What a week! It seems as if the entire island was waiting with baited breath
for the boats in the Transat Ag2r to arrive on the weekend of May 11 and 12..
And they were not disappointed as the first one came into sight just as the
sun was about to disappear behind the Friday night horizon.
Once every two
years a bunch of crazy sailors pair up two-by-two, scour the world for
sponsors to pay for their insanity, and then cram themselves into a bunch of
small sailboats and sail across the ocean from Lorient, France to St Barth.
This year they were lucky. The weather was good, the winds were strong, and
everybody seemed to have a good time. The winners of this year's race, Hervé
Laurent and Rodolphe Jacq made it in 22 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes, and 55
seconds, an awfully long time to be squashed into a small boat if you ask
me. But they do get a chance to get out and stretch their legs on the island
of Madeira, where there is a stopover over 6 days into the race. Our local
boys, Marrku and Richard on St Barth Assurance, and Luc and Jeff on Avis -
Ile de St Barthelemy, looked no worse for the wear as they arrived back home
after this adventure. Marrku, a Finnish sail maker, who lives here now, and
island native Ricahrd Lédee looked as pleased as punch with their tenth
place finish (out of 24 boats). Especially since they finished 25th (out of
30) the last time around. Luc and Jeff didn't fare quite so well, but there
were hundreds and hundreds of friends and fans on the docks to meet them as
they came in with sails unfurled and took their place in the line-up of
bobbing boats. All weekend, crowds ebbed and flowed as the boats came in,
and local bands played on the dock. Digital cameras, video cameras, still
cameras, TV crews... all snapping away as the sailors came ashore, some
looking a little more bright eyed than others. Once all 24 boats were in it
was worth taking a final picture as this model is being retired and in 2004
the sailors who set out in this race will have a least three extra feet of
leg-room in a slightly larger version of the boat.
In the meantime, some other local heros, the French war veterans
association, took part in a V-Day ceremony on May 8 to commemorate the end
of WWII in France. My brother in law Philippe, who was in the Gulf War as
part of the French navy, heard that my father, a WWII veteran, would be in
St Barth that day and asked if he would be part of the ceremony as an
American soldier. One of those soldiers that liberated France, so that we
could eat baguettes instead of bratwurst for breakfast. So he got out his
medals and infantry rifle pin and 2nd Lieutenant bars and put them all on a
khaki shirt and army hat, and was ready to march. He said it was rather
emotional standing there with the other veterans and the deputy mayors.
Fortunately, this is France, so after a brief ceremony we all repaired to
the new town hall and as the French are wont to do, had a glass of champagne
in spite of the early morning hour of just about eleven. But that champagne
was just a taste of things to come as bottle after bottle was opened as our
local sailors came home to roost a few days later.
More to come,