Titans to Face Off in St. Barth

Among the favorites for the 2017 Les Voiles de St. Barth, maxis Rambler 88 and Bella Mente are preparing for the battle for top spot.

rambler 88
Rambler 88 will square off against another favorite, Bella Mente for line honors and the shot at a new record.Les Voiles de St. Barths

When former United Technologies Chairman George David (Hartford, Conn./Newport, R.I.) first brought his grand prix racing yacht Rambler to Les Voiles de St. Barth, it was the event's 2010 inaugural edition. David and his team won the superyacht class and helped launch the reputation of one of the most alluring annual regattas in the Caribbean, one complete with unique coastal racing courses for a variety of classes, nonstop fun ashore, and a knack for keeping the bons vivants who participate always eager for more.

David returned to St. Barths in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 to claim Les Voiles victory three more times and the exclusive grand prize of a Richard Mille Chronograph, which is traditionally awarded to the top-performing team each year.

“It’s a great place to sail with challenging courses and conditions, and it’s the best shore time anywhere,” said David, who enjoys the island’s French culture, villas and fine restaurants and appreciates the event’s daily socials and “lay day” activities (on Thursday) so that crews can enjoy some downtime during four days of intense racing.

Rambler 88 and Bella Mente Return

For the eighth edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, scheduled for April 10-15, 2017 David will be back with the newest of his RamblersRambler 88. Aptly called a "missile in the making" before its December 2014 launch,Rambler 88 was purpose-built by David to pursue "IRC handicap performance racing while having a shot at line honors and a record from time to time." In 2016, the Rambler 88 team, with an enviable combination of America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race talent aboard (including New Zealand's Brad Butterworth, Brad Jackson, Stuart Wilson and Erle Williams; England's Andrew Cape, and Brazil's Joca Signorini), added to an already lengthy list of accomplishments by not only winning the Volcano Race and Volvo Around Ireland Race but also establishing new speed records for those races and for the transatlantic ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), where it shattered the existing record by just over an hour and ten minutes. The team also took line honors at the Middle Sea Race and finished first overall in the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge series.

"While we like to experience new distance races, we like Les Voiles because it's not racing around the buoys," said Rambler 88 Program Manager Mick Harvey (Newport, R.I.), a professional sailor from Australia. "It's coastal, it's around islands, and there are geographical influences that make it challenging for us. We can go reaching and running on long legs where the boat excels. It's lots of fun."

Another entry returning to Les Voiles after a one-year absence is the 72-foot Maxi Bella Mente, owned by successful business entrepreneur Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, Minn./Naples, Fla.). Like George David, Fauth steers his own boat, and like Rambler 88, Bella Mente travels the world chasing adventure and silver trophies that represent excellence and passion in yacht racing.

“Our teamwork just keeps getting tighter and better,” said Fauth, the reigning Maxi 72 World Champion who also led his team to victory at the Maxi 72 North Americans in 2016. “I think it might be our time to win Les Voiles in 2017!”

Other standouts on the big-boat roster are Loz Marriott's British entry Sojana, the Farr 115 that finished second to Rambler in the 2010 event and last sailed here at Les Voiles in 2012, and Lionel Pean's French entry SFS, the Volvo Ocean Race 70 that in 2016 finished fourth in its Maxi Class 2.