January 19' 2009 - #98
The month of December began with the arrival of the sailboats participating in the Lagassé Classic Transat. For many years, the owners of these classic yachts dreamed of a transatlantic challenge, and Loïc Blanken organized this first edition of the event for traditional sailboats (commercial boats were not included) that date from before December 31, 1975. Some newer boats, which conform to the classic boat standards or are designed in the spirit of traditional boats, were also allowed to compete. Most of the owners and crewmembers were amateur sailors who love these beautiful boats, and who found time in their professional lives to realize their nautical dream of crossing the Atlantic under sail. The race started on August 17, 2008 in the French port of Douarnenez, with the first stop in Agadir (Morocco), where the 24 boats remained in a secure marina as the participants returned to work after their summer vacations. When the trade winds were favorable, the sailors once again set sail on November 28, in the direction of the Port of Gustavia.
The first boat to appear on the horizon, in the early morning hours on December 16, was Pen Duick VI, the boat with which the late, great French sailor Eric Tabarly won the “English Transat” in 1976. Skippered by Juliette Hennequin for the past two years, the boat was the first to cross the finish line in the Lagassé, but had only taken part in the second leg of the race. Eighteen additional boats arrived over the next few days, right up to the time of the awards ceremony on December 23. There were boats from six nations, including France, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and England, with 130 sailors aboard. For most, it was their first transatlantic adventure, and they appreciated the excitement of being n the high seas.
Among the participants was the smallest boat in the fleet, the 11-meter Telen Ar Vor, a Nicholson design from 1964, as well as the biggest boat, the 33-meter schooner, Polar Star, built in 1914. Stiren, a 15-meter, 1959 Sparkman/Stephens boat, was the winner of this Lagassé Classic.
The end of the year was marked by the traditional December 31 New Year’s Eve Regatta, an around-the-island race organized by Marc Del Giudice, skipper of the sailboat, Mischievous. Capo Giro, a 25-meter Swan, which made the tour of the island in two hours and six minutes, took top honors, but did not come near to beating the record set in 2006 of 1 hour and 31 minutes by Claude Thélier, on his trimaran Région Guadeloupe.
Tourism Committee Created; Christmas Trees Their First Project
The new Territorial Tourism Committee of Saint Barthélemy (CTTSB) is a non-profit association created after a decision made by the island’s Territorial Council on March 13, 2008. The CTTSB replaces the island’s municipal tourist office; its goal is to define the politics of tourism for the COM.
The director of the CTTSB, Inès Choisy-Beaupère, is a native of Saint Barth, who grew up in Gustavia, yet left the island for high school and university in Guadeloupe, where she worked in management for a large company for 17 years. Upon her return to Saint Barth, she first ran a restaurant before creating her own business to help young people start their own businesses in the tourism sector. Named as director of the CTTSB last November, her mission is to manage the CTTSB, from both an administrative and budgetary point of view. She directs the staff and develops the activities of the CTTSB under the authority of its president CTTSB Marithé Weber, while also working on promotional projects. “Our island benefits from an excellent reputation, yet there is additional competition every day. This can be formidable as it often has an excellent quality of service as well as a wide range of events. It is therefore necessary to define the shape of tourism in Saint Barth, in order to frame its development, while maintaining its resources and uniqueness,” she explains.
One of the first projects organized by these women was to place real Christmas trees decorated with colorful ornaments in various locales in Gustavia. The trees—almost two meters tall—helped add to the festive atmosphere in town, where large electric holiday decorations illuminated the streets.
People à St-Barth
Numerous celebrities rented yachts as well as villas to celebrate the New Year in Saint Barth. Beyoncé and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, were installed aboard the yacht Galaxy, while actor Eddy Murphy opted for the luxurious Sherakan. Mariah Carey and her husband, Nick Cannon, were also presents and the two divas sang together at a party organized by the sons of Khadafi at Nikki Beach on December 31. Russian tycoon Roman Abramovitch, owner of the Chelsea football club in London, spent several weeks in Saint Barth with his yacht Pelorus, one of his three yachts. Singer Lily Allen, on vacation on the Windrose, stopped for a few days on the island. Actor Richard Gere was with his family in a villa overlooking Gustavia, while model Stéphanie Seymour, as well Daniel Craig aka James Bond in the films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, were on yachts anchored in the harbor. Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren, seen in the films Rocky IV and A View To Kill, a James Bond film with Roger Moore, was with his wife Anette Qviberg, a renowned Swedish jewelry designer, and their daughters. Playboys included Italian Massimo Gargia, former lover of Greta Garbo, while American actor Steve Martin, an island regular who has a house here, came after the New Year’s Eve festivities in order to attend the St Barth Music Festival of which he is a donor.
More to come