26 September 2016
Velsheda's day in St Tropez
A port tack start executed on a busy mixed fleet line, containing some of the most competitive maxi racers of the annual French regatta, proved conclusive today at the Les Voiles de Saint Tropez when the two rival J Class yachts Velsheda and Lionheart met up again for a spirited opening day skirmish.
Velsheda's port tack departure from the line was enough to give them a significant early jump ahead of Lionheart and the historic, navy hulled J Class held on to take first blood as the two stage a re-match at the hugely popular Saint Tropez showcase following Lionheart's narrowest of wins in Porto Cervo earlier this month.
In a variable, patchy and very shifty Easterly breeze of between seven and 10 knots the 18 strong IRC big boat fleet sailed a mixed course which mainly comprised two upwind downwind circuits with a reaching start and a finish off Saint Tropez old town. Lionheart compressed into Velsheda several times but Race 1 victory between the two Js is Velsheda's. The win is a pleasing way to start but for the crews the chance to compete in the cut and thrust of mixed fleet racing, where tight manoeuvring and fast reactions are required, is a key part of their agenda this week. On Velsheda the owner's daughter had the pleasure of steering for some of the race and across the iconic finish line.
"The start was pretty hair raising and from there it was all go!" Tom Dodson, the Velsheda tactician reported, "We were relieved to get away off the line but that was it for the day, we got ahead then and stayed there. It was always interesting. Our Owner wanted to sail in this mixed fleet among a range of boats to keep us on the edge and it did that."
"It was light, shifty and especially difficult downwind. It was so shifty that you could get away and then they would catch up a long way. But it was good to be racing among so many good boats."