It’s the start of October and it still feels like summer in Saint Tropez.
The legendary little harbour on the Côte d’Azur is brimming with tourists, who have come to admire yachts new and old for a unique kind of regatta. For more than three decades, the Voiles de Saint Tropez has been attracting a dazzling mix, ranging from day sailers to superyachts, and some of the finest-looking maxis and performance cruisers in the world.
“There’s nothing to win. It’s an opportunity to bring together yachts and, of course, friends,” says André Beaufils, president of Saint Tropez’s Nautical Society.
Bringing together 300 boats and 4.000 participants, it’s a breathtaking show – a get-together where sails blow free from sponsors’ logos.
“That’s important because we want this event to remain accessible to amateurs, where money isn’t king,” explains André Beaufils.
That may be, but you do need some to be able to afford this kind of luxury. A 50-metre long high-tech Wally, for example, will set you back 30 million euros.
“On this kind of yacht, you can sail very fast and very comfortably,” says Wally founder Luca Bassani. “During a race, for a 30-metre long yacht for example, you need between 16 and 18 crew members to operate it, plus another 10 for the weight.”
The regatta also draws hundred-year old vessels like the 1914 Moonbeam. The captain of this classic luxury yacht feels a true connection to the past.
“We sail just the way those before us did. There’s no winch, no assistance, so you’ve got to use man power,” says Mikaël Créac’h.
It’s the last day of the regatta. On her eleven-metre long Alibi 2, entrepreneur Caroline Petit has brought together a 100% female crew of business leaders and other senior executives.
“It’s all about sharing, looking out for each other,” she says. “We don’t argue. We try and progress together, as a group, and try to give each woman a chance to learn new sailing skills.”
“I have sailed with men who are very good mentors, but I’ve also sailed with some who are macho and don’t necessarily want to help you improve,” says crew member Corinne Garcia.
On Alibi 2, it’s not all about competition. Caroline wants to share her passion with others – like Marie, who is only on her third day of sailing: “I often feel like I’m not much use for the other team members, but I’m learning a lot just by watching,” says Marie. “It’s fascinating. And I’m very lucky to get a chance to learn during a regatta – all these women are willing to take the time to explain things to me, even though they are very keen on winning the race.”
Of course, the goal is to win. But it’s also about team spirit and having a good time.
“We party every night, although we do try to get some sleep because we have to be up early and be ready on time the next morning,” smiles crew member Floriane Combray.
That’s it for this edition of the Voiles de Saint Tropez. The trophies are being handed out and it’s a triumph for Alibi 2, which won best all-female crew.