches for the regatta.
On Thursday, which is normally used as a rest day, there is the famous Boule tournament for the crews ashore, and on the water a few special regattas are held - such as the race of over-centenarians, the Cup of 15mR boats and several boat-against-boat races, to which the skippers have arranged to meet the evening before.
Watch the arrival and departure of the yachts at close range, play a game of boule on the Place des Lices and stroll through the streets of Saint-Tropez in between: once you have experienced the regatta week, you will always return!
More reports at www.standop.net/voiles