Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez
Passion and Saint-Tropez seem to go hand in hand. During Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, that passion is more deep-rooted than ever, permeating the hulls and rigging of the yachts that gild the Vieux Port, particularly the classics. It takes a certain character to own and to sail a vintage yacht.
The maintenance is more complex, the sail handling is less familiar. For the crew competing in the 114-strong Tradition division, and particularly the 55 eligible for the Rolex Trophy, there is nowhere else they would rather be and no other craft they would rather be sailing upon.
There was intensity and enthusiasm in evidence this afternoon as the Tradition division undertook either a 15.8 nautical mile course in a breeze that took a little while to freshen and propel the fleet out of the Bay of Saint-Tropez south past Pampelonne Beach and then back to the finish.
For Glen Allan, owner of Marigold the oldest yacht eligible for the 2012 Rolex Trophy, his classic yacht passion was unusually ignited: “I was flying to England from Bermuda and I saw an article about how someone had rescued this boat in England and his subsequent struggle to restore her. It was such a lovely story that I enquired about the boat. We eventually bought her at an auction at Sotheby’s and went on to restore her. It was more or less sight unseen. I had a photograph but thought there’s no point taking a look. Either we wanted the history or not.”
Marigold was built in 1892 to a design by Charles E. Nicholson. Only 22 years old at the time, Nicholson would become one of the designers of his era, combining elegance and speed with sea kindliness. A 23.82-metre (80ft) gaff-rigged gentleman’s racing cutter, she has a plumb bow and elegant counter stern, sporting lines that marked the budding genius of Nicholson.
The sympathetic 9-year restoration undergone by Marigold resulted from unwavering passion and determination. It was an inspired decision by Allan to work with Greg Powlesland who had first located the yacht and had invested countless hours in trying to save her from being broken up: “I talked to the man that owned her and quickly wanted him to restore the boat. I knew he’d be very good.”
Below deck Marigold retains true Victorian styling with a mahogany panelled saloon and button leather seating. The owner’s cabin reflects an overwhelming desire to restore the boat faithfully: “It’s very important that the boat is as close to her original state as possible. I remember a discussion about having a double bed in the after cabin. I said: “No, no, we have to have two separate bunks”. The man who made the suggestion replied: “Don’t you like your wife?” He didn’t understand at all that the reason was to get it back to as it had been.” Porcelain hand-basins and paraffin lamps confirm the devotion to original detail.
For most owners the pleasure of sailing their craft is reward enough. Allan though remembers fondly one occasion he had the opportunity to see Marigold underway: “I was very impressed. I think she looks beautiful under sail.” According to Allan, classic yacht owners often favour one particular designer over another: “We bought Marigold because of her history and because she was one of Nicholson’s original designs.”
Allan is understandably praiseworthy of his craft and her designer having committed so much time and emotion to Marigold’s restoration: “I believe her hull shape and size to be most attractive. Nicholson was very young when he designed this boat, and he obviously had a lot of talent early on. He went on to design J-Class yachts and America’s Cup boats, and deservedly became very famous.”
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is the perfect environment for a yacht like Marigold to be displayed and to perform. She is surrounded by other similar classics, particularly within those competing for the Rolex Trophy, and is gazed upon by a captivated public. Allan’s great feeling for his yacht appears widely reflected: “There’s no doubt that Les Voiles is the regatta to do. We’re very lucky to be in the Vieux Port. There are boats just as old as Marigold outside. I like to think that the organizers like to have what they consider to be the nicest boats in the Vieux Port.”
Marigold finished second in class in yesterday’s race, and third today.
55 yachts are registered within the Tradition division for the Rolex Trophy, awarded to the best performing yacht over16 metres in length on deck.
How to Follow the Event
Further information on the Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez including results can be found at: www.societe-nautique-saint-tropez.fr .
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